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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Learning Spaces

The next paradigm shift that is going to take in education in Australia will be the ready adoption of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) taught in a holistic and blended way. As part of this shift, makerspaces are going to become more common to allow students ways to express understanding and knowledge in practical and physical ways. They will use cardboard and craft, electronics, computer based tech as well as robotics and blended learning to achieve this (Cooper 2013).

The Makerlab (an alternate name for the makerspace area) will be spaces or units where school budgets will be directed towards sparkfun kits, littlebits, makeymakeys and Ardinos. They will also provide students access to smart robotics for enrichment and reinforcement. These spaces are being designed to shift students understanding by moving to teach students about physical computing and how all things work in processes and systems. These understandings can be easily seen through active participation with STEAM rather than sitting in front of a screen.

By changing the space you cause engagement, using lights, decorations, choose your own adventure activities, toys and tools that force students to look at the problem, issue or learning in a different way. Kinesthetic sensory learning is still one of the most valuable forms of learning; however, it takes a bold teacher to move outside of their comfort zone and experiment. Failure is part of the learning course of a students as, such within our learning spaces we need to be happy to try and fail in front of them. We then model ways to work through, process and learn from this. Making our thinking visible in this process guides our students. These process is a unique trait of STEAM education.

STEAM allows the basis of the teaching that schools adopt to tap into social and cultural interactions (Trillig and Fadel 2009) as it helps us realign and change focus. For example history is not just about learning facts but learning lessons from the past and using these lessons and manipulating them to create new innovations for the future. They also desire to develop a global literacy which is a student's ability to connect people, problem solve and create creative solutions to others problems (Hayes Jacobs 1989).

Another aspect of this change within learning spaces is blended or flipped learning. This way of teaching has powerful repercussions for student learning as it frees up time to engage students in richer conversation. Much of the rote is given through video and websites allowing for rich tasks to be completed within the context of the class with teacher guidance.

Cultural globalization is a reality that we need to acknowledge. Desire to have engaged and aware global citizens. Authentic experiences that inform the curriculum should drive teaching. It seems that this is something that many educators are catching on to and engaging students with real world stuff, they like it and love to learn about it. An example of how we can engage culture and history is by virtually bringing grandparents in the room as experts. They provide a wealth of life experience that often they freely will give if asked.

Ideas for experimenting with virtual learning spaces
  • Mystery locations is a great way of completing authentic geography content in one session. It is real, genuine and engaging. 
  • Not perfect hat club is a great tool to link students with an expert author. 
  • Connected classrooms with google and google cultural institutes also allow educators to move outside of the walls of the classroom. 
  • Twitter is seen as the fastest growing social media tool for educators and an excellent strategy for creating a larger audience for student work.
The future of learning spaces are connected, open and engaging. They are places where there is a lot going on and there is noise. They are flexible and have multiple ways of allowing students to see and represent material. They have a variety of rich tools (lego, playdoh, makeymakey, minecraft, craft) where students have choice in use. They are bright and exciting places to be where teachers work as students in collaborative spaces. They are learning together. Teachers will not explicitly teach subjects as siloed activities but will need to combine them to make the best use of time and allow students the richness they require as 21st century learners.

References
Cooper, J. (2013) Designing a School Makerspace http://www.edutopia.org/blog/designing-a-school-makerspace-jennifer-cooper

Hayes Jacobs, H. (1989) Interdisplinary Curriculum http://www.casenex.com/casenet/pages/virtualLibrary/Readings/interdisc.htm

Trillig, B. and Fadel, C. (2009) 21st Century Skills, John Wiley & Sons

 
 
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