Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Follow their Lead

The entrance to the Camberwell HS
Enterprise Centre
In October this year, I was allowed to go to Melbourne with my Head of Department and the 2014 Head of Mathematics. We went to four very inspiring schools, including Camberwell High School. We all agreed that we learned a lot from this visit. There were things we wished we could do, but our architecture will not allow that in the same way as the schools we visited. There were also a lot of things we thought we could adapt and/or adopt without needing to change much at our school.

Camberwell HS have created a wonderful "Enterprise Centre" with a variety of types of learning spaces, including a lecture theatre and a film studio. They also have the opportunity for indoor-outdoor flow (it is balmy Australia after all!) and have deliberately accommodated for this with appropriate outdoor furniture under verandahs. What I learned here was that students will often surprise you with where they choose to work.

We were shown two areas which were not designed as learning spaces, but where the students often elect to work. The first was an entrance-way which was a dark alcove; it is often employed as a "cave" for quiet collaboration and work by small groups. Another was a multilevel concrete area outside, at the end of a corridor. This appeared to be a social area for lunchtime etc., but is also commonly used as a learning space.

One unintended learning
space - a "cave"
Another unintended learning
space. I love the levels in this!!

By opening the sliding doors to my right, there is excellent
indoor-outdoor flow and even more learning spaces.

The fact that students will often search out places they want to work in is something I have seen at my own school. Students often ask to work outside the classroom, whether this is on the picnic tables outside, sitting on the grass on the fields, or leaning against the walls in the corridor outside my laboratory. At first, I was extremely skeptical and expected them to use these opportunities to socialise and be slack. Yes, this is true of some students, but to my (pleasant) surprise, I usually see really good collaboration going on, and (when given enough time), the creation of some wonderful work.

Looking around my own block, I can see that the inclusion of some extra furniture could turn a few areas into unique learning spaces: we have alcoves that can become "caves"; we have wide entrance-ways which can have beanbags and/or tables added to convert them into learning spaces; and we could get some outdoor furniture to make the area outside my widows a good learning space too. This is just the beginning - I am sure the students will come up with ideas I haven't even thought of!

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