BUILDING on CREATIVE LEARNING
Some reflections on our work exploring micro-design in learning spaces(the little details that matter...):
It is fair to say that I am implacably opposed to the layout where groups of children or other learners sit at computers facing the wall in a familiar, but horrid, way. Sitting facing the wall was formerly a punishment and just adding a bit of technology doesn't change the social isolation and exclusion much. Asking schools why they seek to "punish" children in this way the answer is usually that a wiring technician decreed that trailing cables were a hazard and thus the "punishment regime" was implemented. Oh dear.
Of course imaginative schools use neat ideas like enclosing all the cables in bright coloured flexible, cheap, piping to allow much more creative layouts and I commend this to you.
But what alternative layouts? Going beyond the obvious we looked at the behaviour of children in different "sweeps" of desk edge layouts. In the illustration above the three learners on an inside sweep of the desk edge (on the left in the sketch above)would be fiercely collaborative but in a quite intimate focussed way. They would lean forward, focus on their screen and their screen alone and become completely lost in the task (if it was a good one). Even screens nearby with useful cues and clues would escape their attention. Clearly there are many circumstances where this level of intimate, collaborative concentration is desirable.
Equally though, those located at an outside sweep of a curved desk edge tend to be differently collaborative: they are much more likely to be part of the whole group efforts, eyes will be often glancing around the room and they will be aware of others' efforts. They tend (if allowed!) to rock back on their chair's rear legs and they exhibit a more gregarious learning. Again, there are many circumstances where this level different is desirable.
The issue here is of flexibility. Obviously laptops allow an easy move from one part of the desk to another, but small, lighter desktop computers allow this too. Dedicated computer room furniture is a nightmare to order; specialist desks are ridiculously expensive but the "let's screw lengths of worktop to these old desk legs" approach just takes you back to the "facing the wall" layout that is damned above. Again creative schools try all sorts of layouts and sit back to judge what works in their context with their learners, then improve things... this is iterative action research.
Another "little difference" with a "big impact" is wall and vertical surface displays in ICT or technology rich spaces. Surveying a number of school rooms it became clear that something approaching three quarters of all the notices and display material that was sourced from within the school (ie not posters from computer companies!) were to tell students what they could not do: "no eating, drinking in this room", "please don't xxxx".
This is negative enough to stop the most enthusiastic learner dead in their tracks, but a further problem concerns the display of children's work which is usually only the product of considerable work, without the drafts that led to that product.
1st attempt...applying the filter...final output
It is so easy with ICT to show process, and to develop in children a sense of "ipsative referencing", of feeling and evidencing their own progress through a portfolio of subsequent and consequent drafts, printed or just as saved files.
The impact of wall displays that offer some narrative ("here's where I started, here's it went a bit wrong, this is the finished coursework..") is dramatic because younger, or other, learners are challeneged by that process narrative and begin to form an understanding of what the key steps are in a piece of work. In time this will be an assessment requirement anyway, so getting the habit of narrating process through wall display is no bad thing!
Finally, we all know that a simple of model of learning includes the impact of a sense of audience. One very easy way to attain that audience is to beam and focus a projector onto a large external window at night (every night...) and to use that "screen" to show moments from the learning day. Giving someone the chance, weekly, to collect "great moments" from the learning week is easy, but hugely motivating and at night the screen looks like a million dollars!. Try it!
started April 2002, last updated Tuesday, September 13, 2005 12:02 PM