Not only is this a post summary (not really an analysis this time) of Michael’s views on how student learning spaces could be set up to support online and blended learning, but it is also a bit of a follow up to my previous post on “the way we do things”.
This synchronous video conferencing space is consistent from school to school. Generally speaking it includes two televisions, with a camera set on top of one of the televisions…The set-up is so predictable that there is a better than average chance that there will be a blue curtain against the walls to provide a background for the camera. Anyone involved with the e-learning clusters throughout New Zealand was able to describe that learning space.
Actually not quite accurate on the blue curtain front in our cluster, but otherwise spot on. He goes on to explain that this consistency is not the case when looking at the physical spaces that students do their work in.
In some instances, students would go to a library, resource centre, computer lab, or even an unsupervised, empty classroom. In other instances, the students would complete their asynchronous work in the back of another teachers’ classroom while they were teaching a different group of students. There were some examples where schools had set aside a specific space – a distance education room of sorts – for students to use during their asynchronous time. These distance education rooms were often simply a space provided to the students that they could take ownership of, but were not specifically created as an asynchronous learning space. But there were a few examples where the school leadership had given some consideration to providing a space that was conducive – even fostered – student learning during their asynchronous work time. Some of the things that were often provided in this space included Internet connected computers, desks for students to work by themselves or tables for them to be able to work in groups, and books and other physical resources identified as being useful for the specific distance courses the students were completing.
There is quite a variety of approaches to providing learning spaces within our own cluster, that would reflect what Michael is talking about here. Our eDean Community of Practice recently survey some students and you can see the results below.
Great to see most students have a specialised space, rather than being put at the back of the room. This is the best option at the moment, but the question is how these specialised spaces can be developed to really support learning. Roxburgh Area School has recently finished building renovations designed to produce this modern, open space. If you view the gallery below you will see the room they had before the renovations (which I saw and was still better than most), the plans, and I photo from the school website.
In these floor plans the video conferencing room is located near the bottom, with entrances to both the corridor and the learning centre. The learning centre itself isn’t a single, open room. The learning centre is a series of smaller spaces that are designed to allow students to work individually or in groups without having to interact or disturb other students. For example, a group of physical students could be working together on a group project in one of the two rooms with the rectangular tables, while another group of mathematics students would be working individually on a problem set in one of the larger rooms with the circular tables and still have access to each other if they ran into problems they didn’t understand or if they wanted to check their work against each other. Both of these rooms may or may not have Internet-connected computers, depending on the decisions of the school leadership and the individual needs of the students. At the same time, several students could be in another room at the individual desks reading a novel for their English course. Finally, across the corridor form the learning centre is a traditional computer lab.