Mythic notions and 21st century learning spaces

Trying to track a conversation on twitter is like trying to track your kids in the surf at Bondi on Christmas Day – talk about mental overload!

One conversation I have been trying hard to track is that relating to 21st century learning spaces. Frequent tweeters in my PLN Ben Jones, Dean Groom, Pip Cleaves, Warrick Mole, David Chapman and Megan Townes have had some wonderfully excited discussions about what a 21st century learning space looks and feels like. The obvious words abound: space, flexibility, versatility, connectedness, freedom, innovative, comfortable.

So why the focus on 21st century learning spaces?

We all know that education is changing rapidly. We’ve all seen the slideshows and eduporn from youtube or teachertube that show how vastly different the world is now to 25 years ago and how vastly different it will be in another 25 years. We know that the internet has lots of information and that the educators job is to support students as they wade through the mire that is the world-wide-web. So just how is this changing the physical education landscape? For many, it’s not. The traditional classroom stands tall, defying the agitating of edupunks around the world.

The traditional classroom, as I told my Year 7 class yesterday, originated in the throbbing heart of the Industrial Revolution. Sounds exciting, huh? Well not really to kids in 2010. The Industrial Revolution happened over 200 years ago. That’s a damn long time ago. As pointed out by Nair and Fielding, the ‘early 20th century school design standard (was) modeled after Henry Ford’s factory production methods’. Model T anyone? I doubt any parent would like to think that in 2010 his/her child was viewed as being exactly the same as the child beside him/her. So why set up an environment (a visible embodiment of a teacher’s education philosophy) that fails to differentiate between human beings?

I was fortunate enough to be invited by twitter colleague Shani Hartley to visit the Sydney Centre for Learning Innovation (SCIL) at the end of last term. It was a great experience that I was very pleased to share with my prac student (see my posts about out experiences together here). This is a wonderfully innovative and truly thrilling building that showcases just where education is heading in the future. Read about scil here. I encourage all who can to go and visit! During our visit we were shown the array of learning spaces that had been designed specifically with the needs of learners in the 21st century. All of the abstract nouns that had been floating around in the twittersphere soon became concrete: space, flexibility, versatility, connectedness, freedom, innovative, comfortable.

(I’ll diverge from my windy path for a brief moment and state in advance that I’m not a believer in fate per se, but the next part of my recount does make me hesitate on that proclamation a little.)

On returning to school I checked my pigeon hole and discovered the latest copy of ‘Australian Teacher Magazine’ – the ‘ICT in Education Guide 2010’.Scrawled on the cover were the words, ‘Check this out – some good stuff in it.’ And this anonymous person was right – inside its blue cover I found Steve Collis. Steve Collis is, coincidentally, Director of Innovation at SCIL –  I’d just met him in person. In his article ‘Classroom for the 21st Century’ he discusses the power of physical spaces. His discussion of the ‘mythic notions of the campfire … the watering hole … and the cave’ really grabbed my attention. I blame this on the fact that I’m an English teacher and salivate upon seeing metaphors.

These ‘mythic notions’ of learning spaces were discussed back in the ’90s in an article by David Thornburg entitled ‘Campfires in Cyberspace: primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century’. They have been adapted by architects responsible for designing new educational spaces, and images of these designs can be seen on the DesignShare website:

Campfire: a place to learn from experts or storytellers. A place for whole-group discussions.

 Watering Hole: a space for small group discourse and collaboration.

Cave: a space for individual study, reflection, quiet reading and creative flow.

See how I have used these ‘mythic notions’ to transform my classroom here.


9 thoughts on “Mythic notions and 21st century learning spaces

  1. Love the passion and commitment. Hopefully your students will appreciate and utilize the spaces well.

    Personally I love the Cave.

  2. Thanks Bianca. Very timely discussion. I am trying to challenge some staff to think this way but facing resistance! Keep blogging about your thoughts. It is very encouraging to read.

    • Thanks – yes, the eduverse does seem alive with discussion of learning ‘spaces’ at the moment. I have a feeling it is more to do with US politics than Australia, but thanks to the global village we’re all benefiting from this VERY healthy debate!
      I have been having a good time time over the last week watching students navigate the unfamiliar territory 😉 You’ve inspired me to write a follow-up blog post, one week on!

  3. Pingback: Camp-fire Circle-Time and Orderly Disorder « Bianca's Blog

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