How Teachers Use Design Thinking in Reimagining Learning Spaces

by | Jun 6, 2017

As education continues to evolve in countless ways, educators of all levels strive to always be engaging and inspiring to their diverse global learners. From making shifts in teaching practice to experimenting with student-driven learning frameworks that foster responsibility and independent thinking, the profession of teaching and learning is witnessing some incredible innovation. Another great example of this is how teachers are applying design thinking techniques in completely reimagining learning spaces.

That’s the exciting focus of the article Small Tweaks to the Learning Space Can Make a Big Difference by ISTE writer Chris Johnson. Chris points out that while technology has changed the educational landscape, one thing that hasn’t been given much attention is the transformative act of physically reimagining learning spaces to achieve higher levels of student engagement and learning leadership:

“In classrooms around the world, educators are using digital tools to collaborate with peers, create artifacts, communicate across national borders and crunch data. But for the most part, we are implementing these changes in physical classrooms designed decades ago.”

What this means is that, even though we are working to incorporate flipped learning and collaborative practices in our teaching, we’re doing so in classrooms that still aren’t quite designed to facilitate this. Thus, the traditional learning space often works against them and their learners rather than in harmony with these new instructional methods. Chris also cites the work of Prakish Nair and Randall Fielding in their book The Language of School Design to support this:

“The classroom is the most visible symbol of an educational philosophy … that a predetermined number of students will all learn the same thing at the same time from the same person in the same way in the same place for several hours each day … A 750-square-foot space with 25 student armchair-tablet desks and a teacher’s desk at the front of the room makes eminent sense if this is, indeed, what learning is all about.”

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In his article, Chris suggests that effectively reimagining learning spaces is a matter of doing simple things and beginning with small changes. Below are some of the things he mentions:

  • Using mobile flip tables: These are tables with adjustable tops that transform into whiteboards. They’re perfect for both brainstorming sessions and class presentations.
  • Installing comfy furniture and carpets: This is about ensuring learning shares the same comfortable atmosphere as home does. Chris shares a Pinterest board with some great design ideas.
  • Stand-up desks and writable surfaces: These kinds of features facilitate the new collaborative classroom practices of brainstorming and being more physically mobile in the classroom.
  • Space and more space: Storage ideas for new technologies include clever nooks and crannies and “hidden” cubbies to keep the learning areas free from clutter.

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