Physical spaces for learning

January 18, 2008

ipodholdersplash_228×248.jpg I posted a comment (see below) on Elliot Masie’s temporary blog Classroom of the Future. Elliot’s question: “If you were to design a brand new type of classroom for your organization, what would it contain?”

What is the bedroom of the future? What is the bathroom of the future? Each has “stuff” in it designed for a specific purpose. The bed of straw becomes a bed that forms to your body and is fully adjustable the stuff in the room becomes smarter. The outhouse becomes high-tech and is equipped with a combination portable music player and toilet paper dispenser and has heated seats. But none of this stuff changes the purpose of the room.

Historically, the room in which classes are held has been a room with more and better stuff in it. We started with chairs, desks, and a chalkboard and now see smartboards, videoconferencing, interactive devices, LCDs, etc. But it doesn’t change the purpose of the room – to provide a physical space where learning can take place.

Perhaps the toilet of the future is not a toilet at all. Perhaps the green movement will lead to innovations that make the toilet obsolete. Will we say, “remember when we needed all that plumbing?” And maybe the classroom of the future is not a room at all. Will we say, “remember when we all went to a room to be trained?”

It seems to me we are returning to the way we used to learn – out in the open world but with more, and different stuff.

My question: Do we need to provide a physical space where learning can take place?

  • http://www.jarche.com/ Harold Jarche

    The classroom of the future isn’t.

  • http://www.jarche.com Harold Jarche

    The classroom of the future isn’t.

  • http://christinemartell.com/ Christine Martell

    I think we do need a comfortable place to learn, but how that is defined is probably as individual as we are.

  • http://christinemartell.com Christine Martell

    I think we do need a comfortable place to learn, but how that is defined is probably as individual as we are.

  • Nick Noakes

    I do find Massie’s phrasing of the topic restrictive. I think it might be more productive to talk about ‘learning spaces for the future’. This would broaden us out from physical and also broaden us out from formal to informal and shades in between. Whether there will be physical spaces only, virtual spaces only or some mix will no doubt depend on different learning contexts around the world.

  • Nick Noakes

    I do find Massie’s phrasing of the topic restrictive. I think it might be more productive to talk about ‘learning spaces for the future’. This would broaden us out from physical and also broaden us out from formal to informal and shades in between. Whether there will be physical spaces only, virtual spaces only or some mix will no doubt depend on different learning contexts around the world.

  • http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/ Michele Martin

    @Nick–agreed completely that it makes more sense to talk about “learning spaces for the future” to broaden the concept from physical into virtual space and I’m with you, Janet, about the issue of physical space.

    One of the things that occurs, I think, when we focus on physical spaces for learning is that we automatically turn learning into an “event” that somehow requires people to be in a particular place at a particular time. I’d argue that what we should be communicating to people is that learning happens everywhere all the time and that it isn’t dependent on being in a classroom wired with all the latest gadgets–or in a classroom at all. I’d argue that the “learning space of the future” is more about a state of mind that is open to learning as a continuous activity and that learning is something that is integrated into all spaces and activities. The learning space is embedded into life, rather than something that happens in a separate compartment.

  • http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/ Michele Martin

    @Nick–agreed completely that it makes more sense to talk about “learning spaces for the future” to broaden the concept from physical into virtual space and I’m with you, Janet, about the issue of physical space.

    One of the things that occurs, I think, when we focus on physical spaces for learning is that we automatically turn learning into an “event” that somehow requires people to be in a particular place at a particular time. I’d argue that what we should be communicating to people is that learning happens everywhere all the time and that it isn’t dependent on being in a classroom wired with all the latest gadgets–or in a classroom at all. I’d argue that the “learning space of the future” is more about a state of mind that is open to learning as a continuous activity and that learning is something that is integrated into all spaces and activities. The learning space is embedded into life, rather than something that happens in a separate compartment.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    I think discussions about “learning spaces for the future” are disruptive to many and agree with what you are all saying “learning happens.” Discussions about what technology you utilizing to support learning are probably more on point than talking about classrooms.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    I think discussions about “learning spaces for the future” are disruptive to many and agree with what you are all saying “learning happens.” Discussions about what technology you utilizing to support learning are probably more on point than talking about classrooms.

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  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    This is a lot like asking “what does your office of the future look like?” It presumes that everybody has an office, or at least some kind of personalized workspace.

    That could be true, especially for people with blogs, but I spend a lot of time around folks who don’t have their own offices/cubicles/desks.

    What’s the learning space (physical or virtual) for someone in a call center, on a manufacturing line, at a deal-with-live-customers location? (Nearly half the people working in the U.S. work for companies that have more than 500 employees.)

    Masie likely deals a lot with large organizations that can manage, at least at hub locations, to have learning centers. My hunch is that many of the employees, especially lower in the organization, aren’t at those locations. We learned, painfully, at Amtrak that it’s not always easy to have training/learning occur in the real world. (Where do the people in your doctor’s office learn?)

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    This is a lot like asking “what does your office of the future look like?” It presumes that everybody has an office, or at least some kind of personalized workspace.

    That could be true, especially for people with blogs, but I spend a lot of time around folks who don’t have their own offices/cubicles/desks.

    What’s the learning space (physical or virtual) for someone in a call center, on a manufacturing line, at a deal-with-live-customers location? (Nearly half the people working in the U.S. work for companies that have more than 500 employees.)

    Masie likely deals a lot with large organizations that can manage, at least at hub locations, to have learning centers. My hunch is that many of the employees, especially lower in the organization, aren’t at those locations. We learned, painfully, at Amtrak that it’s not always easy to have training/learning occur in the real world. (Where do the people in your doctor’s office learn?)

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Thanks for giving this post a reality check Dave.

    I had a conversation recently with someone who is responsible for getting new retail cashiers trained quickly. With 100s of locations, 1000s of employees, high turnover, and one kiosk in the break area to work with…he ends up figuring out how to train at the cashiers learning space- the point-of-sale.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Thanks for giving this post a reality check Dave.

    I had a conversation recently with someone who is responsible for getting new retail cashiers trained quickly. With 100s of locations, 1000s of employees, high turnover, and one kiosk in the break area to work with…he ends up figuring out how to train at the cashiers learning space- the point-of-sale.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    I worked on a project last year whose audience would be convenience-store workers. Among other challenges: high turnover, low pay, unpredictable workload, and a cash register rather than a true computer at the counter.

    I know we’re hurtling toward a knowledge economy, but the people at the 6,000+ 7-11 stores (to pick just one chain) aren’t hurtling quite as fast. Likewise the 2,400 or so members of a former client’s sales force, who mainly work out of their cars (talk about your mobile office).

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    I worked on a project last year whose audience would be convenience-store workers. Among other challenges: high turnover, low pay, unpredictable workload, and a cash register rather than a true computer at the counter.

    I know we’re hurtling toward a knowledge economy, but the people at the 6,000+ 7-11 stores (to pick just one chain) aren’t hurtling quite as fast. Likewise the 2,400 or so members of a former client’s sales force, who mainly work out of their cars (talk about your mobile office).

  • William J. Ryan

    I responded to his call as well and wanted to add my support to your point – space is what it is with new “stuff” in it. Stuff may expand the dialouge and interactions from your table mate to around the world mate however the space itself must provide and support the desired outcome. Another point I think missed is that learning space input often focuses on the “stuff” and forgets/overlooks the ergonomic issues (hvac, lighting, acoustics, color schemes, tables and chairs, etc.) that impact the body that influence the individual’s ability to interact with others using the “stuff”. We must let learning happen wherever and whenever and if possible we must make sure it can occur with a minimum of distractions physical, emotional, and technical included. Thanks for sharing and letting me join in too! :)bill

  • William J. Ryan

    I responded to his call as well and wanted to add my support to your point – space is what it is with new “stuff” in it. Stuff may expand the dialouge and interactions from your table mate to around the world mate however the space itself must provide and support the desired outcome. Another point I think missed is that learning space input often focuses on the “stuff” and forgets/overlooks the ergonomic issues (hvac, lighting, acoustics, color schemes, tables and chairs, etc.) that impact the body that influence the individual’s ability to interact with others using the “stuff”. We must let learning happen wherever and whenever and if possible we must make sure it can occur with a minimum of distractions physical, emotional, and technical included. Thanks for sharing and letting me join in too! :)bill

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  • Aussie Greg

    Classrooms of the future. How many forums have I been on to discuss this? We need classrooms with access to technology, flexible usage, maybe open plans, modular to allow for the unknown.
    What I do see is that children will learn anywhere provided they are motivated and engaged. If we look at technology, for those children with access, learning happens 24/7. There are no classrooms to teach how to upload to Youtube, how to build the best myspace page, yet children lean. They learn through their own networks and being connected.
    I think what is sometimes the issue is that we need to teach some of the key foundations in English and Mathematics and to do this we need two learning models. One which has a more open learning mode such as project work which may be based in a non traditional classroom setting, with a focus on challenging the thinking of children; however the other is still traditional in many ways as children need structure, especially around the 11 to 14 yr age group.
    They need teacher guidance and need to have structure so that the basics they learn can be used in everyday life and form the basic structures for different types of learning. They need access to a teacher who has a personal interest and not in an open plan room with 100 or so other students. They have individual needs and need a strong structure in place relating to their personal learning. And while children are connected all the time, and I love technology, we have to remember there are times when learning is not done on an ipod, laptop or technology device.
    Let’s build schools that allow innovation and learning to take place in many different ways, but let’s also remember we have to also teach key competencies and skills that are age appropriate each year. Schools of tomorrow should have options for learning, traditional and non traditional, however we need to try to understand what belongs in which. I still think the key is not the school of the future, but the teacher of the future.

  • Aussie Greg

    Classrooms of the future. How many forums have I been on to discuss this? We need classrooms with access to technology, flexible usage, maybe open plans, modular to allow for the unknown.
    What I do see is that children will learn anywhere provided they are motivated and engaged. If we look at technology, for those children with access, learning happens 24/7. There are no classrooms to teach how to upload to Youtube, how to build the best myspace page, yet children lean. They learn through their own networks and being connected.
    I think what is sometimes the issue is that we need to teach some of the key foundations in English and Mathematics and to do this we need two learning models. One which has a more open learning mode such as project work which may be based in a non traditional classroom setting, with a focus on challenging the thinking of children; however the other is still traditional in many ways as children need structure, especially around the 11 to 14 yr age group.
    They need teacher guidance and need to have structure so that the basics they learn can be used in everyday life and form the basic structures for different types of learning. They need access to a teacher who has a personal interest and not in an open plan room with 100 or so other students. They have individual needs and need a strong structure in place relating to their personal learning. And while children are connected all the time, and I love technology, we have to remember there are times when learning is not done on an ipod, laptop or technology device.
    Let’s build schools that allow innovation and learning to take place in many different ways, but let’s also remember we have to also teach key competencies and skills that are age appropriate each year. Schools of tomorrow should have options for learning, traditional and non traditional, however we need to try to understand what belongs in which. I still think the key is not the school of the future, but the teacher of the future.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Well said. A much more interesting conversation would be about the teacher of the future.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Well said. A much more interesting conversation would be about the teacher of the future.

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