Over the past few weeks, my teachers and I have been exploring flexible learning spaces. And our goal is to hit the ground running with implementation at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. (Of course, we can experiment when our supplies arrive before then.)
Here’s the email (slightly modified) that officially began this movement. It was sent out about three weeks ago.
After meeting with Danielle [Superintendent] today, I am beyond excited to let everyone know that we’re going to be able to financially support flexible learning spaces at TBD! Here’s the deal:
- Each grade level can spend up to an average of $500 per teacher. (For example, Grade 1 can spend up to $1,500.) Any goods purchased must be received by June 30, 2018. For each item, 3 quotes are needed (if possible), and no single item can be more than $2,000.
- If you are not a regular education teacher and you would like to spend money on your learning space, please talk to me and we will make it work.
- An additional $2,000 has been set aside for the redesign of one of our common areas (e.g., near the doors at the end of the fourth grade hallway). Let’s work together on (1) where this should be, and (2) what the redesign should look like.
Simply put, our learning spaces should promote the types of learning we want to see taking place – student-centered learning in which students are immersed in deep thought, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, etc. And, if all of this new stuff (including the hallway redesign) doesn’t impact how our students learn, we’ve wasted our money.
That being said, we must put our students (not the furniture) at the center of the redesign process. Of course, this can be intimidating. One way to do this is through design thinking, which is a design process that is carried out with empathy for the consumer. (In this case, the consumer is our students and the design process involves our learning spaces.) While design thinking most definitely applies to K-12 education, I highly recommend you read this article that discusses how two educators – A.J. Juliani and John Spencer – created a student-friendly design thinking framework – The LAUNCH Cycle. And, if you’re then left wondering how the cycle applies to flexible learning spaces, here’s a blog post I wrote that lays out one possibility. (And yes, A.J. and John have written a book on the cycle…see below.)
Some of the ways you will be supported…
- At our Faculty Meeting on March 5, we will video chat with Kayla Delzer, a third grade teacher, an expert on flexible learning spaces, and author of an upcoming book on the topic. Please come prepared with questions for Kayla. Resources:
- At our Faculty Meeting On March 19, we will video chat with Bob Dillon, a Director of Innovative Learning, an expert of flexible learning spaces, and author of The Space. Please come prepared with questions for Bob.
- 20 copies of The Space have been ordered. (You can read this book in about an hour.)
- 30 copies of LAUNCH have been ordered. (This book will also help us as we transition to the NGSS.)
- Additional planning time, if necessary.
I hope you’re as excited about these possibilities as I am. Of course, please never stop bouncing ideas off of one another, and I’d love to collaborate through team meetings, PLCs, and/or any other means necessary.
And, thank you once again for all you do!
In the End
A few points:
- While this email formally sparked the “initiative” (for lack of a better word), many of the teachers had already been implementing various aspects of flexible learning spaces: couches and benches in their classrooms, milk crate seats, students sitting wherever they want during Reading Workshop, etc.
- I always try to blur the line between when an initiative does and doesn’t take place (which was somewhat difficult in this instance because I started my job in the middle of the year, and we need to receive all supplies by a certain date). Nonetheless, I did lay some groundwork by having conversations (informally and via entry plan interviews), gauging teacher interest, and by sharing a few resources on flexible learning spaces and design thinking.
- On March 6th, the morning after we had our video chat with Kayla, I walked into school to find one teacher getting rid of a computer table that was taking up too much space, and another teacher who lowered one of her tables to create floor seating (pictured), while raising another so students can work while standing! How cool is that!
In a future blog post, I’ll be following up with more of The Why as it relates to our exploration and implementation of flexible learning spaces.
Connect with Ross on Twitter.