There is, perhaps, a perception that change is happening at great speed. However, some of the big institutions (e.g. education, health) appear to be positively glacial with the rate they are responding to change, and what is more, there seems to be quite a bit of opposition to such change. This was brought home in a post shared by Leigh Hynes, who poses the question: Well, so who has got it right, and writes “Sharing this blog by Greg Stack on Mindshift with you, not only for the blog but all the comments back. What do you think?” (source).
The Greg’s post and the comments that followed certainly made for an Interesting discussion. I finished reading the blog post thinking that I agreed with many of the points he had made, and then I read the comments and felt quite taken aback.
A few things jumped out for me from the comments. The first is, those educators who have been involved in innovative practice and design (including in the Dewey era and regardless of current technologies) appear to relish the differences it has made – see for example David B’s comments “We have commons areas that are used for small group, large-group, and individual learning spaces outside of classrooms that have glass for walls to eliminate that boxed-in feeling, and contribute to a collaborative environment. Now if only we could tear down all of our school buildings and start over with this concept in mind”.
The second thing that jumped to mind was the socioeconomic concern. Although very much valid in itself, I wonder if sometimes it is used as a ‘barrier’ to change. For example, the Pt England School in Auckland is a Decile 1a school. However, working with the community and by thinking outside the envelope, they have a 1 to one laptop scheme and a wireless network that is accessible by the local community (i.e. not just at the school!), I am guessing that coverage is limited – sometimes when I cycle to the end of my road I see the kids in the house across the way sitting on the verge with their laptops so that they can get a signal!!
Finally, the whole thing about computer labs…often outmoded, outdated, dark, crowded, badly-designed uncomfortable spaces with no flexibility and limited access because one subject has booked them out for the entire year!! Yes, there are sometimes specialist software that needs to run on a grunty computer…but that is a requirement often met by a couple of well-spec-ed desktops. Bring your own, a scheme of loaning (with an option to purchase after a period of time), or COWs / equivalent mobile option has to be the way to go. The savings in the dead space, and the opening up of options for flexible learning for more teachers (and I could go on, but I won’t!!) is a no brainer.
Interestingly, having worked in a place where all the labs were removed (except for a couple of specialized CAD / film labs) and a 1 to 1 laptop initiative put in place I was amazed at how, even though it was an institution designed on traditional lines, many more spaces became learning spaces. Corridors, the cafeteria, the common room, outside all saw groups of students meeting and collaborating, or individual students working away. This was something I hadn’t expected.
So – in answer to Leigh’s question – in an ideal world school would not be seen as the only ‘place’ for learning – after all, it will be tricky to design spaces that will suit the way that so many different folk will want to learn. Opening up the notion of learning happening anywhere anytime, with access to teachers (and not just school ‘teachers’, folk from the community who have things to share and teach) and peers in various ways, could in turn reduce the time students are physically at school…or at least in a ‘classroom’. So design becomes less of a central issue, because learners have the flexibility to choose the place they learn, they aren’t forced to sit in rows or at tables for hours.