Constructing learning spaces

Many of the tweets I follow are links to other online resources. A few of them focus on transforming education. One transformation that needs to take place are the learning spaces in which kids learn. The traditional learning space has desks neatly in rows, chairs pushed in, a book shelf and such. Ryan Bretag says this well:

In many classrooms, the picture is all too familiar: desks in rows, a clear front of the classroom, podium off-center in the front, etc..

This has been widely written about in other places so I need not summarize what is meant by a learning space. Learning spaces, physical or online, cannot be an after thought as we engage digital learners in the 21st Century.

As I think about my own teaching I come back to the idea that I like students constructing knowledge vs. downloading it. This is tough for kids to do because it requires thinking beyond the page of notes the teacher has provided, or the PowerPoint slides. Students just struggle with this because they are not told how to learn it, or if it is an activity, how to complete it. This means kids have to use their brain power to link concepts together, evaluate them, or deconstruct ideas to get to the real meaning. Because I like knowledge constructed, how I set up my online spaces matters to students for if the learning space is confusing, so is the learning. Here is an example. The sixth graders I teach need to have a strong working knowledge of Google Apps for Education at BBHCSD because all of their work, more like most of it, will be created in this suite. So, the first thing I taught was how to get around and Google Drive. I led a discussion about creating a voice presentation and that images as screenshots needed to be taken. The screenshots were taken and then viewed as a VoiceThread about how to make a VoiceThread. Well, I thought it was straight forward until I saw students really had no idea how to conceptually put it all together. In this case, the learning space called VoiceThread posed the problem, and the learning was confusing because VT forces someone to construct their learning by putting pictures and thoughts together in a comprehensive sequence.

A few ideas I think about when constructing an online learning space:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What is the assessment or product?
  2. Know your goals and clearly explain these to the students.
  3. Facilitate learning and not just downloading it to kids.
  4. Connect generalizations you want kids to learn.
  5. Have students reflect on their learning throughout the project.

photo credit: ckaroli via photo pin cc

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Learning Spaces

I am finding myself looking forward to removing the walls in my classroom and having it be wide open. The cinder, mortar, wires, concrete and drywall is all coming down by the end of the year and I will have a space that kids are free to feel ready to learn.

This isn’t really going to happen of course. I have to admit that I would like it, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. What I am looking forward to is getting kids to think outside of the walls using technology to expand their experiences beyond normal limits.

I had a conversation today at a family birthday party that was interesting to experience. A mother, let’s call her Sally, has a daughter who lives and teaches in Florida. Her comment was that they, really she meant Gov. Rick Scott, was trying to pin everything on teachers giving them undo burden by tying wages to test scores. Hmmm, anyone see a problem? Tying wages to high stakes test scores is like a dog chasing its own tail. The dog chases the tail going in circles madly trying to get it. How can tying a wage to a student’s subjective desire to take test lead to better education outcomes? Seems a bit silly. Rather than try to drop the hammer on educators, why not focus on changing the learning space where the kids and teachers live? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to transform the space creating a greater desire to learn rather than sterilize it by forcing teachers to raise AYP? I don’t understand this mentality.

What do I mean by a new learning space? I mean getting kids into spaces whether online or physically to learn, and students should be online more than in a book. Being online affords students opportunity to share thoughts, get questions answered, find relevant information, and contribute. Is this an impossibility? Certainly not. It will certainly mean schools will get very uncomfortable with non-traditional, outside the box learning. Can it happen?