The 21st Century Learning Environment

08 Jun

I just had an amazing moment where I would have never thought about listening to an ‘outsider’ or non-educator discussing the learning environment. Today, I had a moment to review some of my unread emails in which this gem popped up. This gentleman, Randall Fielding is an architect. The video, presented by Pearson, discusses his thoughts on building schools in the 21st century. He relates his thoughts on ancient architecture to how we know the brain works and why school environments are an important piece to student learning and engagement. The video goes on to discuss why students can do well in school.

1) Students feel secure. Safe and caring schools are not new to Alberta nor to the educational landscape. There is much research that supports this concept such as that from Alberta Ed.

2) Students need a stimulus rich environment. Boxed up classrooms with rows of desks and chairs do not allow students and teachers to reach their full potential of learning. Collaboration, individualized learning and smaller group activities in this type of environment is difficult. Areas in schools that are open, have large windows to let natural sunlight in, sofa chairs, lounges, work tables all offer varying levels of workspaces.

3) Students can be independent thinkers. Teachers should acknowledge this aspect of learning and encourage/facilitate/guide their students along their learning path. It is a dramatic shift from the past few decades of rote memorization and minimal hands-on learning, however good professional development practices in this area will assist teachers to change their “teaching” abilities. Education of our students should be the path taken in the 21st century since this is the world that surrounds us right now. Assist students to find their own learning zone which can be permeable, individualized, collaborative and comfortable yet challenging.

4) Students want real-world, authentic learning. Historical accounts of information are important, but relaying and comparing this to a real-world context makes students understand that they are part of the learning…they do have a voice. Projects like those undertaken in TakingITGlobal or with CBC video, within LearnAlberta, and even through Facebook or Twitter, allows students to view the world as hit happens, in a safe environment, with rich discussions and possible solutions to the real-time events.

Learning in school can be an innovative, creative process. We all just need to work together to accomplish this – whether it’s through a physical, or social, or technological and/or pedagogical stance. All I know is that Randall Fleming touched my thoughts in a way that I would have never guessed…..and that IS a good thing.

What has touched you about learning and teaching lately in a most unexpected way?


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