Complete Learning Space Thinking
Today’s learning space conversations need to be developed through complete learning space thinking, rather than only conversations of separate parts. For a while I’ve been saying personalized learning instead of 1:1, because it seemed to say more, and 1:1 was sort of losing its meaning. Now, I feel the phrase, personalized learning, by itself isn’t appropriately complete either, if we are talking about orchestrating that naturally messy workshop called the classroom—on site or online. When concepts like personalized learning are separated from the larger picture, the complete classroom learning space, and, again, that could be online, they seem to be out of education context, become buzzwords with their meanings in the total scheme of things unclear. We can’t afford to be unclear, if we mean to get this right.
I like that we’re thinking and beginning to change our views of learning inside the classroom, as well as the way we envision that classroom, learning space—locally as well as online. It’s probably not fast enough for many, but it’s not an easy or quick route. Most of us, if asked, couldn’t tell, in a specific way, what it should really look like, or how it should work. We’re sort of in the opening of school stage, where the teacher makes the room pretty, decorates the walls and bulletin boards, and places the seats in perfect classroom places. But when you add students, with educator facilitating action, the room becomes a workspace, and workspaces are never masterpieces hanging on a wall. Workspaces are action places, can get a bit messy, and 30 students can certainly move things very quickly to uniquely wonderful, or to say the least—interesting places.
If I asked you to think about a forested mountainside, you probably wouldn’t envision each individual tree, rock, or blade of grass that makes up that mountainside. If the mountainside is the ideal classroom, or learning environment, and the things that make the learning environment relevant are all there—all those individual parts—presentation boards, 1:1 devices, apps, personalized learning curriculum, a collaborative setting, along with an educator who can orchestrate all of it, together in a symphony need to be talked about. If we’re not thinking of the mountain, but only of the individual trees, boulders, dirt, or streams, we’re not getting the complete picture. Therefore, we cannot look at group or personalized learning as separate, or 1:1 devices as separate, or apps, or collaboration as separate, or feedback, or assessment, or any of what we feel are essentials for a learning environment today. All of these things, as well as things we haven’t thought, and more, need to be in the conversation, in the learning space, and in the plans. I don’t mind if we talk about one of the parts, as long as it’s in context to, as well as connected to the rest of the parts for the good and success of the whole.
But before you have the total learning environment conversation, you must have an idea of what a classroom today should look like, as well as the knowledge of how those separate parts work to bring it all together. That’s not as simple as talking about each part by itself, because it’s very easy to be an expert there. The necessary conversation today needs to start with education thought leaders looking at the mountainside, and leading us in plans to get there. Some will argue that educators cannot possibly understand or do it all. But if you start with the mountainside concept, you get a pretty good idea of the parts needed, and by looking more closely at them, you can gain further understanding of what they do, and how they interact, in that messy workshop called today’s classroom. It can be done.
About the Author:
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.