This weekend I was fortunate to spend the afternoon with Randall Fielding and Prakash Nair from Fielding Nair International. They call themselves Architects and Change Agents for Education. They were visiting our little Independent School because we are in the process of trying to envision how we will grow and expand onto the 40 acres of land we own on Vancouver Island. What I found fascinating was their vision of what education should be and how passionate they were about building schools to help facilitate this vision. Some examples of these schools can be found on this Design Share website.
At some point I think they referred to their ideal model of education as the Creative Age Student-Centered Personalised Model, which I rather liked. They also talked a lot about the need for passion and creativity to be a part of a child’s education (Daniel Pink and Dr. Ken Robinson were both referenced a number of times). It was really quite something to listen to Architects talking about the same sort of things my Twitter Network of mostly Educators is always mulling over.
They shared with us some of the building design patterns they had developed to support the creativity and passion that is a part of their vision. Some of these included:
- Breaking down schools into smaller learning communities of no more than 150 students each.
- Vistas and connection to the outdoors.
- Variations in ceiling height. They claim that there is research showing that higher ceilings stimulate more creativity!
- Cave space – places for reflection
- Building learning spaces that cater to the Multiple Intelligences.
- Spaces that support the notion of 1 teacher to 100 (community) instead of 1 teacher to 25 (classroom cells)
- Not teacher offices; teacher collaboration spaces.
I came away from the afternoon with a whole new appreciation for the importance of the learning space in education. I would count myself very lucky if I ever had a chance to teach in one of the schools they have designed.
As an aside, at one point we broke into groups and were given 20 Learning Modalities to mull over. We were all supposed to pick the 3 that we thought were the most important. In the context of trying to design an education that puts the child at the center of their own learning and in charge of their own learning I ended up picking the following 3 modalities:
- Design Based Learning. I picked this one because I think that a design framework like the MYP Design Cycle is an important guide for students that gives them the support they need to successfully tackle meaningful and challenging projects. Some sort of framework like this needs to be in place when giving students more autonomy with their learning.
- One on One Learning with Teacher. For me this is where technology can be really useful, it can free up the teacher to spend quality time with each student in order to meet their individual needs. As students become more autonomous it stands to reason that they will need more personalised attention, which they will only get from one on one attention.
- Social/Emotional Learning. I didn’t pick this one originally, but as other people in my group shared their thoughts I started to realise that for a student to really take charge of their learning they need to be have confidence in themselves.
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