“We cannot predict the future, but we do sense that we have the power to shape it. So we need to take time to reflect: on what those possible futures are, which are the more desirable, and what it takes to realise them” (Laurillard, in Norris, Mason, Lefrere, 2003, p. III).
There are experts and futurists who provide a disparate range of opinions about the future of learning (Papert, 1990). In some visions future learning is community-based with strong elements of “service and citizenship” (Futurelab, 2012, n.p.), and in others it is education is based around informed-choice and learners are seen as independent consumers (Futurelab, 2012). While it isn’t possible to predict the future, if we reflect on “what those possible futures are, which are the more desirable, and what it takes to realise them” (Laurillard, in Norris, Mason, Lefrere, 2003, p. III), then we can take an active part in preparing ourselves and also, perhaps, shaping change.
In a 2011 a study conducted in Europe reported that 86% of the experts surveyed felt that a high majority (71%, with only 13% disagreeing) believed that, by 2025, educators will have many roles as “guides, mentors, friends and partners in self-regulated, personalised and collaborative learning processes” (Redecker et al, 2011, p. 61). Facilitators will work, and learn, alongside learners as they work through their learning pathway, and will provide guidance and support when required (Redecker et al, 2011). Also, the boundaries between ‘teachers’ or ‘experts’ and student, apprentice, or ‘novice’ can, and do, become blurred.
Emerging technologies in 2025, the report indicates, will play an important part in opening up new learning opportunities, learners (including the facilitators themselves) will have personalised learning plans that will give them the freedom to actively develop their talents.
By 2040 it is envisaged that the physical classroom will be all but defunct, and that virtual and physical studios will provide learning spaces. The focus of the learning itself shifts from a formal, intermittent process, to a continuous, interconnected effort, where concepts and contexts can be simulated and experienced by learners. There are a wide range of emerging learning technologies identified that are being posited as likely to have a big impact on learning and teaching.
The prevailing andragogic approach has swung towards active and collaborative learning, but the design of physical spaces do not always reflect this. The JISC 2006 guide states that “if we are to foster truly flexible, creative and adaptable minds, we need to look more critically at the extent to which learning space designs promote innovative ways of thinking”.
Involving learners in aspects of the re-design is important. “This signals that they can have a measure of control over the learning environment and over their own learning” (JISC, 2006).
Specialised learning spaces and zones for activity
One way of conceptualising modern learning spaces is via ‘zoning’ for a typology of specialised learning (or workﬂows), and as such are designed for multiple-uses - some of which have important implications for group spaces. Each space therefore needs to provide a range of resources, which will foster facilitator-to-learner, learner(s)-to-learner(s), and individual sessions, as well as opportunities to interact with the community, industry, and ‘bring in’ to work with them directly on something (virtually or physically) a range of mentors and leaders in the field.
A typology for such specialised learning spaces might include the following:
Thinking/conceiving spaces (spaces for deliberating)
Designing spaces (spaces for putting structure, order, and context to free-ranging ideas)
Presenting spaces (spaces for showing things to a group)
Collaborating spaces (spaces for enabling team activities)
Debating or negotiating spaces (spaces for facilitating negotiations)
Documenting spaces (spaces for describing and informing specific activities, objects, or other actions)
Implementing/associating spaces (spaces for bringing together related things needed to accomplish a task or goal)
Practicing spaces (spaces for investigating specific disciplines)
Sensing spaces (spaces for pervasively monitoring a location)
Operating spaces (spaces for controlling systems, tools, and complex environments)
(Long, & Ehrman, 2005, n.p.)
Learners need to be able to create their own zone by shifting furniture, choosing lighting, and adding, for instance, an augmented reality overlay to their environment.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the manifestations of growing connectivity, where people, devices, and objects are increasingly able to communicate on some level. One definition of the IoT is “Things having identities and virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within social, environmental, and user contexts” (European Commission, 2008, p. 6). From this hyperconnectivity, a number of social and commercial changes are predicted, as we become more energy efficient through the use of intelligent buildings, cars and cities, and social networks will “transcend physical boundaries” (European Commission, 2008, p. 6). Some of the implications for learning might include a greater ability to work on authentic projects across geographical locations, and where a physical location is shared, the digital resources and virtual spaces required can be in place, set up and ready to use.
Learning spaces need to be flexible, multi-purpose, and focussed on the people using the space rather than the technology. These spaces should be designed to enable devices to be brought into the space, rather than fixed devices, such as desktop computers being provided.
The infrastructure to support the use of these devices has to be reliable, flexible, easy to access / use, and safe. Peripheral devices should either be wireless, or where this isn’t possible - e.g. re-charging - cables need to be built into the fabric of the building, and large number of power sockets included in a wide number of locations. Raised flooring, for example, allows cabling to be extended or amended in the future.
Capture/replay "think through": processing real-time recording (ad hoc) without destroying the social comfort of the group and while providing appropriate degrees of privacy; particularly challenging will be capturing audio in small-group conversations that occur when large classes meet in a single room (Educause, 2005).
Digital media player (e.g. Apple TV)
Dynamically available bandwidth provisioned to and within a room, allowing students to safely access and download rich media objects without choking the local network segment (Educause, 2005)
Spaces for group or individual webinar / VOIP sessions
VOIP / webinar platforms
Synchronous collaboration spaces
Multimedia capturing facilities / devices
Virtual spaces to store and curate (cloud-based)
Spaces for gesture-based ‘whole body’ learning for students accustomed to touching, tapping, swiping, jumping, and moving as a means of engaging with, and building, knowledge and skills.
Spaces to experience simulations (virtual and physical)
“The industrial teaching model of formal learning spaces has tended to result in over-illumination, hard hallways, fixed-seat classrooms, and hard surfaces. Food and drink should be seen as an integral part of learning spaces, as should 24/7 hour access” (JISC, 2006).
The ethos of zoned learning spaces is that “students decide on the configuration of the space and the technology they require for their purpose, and can use it for as long as required” (JISC, 2006).
Furniture needs to be easily reconfigured to match the size and purpose of group and individual work. These are going to be custom-made items that designed to support clearly articulated andragogic aims.
Learning spaces should be ‘soft’, and comfortable, and, most importantly movable, so that that enable “spaces that learners can make their own” (JISC, 2006, p. 29)
Writeable surfaces everywhere - preferably that capture and store everything written on them
Movable partition walls should built in to allow for future expansion
Flexible furniture and wider doorways meet the needs of a variety of learners, not only wheelchair users (JISC, 2006).
“Audiovisual cues and changes in furniture layout can assist learners’ navigation around a building, and help them to adjust their behaviour according to the purpose of the space” (JISC, 2006).
The duration of access is, in part to offer flexibility for students who are working or who need quiet space away from the family home, but also to recognise that students who are engaged in their learning are likely to want to continue the irrespective of the clock.
The only bookable rooms should be a small number of spaces set aside for tutorial, workshops, group work, or student meetings – “the rest of the space is open access, on demand” (JISC, 2006).
“The self-regulating building will manage dialogue and collaboration by providing areas that invite group activities where silence is not expected, with quiet zones adjacent to windows, or separated by shelving” (JISC, 2006).
Conversation, mobile phone use and consumption of refreshments should be considered “natural adjuncts to learning” (JISC, 2006).
“Where a discreet meeting point is called for, an inflatable ‘igloo’ wall can be brought in to provide a sound baffle” (JISC, 2006).
Traffic through the centre can also be directed by varied arrangements of internal structures, to avoid a concentration of noise and movement in areas close to entrances (JISC, 2006).
Learning spaces should be lit with natural light where possible...and subtle / individual lighting options. “Learning areas infused with natural light...provide an environment that is easy and pleasurable to work in. Wireless connectivity within a brightly lit atrium, learning café or open-plan social area will encourage engagement in learning, and instil a desire to continue activities beyond timetabled classes” (JISC, 2006).
Technology experts (possibly a student role) rove the spaces, whilst facilitators are on hand to offer support, ask questions, and engage learners in discussion about their learning.
Plasma screens on both floors identify the roving support staff and remind users of occasional drop-in workshops for skills development. The flexibility of the Grid places a requirement on the student support staff to be responsive and supportive and yet still be able to manage a high-volume open-access resource.
We cannot anticipate future technological or pedagogic developments, but can ensure that designs will accommodate change. “Investment in higher specification mobile rather than fixed technologies, wireless as well as wired networks, even bespoke furniture, may be justified when the space can support a range of purposes, and be relatively easily reconfigured” (JISC, 2006).
Futurelab. (2012). World 3: Only connect. Retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://www.beyondcurrenthorizons.org.uk/scenarios/world-3.
JISC. (2006). Designing Spaces for Effective Learning: A guide to 21st century learning space design. Retrieved July 2 2014 from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/learningspaces.pdf.
Laurillard, D. (2003). Foreword. In Transforming e-Knowledge: A revolution in the sharing of knowledge by Donald Norris, Jon Mason, Paul Lefrere. Society for College and University Planning: UK.
Long, P.D., & Ehrmann, S.C. (2005). Future of the Learning Space: Breaking Out of the Box. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 40, no. 4 (July/August 2005): 42–58.
Norris, D., Mason, J., Lefrere, P. (2003). A Revolution in the Sharing of Knowledge Transforming e-Knowledge. Michigan: Society for College and University Planning. Retrieved October 10, 2012 fromhttp://www.transformingeknowledge.info/title.html.
Papert, S. (1990). A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future. Retrieved September 10, 2002, from http://www.papert.org/articles/ACritiqueofTechnocentrism.html.
Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse,M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner,P., Stoyanov, S., & Hoogveld, B. (2011). The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. Seville, Spain: European Commission Joint Research Centre. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC66836.pdf.
Managing clouds and the death of formality in business. CC ( BY SA ) licensed Flickr image by opensource.com : https://flic.kr/p/8pLVg9
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