Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Learning’

By Greg Stack
| July 20, 2012 |

So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling –  it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.

1.   COMPUTER LABS. Students are connected to the Internet everywhere except in school. Regardless of their income bracket, most kids carry around a world of information in their pockets on their mobile devices, and yet we force them to power down and disconnect, and we confine them in obsolete computer labs. A modern school needs to have connectivity everywhere and treat computers more like pencils than microscopes.

2.   LEARNING IN PRESCRIBED PLACES. When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high school, chances are the experience didn’t take place in a space designed for learning. Working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends — those are the lasting, meaningful learning experiences. Yet we don’t design schools to accommodate these activities and focus only on the formal spaces.

3.  TEACHER-CENTERED CLASSROOM. Classrooms were designed for lecture and crowd control, with the teacher as the central figure of knowledge and authority.  The teacher had knowledge to impart through direct instruction and the current classroom structure works pretty well for this. This basic classrooms structure is the same, though in some schools, the chalkboard has been replaced by the interactive “Smart Board.” In progressive classrooms, the structure has changed: small groups of kids working, project work, and student presentations require rethinking this model.
4.   ISOLATED CLASSROOMS. Tony Wagner of the Harvard School of Education and the author of the Global Achievement Gap says: “Isolation is the enemy of improvement” and yet most schools are designed in a way that isolates teachers from each other. Teachers often learn to teach in isolated boxes and perpetuate that style throughout their career. Interior windows get “papered over” and blinds are shut. Yet out of school, people work in teams and are visually and often aurally connected.
5.   DEPARTMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS. In order to break down the size of schools and to allow students to learn across curriculum, it’s essential to organize schools so that teachers of various subjects are located together. This not only emulates how people work today – in collaborative groups – but encourages teachers to consider students holistically, not only as they perform in a specific subject.

6.   SCHOOL CORRIDORS. Corridors take up a lot of valuable real estate in a school and are unoccupied most of the time. If rooms are arranged in groups around a common space, corridors are not necessary. And unused corridors can be made into informal learning spaces.

7.   TRADITIONAL SCHOOL LIBRARIES. In a modern school a library should be more of a learning commons able to support a variety of student activities as they learn to access and evaluate information.  Books have their place but they are not the end-all of libraries.  A learning commons is no longer the quiet sanctum of old, rather it is a space that can be central or distributed, used formally or informally, and one that can stimulate a spirit of inquiry in students.

8.   DARK, INDOOR GYMS. Most gyms have no access to natural light because of fear of glare that might interfere with sporting events. But with soaring energy costs, being able to turn off lights in a gym can amount to big savings. Designing glare-free gyms is possible but typically requires more natural light not less. Skylights, well placed windows and ample light create a great experience and a functional space.

9.   INSTITUTIONAL FOOD SERVICE. School food service usually involves folding tables that are placed and replaced throughout the day.  With cleanup activities it takes the commons/cafeteria out of action most of the day.  Why sacrifice this valuable space when it could serve multiple purposes? Creating spaces that require less movement of furniture while remaining flexible will allow them to be used more effectively.  Common spaces can also be less institutional, which in turn increases their flexibility.  Decentralizing food service allows students to eat in smaller groups and also allows multi-use of spaces.  Even if the food isn’t better, the space can be.

10.   LARGE RESTROOMS. Students try to avoid using school restrooms even in new schools because of concerns over privacy, bullying, and cleanliness contribute. To avoid restroom use, students stop drinking water and become dehydrated, and unable to focus. In Finland and other parts of Europe, they use individual restrooms that are located in the shared learning areas between classrooms. There seems to be a feeling of ownership for these, so they don’t get trashed. Also, they have more privacy, and there’s less bullying.

Greg Stack is an architect for NAC Architecture and specializes in developing best practices for the planning and design of educational environments. A version of this post originally appeared on School Design Matters.
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 | December 26, 2012

It may come as no surprise that the ideas that are top-of-mind for educators, parents, and policymakers are the very topics conveyed in the most popular MindShift posts this year. Giving kids the tools to create, teachers the freedom to innovate, making students’ work relevant in the real world, giving them access to valuable technology. These are the aspirations that have resonated most with MindShift readers this year. Here are the top 10 posts from 2012.

1. EASY WAYS TO INTRODUCE PROGRAMMING TO KIDS.

Being able to use the Internet and operate computers is one thing, but it may be just as valuable to teach students how to code. Giving students an introduction to programming helps peel back the layers of what happens inside computers and how computers communicate with one another online. Programming knowledge, even at a very basic level, makes technology seem less magical and more manageable. Programming also teaches other important skills, including math and logic.

2. 10 THINGS IN SCHOOL THAT SHOULD BE OBSOLETE.

So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling –  it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.

3. WHY KIDS NEED SCHOOLS TO CHANGE.

The conversation in education has shifted towards outcomes and training kids for jobs of the future, and in many ways the traditional classroom has become obsolete. And yet many people fear change, preferring to hunker down and take the conservative route. Yet, it’s exactly during these uncertain times when people must be willing to try new things, to be more open, curious and experimental, said educator Madeline Levine.

4. LEARNING SHOULD BE MESSY.

Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell. It’s time to abolish silos and subjects.

5. MAKING CELL PHONES WORK IN THE CLASSROOM.

At its core, the issues associated with mobile learning get to the very fundamentals of what happens in class everyday. At their best, cell phones and mobile devices seamlessly facilitate what students and teachers already do in thriving, inspiring classrooms. Students communicate and collaborate with each other and the teacher. They apply facts and information they’ve found to formulate or back up their ideas. They create projects to deepen their understanding, association with, and presentation of ideas.

6. TURN YOUR CLASSROOM INTO AN IDEA FACTORY.

If we’re serious about preparing students to become innovators, educators have some hard work ahead. Getting students ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges means helping them develop a new set of skills and fresh ways of thinking that they won’t acquire through textbook-driven instruction. Students need opportunities to practice these skills on right-sized projects, with supports in place to scaffold learning. They need to persist and learn from setbacks. That’s how they’ll develop the confidence to tackle difficult problems.

7. OPEN EDUCATION RESOURCES FOR ALL.

As open educational resources and OpenCourseWare (OCW) increase in popularity and usage, there are a number of new resources out there that do offer opportunity for interaction and engagement with the material.

8. FOR STUDENTS, WHY THE QUESTION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ANSWER.

In a traditional classroom, the teacher is the center of attention, the owner of knowledge and information. Teachers often ask questions of their students to gauge comprehension, but it’s a passive model that relies on students to absorb information they need to reproduce on tests. What would happen if the roles were flipped and students asked the questions?

9. DEFINING DEEPER LEARNING.

In preparing students for the world outside school, what skills are important to learn? This goes to the heart of the research addressed in the Deeper Learning Report released by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science in Washington. Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the “process of learning for transfer,” meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another, explained James Pellegrino, one of the authors of the report. “You can use knowledge in ways that make it useful in new situations,” he said.

10. HOW CAN WE CONNECT SCHOOL LIFE TO REAL LIFE.

So what if we were to say that, starting this year, even with our children in K– 5, at least half of the time they spend on schoolwork must be on stuff that can’t end up in a folder we put away? That the reason they’re doing their schoolwork isn’t just for a grade or for it to be pinned up in the hallway? It should be because their work is something they create on their own, or with others, that has real value in the real world.

Source: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/12/top-10-posts-of-2012-deeper-more-meaningful-and-creative-learning/