Within a field of fast changing nature of technological progress and the emergence of new pedagogical theories such as design thinking, maker-spaces, flipped learning and blended learning among others, it is extremely important for learning spaces to evolve along with time. Here we sum up ways in which to re-design your school or classroom in a way that is meaningful to nurture 21st century learning.
At the moment, millions of dollars are being invested on constructing new school buildings. Are they really worth the investment? These schools can be considered as monuments to obsolescence. It is common practice that a lot of money are spent to build a 21st century school without really going deep into how and why the school should look like. Instead, people go ahead with the construction that they always wanted to have.
Nevertheless, it is necessary that a substantial theoretical background exists before providing the learning environment that kids need. In fact, it is considered that an appropriate learning space is one of the most convenient practical methods available to enhance the effectiveness of the education system. This redesigned space has the potential to create a better environment that meets the needs and requirements of 21st century learners.
The following paragraphs address some of the critical elements which are essential when taking up the re-design of a learning space:
1. Instruction Should Be the Driving Force of Design
It has been a common belief until recently that it is important to have classrooms that are separated into subject-area departments. This was an old fashioned trend and it has changed during the past couple of years with reference to the benefits of cross-disciplinary work. Usually designers of modern world schools are not aware about the instructional and learning models of the 21st Century or the actual curriculum. However, it is appropriate to create awareness among designers, architects and practitioners in order to design the learning spaces in an appropriate manner to cater the requirements of 21st century learning. Otherwise, we would be trying to fit the learning of 21st century into the industrial age learning spaces that existed in 20th century.
2. Learn to Question Everything
None of the preconceived notions about learning spaces and instructions are sacred. Just question yourself some important questions:
- Is it important to have a classroom where the teachers are in front or in the center? Can learning take place only within classrooms?
- Is it essential for a learning space to have a capacity of about 30 students?
- Can there be smaller or larger groups or can we have both?
- Is it essential to stick to a 9 month school calendar?
You need to question everything when designing 21st century learning spaces. Questioning all of our preconceived notions would help us to get a better understanding on how 21st century learning spaces should look like. It will also help to organize these learning spaces in a proper manner.
3. Incorporate Technology to the Learning Spaces
Technology has gone through rapid development over the last two decades which have not left the educational world untouched. The use of educational technology and technology enhanced learning in general has been associated with a variety of benefits. These benefits maximize significantly by redesigning the learning spaces in order to meet 21st century needs.
Trying to incorporate the use of technology to existing learning spaces will not be effective since it will prevent from gaining the maximum benefits out of the investment. The entire learning space needs to be redesigned in order to capitalize the strengths of the technology. The school, classroom or library, should be re-designed from scratch in a way that will fit the use of advanced technology.
Towards this end, it could be meaningful to design a conference room within the school, which would be equipped with the latest video-conferencing capabilities. Such a facility would potentially allow international collaborations and global networking projects for the students to be engaged in. Therefore, redesigning the learning spaces by incorporating technology can simply be defined as rethinking the spaces to meaningfully capitalize on technology.
4. Design Collaborative Learning Spaces to Suit the Needs of 21st Century Learners
Redesigning learning spaces for the 21st century is all about accommodating the specific needs and requirements of the 21st century learners, both students and teachers. It is evident through empirical research that digital natives learn through use of technology within carefully designed learning instruction. To do so, they must be engaged in modern world school designs that facilitate collaborative learning, and in this sense it is useless to build classrooms or lecture halls row after row.
Instead, the conceptualization when constructing contemporary learning spaces should focus on how to enable room for students to engage with each other in collaborative projects. The learning spaces should assist students to learn things independently from teachers, with facilities to explore new things on their own in groups and conduct research without much guidance. Hence, special attention should be given towards making room for research work and brainstorming when re-designing learning spaces. We don’t need to be designers in order to engage with this process. All that is needed is to have the capability to conduct a preliminary research and figure out the essential changes that need to be introduced to the classroom, school or library. For example, as a teacher, you can retrieve different information on tips to create a more collaborative space within the classroom. The teacher could then use the space as a resource through which to facilitate an effective learning experience for the students.
It is imperative also to consider ways in which the learning space designed will facilitate classroom flow. Towards this direction, it would be meaningful to ask the students' feedback in order to get some useful inputs about how the classroom should look like. In fact, you can ask how the student will intend to move around in the classroom. To make things simple for this sort of discussion, you can print a diagram of the classroom and ask the student or students to sketch where they will move. It would be better if you can trace the movements of the teacher in the same diagram with a different color. This sheet of paper can be useful when determining the heavily used areas of the classroom. Then the inputs can be used to support fluid movement within the classroom.
It becomes obvious that there are a lot of factors which should be considered when redesigning a learning space to suit 21st century education standards. If you have a proper plan and a solid theoretical framework in mind, you will not find it difficult to deal with the entire process of redesigning classrooms in order to respond to the needs of 21st century learning environments. Once you are done, the next step would be to obtain required support and supplies so as to make your space rise to the occasion!
It is apparent that delivering a re-designed learning space requires a lot of money to be invested on. However, the investment is totally worth the money because it has the potential to deliver excellent student learning and aesthetic outcomes in the long run.
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