|The coffee shop at Holland (MI) Christian High School|
I am also a deep believer in the concept that contemporary (and future) technologies allow all the walls of the school to "fall," and that that is a good thing.
|Where education really happens at Michigan State's College of Education|
A long time ago I went to a "school without walls" - a free, open, project and passion-based high school. There was no required attendance. Most students took no classes in any given semester. I got English credit for working with the late night news guy on WVOX radio. Social Studies credit for watching and interviewing the homeless in Grand Central overnight. Others worked at the local hospital, or the city's parks department greenhouse, or, wherever.
But we had a school. We had a place to go. And almost all of us came there pretty consistently. We came there to hang out. We came there to talk. We came there to use the school's sports facilities. We came there because our girlfriends or boyfriends might be there...
But while we were there our teachers saw us, and talked to us, and sensed how we were doing. They pulled us into conversations. They might even make a suggestion or two. And while we were there we talked, and overheard. We were all doing different things and we talked about those things. I never read a book in high school, but I heard all about Beowulfand Steppenwolf, The Teachings of Don Juanand The French student revolt, American Notes for General Circulationand Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, and many more. My math was mostly related to betting on football games (not kidding) but I would listen to debates about math theories from friends, and for the first time in my life, began to be interested.
|The couch in The White Room, late 1970s|
Because that physical commons was important, and it still is.
|Commons Area at New Tech Academy, Kent County, Michigan|
So, start with effective wireless capabilities in your "Physical Space for Virtual Learning," and make sure 4G comes in well. Then build a Tool Crib of devices, ready to grab. Windows and Mac laptops, fully equipped and fully accessible. iOS and Android and WebOS Tablets. TabletPCs. Have lots of ways to hook those and student-owned devices up to big screens or projectors. Then make sure you have powerful desktops with great scanners and printers, production centers for student creativity.
|Schiphol Airport Park, Amsterdam, Nederlands|
|"10 Forward" at Mozilla|
All the best companies know that a "work environment" works best when there is variety to the space, variety to the time, and variety in staff interaction. The same will be true at school. Staring doesn't usually help us, widening our vision does.
There are some other important ideas: Design so that lighting varies, bright, dim, warm, cool. The idea of uniform room lighting, pulled from turn-of-the-20th-century German factory design, has never been appropriate for human use. Our eyes get to relax and refocus when we move from bright to dim and vise-versa. Design so that noise levels can vary as well. Not everyone needs auditory chaos, but many do. serve everyone. Don't pick "50 year" furniture. Schools are always buying "stuff that lasts," and paying a fortune for it. And in many places we're stuck with these great deals from 1962. But human societies change, and our knowledge changes, and so we want our spaces to change. You'll probably do better going to Ikea and re-furnishing every other year.
And if you can't eat around it, or drink around it, just don't buy it. Education is messy - if your carpet or upholstery can't be easily cleaned, you've bought the wrong stuff.
Finally, think what you can bring to the space. Think of MeetUps linked to any possible subject of mutual interests. Hold Hack Days geared to music or games or teaching or anything. And invite the community in - local developers, local talents, local artists, writers, baristas, chefs, all while bringing yourselves to the community - never be afraid to UStream exciting stuff that is happening.
|A tech meet up in a pub, how learning happens in this century|
- Ira Socol