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MirandaNet Fellowship Article
Good room design
Resources and inspiration on creating spaces for learning
Year of posting: 2013
“The end of the computer room is nigh” or so the experts have said for at least the last 10 years. But the fact remains that, despite laptop trollies, tablets, mobile phones, BYOD and cross curricular approaches, ICT computer rooms remain in demand: sometimes in non-traditional forms, and, unfortunately, too often in forms that are not ideal for teaching.
Maybe this demand is because these rooms are important or maybe we’re just scared to think outside the box? No doubt many want to get out of the box they teach in but, despite the desire, can’t climb up the edges to make the change.
In my time teaching and observing in computer rooms I have a few stories to tell. I think I would classify the bad designs I came across into one or more (sometimes all) of the 5 categories below:
- Bad shape: e.g. The long room where the students from about half way back were too far away to see the board.
- Bad layout: e.g. The crowded room where it was impossible for a teacher to get to the students as they had to squeeze down behind the chairs to help the student sitting by the wall.
- Bad teaching position: e.g. The room where at least half the class had their backs to the teachers no matter where the teacher stands,
- Bad light, ventilation: e.g. The sauna room where 30 students and 30 PCs and non opening windows made it 30 degrees in the winter
- Bad teachers/routines: e.g. The cross curricular room where the keys on every keyboard had been rearranged and the cables to the mice cut.
I had these experiences in mind when I was asked to provide some useful documents to someone designing a multi-purpose training room in a new building. I thought it wise to turn to MirandaNet for some ideas and resources and help me get over my negativity with some positivity and inspiration.
Below is a summary of the resources and links I received along with a brief comment from me explaining the resource. The list is not exhaustive but it has enough content to keep most of us busy for a while.
Credit to all those who contributed is given at the end. Many thanks to all who did!
The price of beauty and usefulness in learning
A study of value for money in nursery setting (2013)
Professor Christina Preston, founder of MirandaNet, has been investigating the kinds of environment that are most effective for learning in the nursery. The report is here.
BSF Evaluation Report Year 1 (2007)
An evaluation of year 1 of the Building Schools for the Future programme in the UK – A hefty 55 page report including a literature review and lots of data here.
Classrooms of the world tour
At first glance this just looks like a collection of photos of different classrooms from around the world. In itself interesting, but click a picture to read the story of the teacher who works in the room, includes many project examples and some videos that are not necessarily related to room design but each tell a story of an interesting project here.
Designing a learning space
A free e-book from Juliette Heppell on the results of a project which let students design their own learning spaces. Needs ITunes to download here.
Also related is this Stephen Heppell interview of Juliette’s students from Lampton School
A New Zealand firm that creates classroom furniture and classroom designs. Their website includes some case studies and research about their furniture.
Futurelab Archive – learningspaces
Research, resources, tools and publications from Future Lab on designing learning spaces.
Based in the UK, Learnspace is an experimental 500 square metre plus space where different spaces and pedagogies can be tested. Website includes some other links to useful resources including case studies. Am sure a visit would be even better!
Igloo – Round learning space/tent
Richard Smith who works with this says “This is so interesting and really changes the dynamics. I have found that it support group work as the round space encourages circulation of people (and ideas!).”
Video at work in a Special School in the UK here
Newspaper article archive on school building – UK
List of articles from The Guardian
Includes the article from last year on the government “no curves” rule here.
Pinterest – Interesting learning places and spaces.
A lovely collection of interesting photos curated by Stephen Heppell here.
Salford University research on classroom design and pupil performance
The link is to a newspaper article about the interim results of this research project which is ongoing. The full article is apparently published in the journal “Building and Environment”.
Science in a Barn
Battle Abbey School converted a stables into a state of the art science lab. Picture below, contact Dr. Eric Demoncheaux about how the school makes modern learning spaces in a beautiful historic building! This link is just to school website and doesn’t contain specific details about the project.
Stephen Heppell Learning Places and Spaces
A great mishmash of links and experiences of various learning places projects that Stephen Heppell has been involved in here.
The Third Teacher Plus – An educational design consultancy.
Their main resources is a nice looking printed book that can be purchased from Amazon (and I guess other places) for around $20 here.
Words of warning
In the MirandaLink debate, Joe Nutt remarked, ‘Given the enthusiastic responses you’ve been receiving, I would suggest you will need to exercise a lot of judgement. Having been involved in the very first BSF project, dozens afterwards, and as one of its earliest critics I would add this crucial consideration: the most damaging issue of all in school design is when the individuals concerned have no experience of what constitutes good, never mind excellent schooling. At the height of BSF, one of the leading voices dozens of architects, consultants and even PfS themselves were following didn’t even attempt to hide his personal antipathy for schools’.
So we had best keep a good eye on the people we chose to design learning rooms- asking the students will probably be a good start.
With thanks for contributions and assistance to:
Dr Eric Demoncheaux
Dr Noeline Wright
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