Redesigning Spaces

At the beginning of this school year, I took on a new part-time position as an instructional technology coach at my high school.  This is a new position for my school, so the other instructional technology coach and I have had the pleasure and challenge of shaping our roles and shaping the area of the building that we call “home”.  That area has been carved out of the back of a computer lab, just off of the library.  There was no budget set aside for our physical space, but by working with the custodians and administrators over the past couple of months, we have managed to make a few steps toward making the space more inviting and functional.

Here is a picture of our space from the beginning of the year. We are lucky to have such a large office, but it felt so empty!

tech office - at first

And our space currently looks like this:

2014-11-21 11.57.46

Here’s a link to an album with more views of the current space.

When I had the opportunity to research what makes a learning space effective as part of my CEP 811 class this week, I was inspired to continue dreaming about what we could do continue to tweak this space.  As you can see in the photo album, there is a computer lab attached to our office, and as our school (hopefully) goes 1:1 in the next few years, I hope that we can utilize this space in a new way.

My Design:

I used a tool called SketchUp to create a model of what this space could look like:

tech office

On the far left of the first picture, the office has been turned into a conference room / recording studio.  Coaches can use this space to meet 1-on-1 with teachers in a quiet, private space, and everyone (teachers, coaches, and students) can use this space to record screencasts and/or videos.  There is also a small sink and Keurig coffee maker because, let’s be honest, providing caffeine is a key way to help many adults feel comfortable and excited about learning.

The main portion of the room has been divided by a clear glass wall.  The space to the left of the wall is primarily for tech coaching and small-group collaboration among teachers, and the space on the right is a “Creativity Center”, where teachers can bring their classes or where larger groups of teachers can meet.

The tech coaching portion of the space contains a desk for teach tech coach, facing each other to facilitate conversation and collaboration between the coaches.  in the back of the room, there is a Media:Scape station, where small groups of teachers can plug in and project their computer screens as they collaborate on lesson planning or reflection.  A couch with a large natural-lighting lamp is available as a comfortable spot to have conversations or plan together.

tech office view 2In the Creativity Center, a variety of seating options are available to learners: comfortable chairs, high-top toables, round tables, and Media:Scape tables.  Because this room will be used for a variety of purposes, this variety will be necessary and helpful.  All of the seating is designed to facilitate collaboration and small-group discussion.  Ideally, all of the chairs would be on wheels so that learners can move freely and the room could be rearranged quickly, if a teacher wants to address the whole to focus their attention in one direction.  A SmartBoard in the middle of the room could be used for presentations, or by small groups not working at the Media:Scape tables.  The lower half of each wall is covered with Dry Erase paint, so that teams can make notes on the walls as they work.  A green screen covers part of the wall, so that learners can record videos and add their own backgrounds.

Because learners will each bring their own device, no computers are present, but the room will be equipped with adequate electrical outlets.  Although the room is inside the building, windows have been added in two different places, so that natural light from the windows in the hallway and from the commons area can enter.

Design & Learning Theories:

As an instructional technology coach, I work with adult learners to help them feel more comfortable with new technology and to help them transform their teaching by using the available technology.  I was convicted by David Kelley’s TED talk, “How To Build Your Creative Confidence“, that teachers often are so busy that they lose sight of their inner creativity.  All teachers, but especially teachers who are intimidated by new technology, need a place where they feel inspired, free to explore, and in-touch with their inner creativity.  This redesigned space is built with them in mind, from the Keurig coffee maker to the warm sun-like lighting above the comfortable couch, to the Media:Scape table that allows for easy collaboration.  The colors and lighting are consistent with the school colors and designed to make them feel at ease and empowered.

The creativity center portion of this room is designed to allow learners (both teachers and students) to explore, collaborate, and create in ways that are consistent with learning theories of constructivism and experiential learning, as well as research into design and learning. According to Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, Kobbacy (2012), learners benefit from having flexible spaces where they can re-arrange the furniture to suit their collaborative tasks, and they need interesting seating that provides them some empowered choice over how they complete their learning activities.  This redesigned space will allow them to do that, along with providing a space where they can “hang out, geek out, and mess around”, which Malin (2012) identifies as 3 key aspects of the type of social learning that is quickly becoming the norm.

Items to be Obtained:

  • Glass Wall & Windows.  I am not sure what it costs to build a wall or install windows, but I have been told that the school is planning to build this wall over the summer, and I know they have recently added windows to a couple of internal rooms.
  • Additional electrical outlets.  Custodians or school-contracted electricians can install these quite economically.
  • Smartboard.  Already located in district and not being used.  Just needs to be mounted on the wall.
  • 3 Media:Scapes.  Two are already owned by the school in an area where they are being less effectively used, and so could be moved into this area.  1 more would need to be purchased.  These are quite expensive, but a makeshift Media:Scape could be made by using a large TV monitor (~$400)
  • Couch. Ikea, $550, or Turnstone, $1500
  • 2 area rugs.  Target, $150 each.
  • 4 arm chairs.  Ikea, $280 each, or Turnstone, $750 each.
  • 2 coffee tables.  Turnstone, $350 each
  • 2 High Top tables. Ikea, $625 each, or
  • 3 Round tables & chairs. Ikea, $515 each.
  • Green Screen, $120.
  • Dry Erase paint. $20 per 7’x7′ area
  • Sink. Cost will depend on the ease of installing plumbing in this area.
  • Keurig.  $100
  • 1 Campfire Big Lamp by Turnstone.  $999.  This is a dream item, and would probably be omitted in reality (unless I win a generous grant!)

These items could be purchased in stages, and they are roughly arranged in the order in which they should be purchased.  I imagine that our computer lab will need to exist in its current form for a couple more years, as we will probably phase in 1:1 with our students, but funds will hopefully be available to improve the instructional tech coaching office for next year.  I would love to apply for one of our local school district foundation’s grants this year, and look for other national grants that could help us transform the space we have into one that could open up doors for students to learn, collaborate, create, and share in meaningful ways.  I am excited to see how learning is transformed through the changes I am able to make in this space!

Resources

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Kelley, D. (2012, March 1). How to build your creative confidence. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence?language=en

Malin, S. (2012, September 1). What If? Exploring How Libraries Can Embody Trends of the Twenty-First Century. Young Adult Library Services.

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