As learning technologies and teaching methods have continued to advance, so too have the physical spaces that students and teachers work in. Educators, researchers and designers across the country (and the world) are beginning to swap out Industrial-Aged classrooms with ultra-modern learning spaces — classrooms that are adaptable, flexible, and seamlessly integrated with technology. Think mobile furniture and white boards, retractable walls, open spaces, soft seating and more. These modern-day classrooms mimic real-world environments, and are designed to equip students with advanced communication, collaboration and technological skills. Indeed, research has shown that the cognitive and emotional benefits of adaptable learning spaces far outweigh those of the traditional classroom.
Adaptable learning spaces, unlike traditional classrooms, are suitable for multiple teaching strategies and are student-centric. In other words, students take an active role in their learning, while the teacher takes on the role of facilitator.
Eanes Independent School District
Take, for example, the work of Eanes Independent School District in Texas. Over the last few years, the district has implemented mobile furniture, iPads, brightly colored spaces and more into its schools (the roll out began with West Lake High School in 2011). Teachers and administrators wanted to explore how student-centric, adaptable learning environments influenced learning.
The results? Implementing the iPad, along with mobile desks, improved productivity, enhanced creativity and eased student collaboration, according to Carolyn Foote, a Westlake High School librarian who chronicled the results. Mobile desks make it easy for students to form groups or re-arrange classroom layouts for better discussion. Plus, the ergonomic design of the Steelcase Node chairs keep students comfortable — and therefore, better able to focus. The iPad’s camera, video function and many apps allow for creative storytelling and content production. Furthermore, iPad use equips students with essential research and tech skills for college and beyond.
Take a look at the district’s blog chronicling the transition to adaptable furniture and technology here.
Hartland-Lakeside School District
The Hartland-Lakeside School District in Wisconsin has also embraced adaptable learning spaces. In 2012, the district swapped out the antiquated furniture in many of its classrooms for modern, colorful, and adaptable pieces. The classrooms in Hartland-Lakeside are now student-centric, and able to moved and re-arranged throughout the day. The overhaul was a response to Hartland educators embracing “differentiated methods” of teaching, according to its administration.
Couches provide a comfortable space or students to learn, while low-rise tables with casters can easily be moved for different activities and collaboration. Pops of color in pillows and rugs provide a touch of warmth and inspire creativity. Open spaces let students move and stretch, which enhances learning and creativity.
Bean bags provide optimum comfort and flexibility, and are great seating for student collaboration. But they’re also handy for students who want alone time. Individual laptops go where the students go and eliminate the need for desks crammed with supplies.
You can read more about Hartland’s transition here.
Another school that’s taken on adaptable learning spaces is Cove Elementary in Marin County, California. Cove Elementary, which opened in August 2014, was designed by the forward-thinking design firm Quattrochi Kwok. The firm is passionate about designing innovative learning environments and exploring the roles that furniture pieces play in learning.
The above space has soft seating, mobile chairs and tables, and even mobile walls — the sliding glass wall in the background can quickly subdivide the space or open up to create one large classroom. The mobile furniture and break-out spaces are ideal for group learning, one-on-one sessions, or individual work. In addition, studies have shown that natural light from open windows, as seen above, increases comfort, productivity and mental stimulation.
The mounted TV screen makes sharing presentations or student work easy, and the soft seating inside the shelves provide a cozy nook for reading or quiet time. Floor mats provide a pop of color and a space for students to stretch and play.
Thinking about turning your classroom into an adaptable space, but fear you don’t have the budget or the know-how? Don’t fret: Edutopia has a few simple tips and tricks to start redesigning your classroom that won’t break the bank.