April 11, 2013

Redesigning your Learning Spaces: How Mobile Technology Demands a New Classroom – from Jen Carey

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Concurrent Session #2 – Redesigning your Learning Spaces: How Mobile Technology Demands a New Classroom – Don Orth, Director of Technology at Hillbrook School, Christa Flores, MS Science & iLab Director, Tim Springer, Founder & President Hero, Inc.

What should classrooms (physically) look like with the learning that is happening now? The Hillbrook School is hosting an iPad School 2.0 Summit this summer. Big Picture questions:

  • Where do you go to be creative?
  • When is the last time you reinvented your classroom, your teaching, your assumptions?

Don played a short video of Tim Springer that highlights our need as educators to be adaptive and flexible. We need to mold our learning environments to meet the needs of our learners. We need to ask ourselves, are we designing a solution that helps students?

When Hillbrook adopted iPad, what they found is that it shifted the learning environment. Suddenly, students were not fixed to a place. They could readily move around and collaborate. In fact, the classroom was getting in the way. Students now want to be self-directed. They live in a different learning environment than we know. Should schools tell children to “deal with it” or should the schools adapt?

Instead of a computer lab, Hillbrook has a multimedia lab or, what they term, an iLab (Idea Lab). It’s a space without a set function, and thus it allows for greater flexibility and ownership. When teachers ask, “what kind of space gets you, the student, excited for learning?” the children then make the environment. Currently, as a school, Hillbrook is still exploring how the learning space is changing and evolving.

The primary focus here is student directed learning and allowing students to own their experience. This takes more time and requires greater adaptability.  In a video of student reactions to the iLab, the students consistently discuss its flexibility – the fact that they make the classroom for what they need at the time (discussion, working quietly, etc). The premise is that when students walk into a room and build a space to work, they are more engaged and invested in the material. The iLab is not a space owned by the teacher, rather it belongs to the students.

“Learning needs an engaging context.” – Tim Springer.

affective_context_model2Tim Springer highlights the research behind the iLab. Movement is not a distraction from learning, but rather is conducive to it. Engaging the body helps with attention and concentration. Movement and mobility, in conjunction with technology, becomes incorporated into the learning space and further engages students in the learning experience. When students are bored, they quickly become apathetic and disinterested in the material. By challenging and engaging students, they get into the “zone,” and feel successful. When we look at affective learning, when students “pull” material, we see that they gain a deeper and more enduring understanding. Engaging multiple senses in a challenging context ultimately provides a more enriched learning experience.

While the iLab can be used by all subjects, currently it serves as the sole Science classroom for the Middle School. Students meet in the iLab for all science classes. This makes the science class about doing rather than absorbing content. Students need autonomy to develop intellectually. Learners should make mistakes. The iLab context allows them to learn and to feel successful when they ultimately achieve their goals.

Flexibility is the key element of the iLab. Its environment allows students to build a space that fits the needs of their learning, and iPad, being mobile by nature, has been readily adopted into it because students can easily move and implement it as they need.

You can view these presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.