The how and why behind our Innovative Learning Space

Recently my school (Tarawera High School) has made the exciting move into our brand new Innovative Learning Space (ILS). With the students about to start on Monday, my two colleagues and I have spent some time organising our equipment and furniture into what we think will best serve their learning needs. We have a group of 70 year 10 students in a homeroom setting, where we teach them over three days (they go to options the other two days). We generally focus on numeracy, literacy, health and an inquiry unit. We are also a digital class, so each student has access to a Chromebook. Below is a visual of each space and how we intend on the students using each of the spaces:

Our Main Common Area

Main area

This is our largest space, with three breakout rooms on the sides (with the dark frames in the photo on the right). Within this area, we have a mobile TV display which we will equip with a Google Chromecast so it is easy for the teachers or the students to display what is on their Chromebooks (using the Google Cast extension). As the photo in the middle shows, the desks around the main whiteboard are set up in a way where the teacher (or another student) is able to teach or present information to others. The rest of the desks in this are set up in small groups to encourage collaboration between students. There are also a few desks that are set up facing towards a wall for those students that want to work independently with no distractions.

Break-out space 1

Breakout space 1

We have designed this space in a traditional “chalk and talk” setting, with the desks and chairs in rows facing the board (or mobile TV display) at the front. However, there are only approximately 15 desks, so the space is intended for teaching small groups. Even though we encourage self-directed and individualised learning the majority of the time, we still felt there will be times when this setting will help in the learning situations that are more teacher directed. At times when this space isn’t being used like this, the students can still use it when they need to work individually.

Break-out space 2

Breakout space 2

We have designed this space with group work and collaboration in mind. The curved tables in front of the whiteboard give students or the teachers the opportunity to show something to the group. At the other side of this space (at the bottom of this photo) is a large rectangular table with chairs around it. This setting gives students the opportunity to have discussions and collaborate on different topics.

Break-out space 3 (Media room)

Breakout space 3

This space is a smaller area that we intend on using as a media room, as it is dark and has a short-throw projector. We have deliberately not put any desks in this space, therefore maximising the amount of room that the students can spread out. We will equip the projector with a Google Chromecast so that it is easy to display whatever is on the teachers or the students screen. This will give students the opportunity to utilise this space when they need to show others something that they have found or created. When the room isn’t being used in this way, students still have the opportunity to work in a quieter, darker area where they can stretch out.

Collaborative Learning Space

Peer teaching room

This space is at one end of the main common area. We intend on using this space as an areaa where the students can work together and collaborate to solve problems, especially in a math setting. The whiteboard has a short-throw projector above it, which we will again equip with a Google Chromecast so teachers or students can quickly display what is on their Chromebook screen. For example, a student could chromecast a maths problem that they are having difficulty with, and this space allows others to be able to show how they would work out the answer. As well as the white-board, the circular white tables are whiteboard tables (they were originally older tables, so we bought some whiteboard paint and painted them). These whiteboard tables are great for encouraging collaboration, and from my experience students love to use them to show others how to work out problems. The green, half round, desk is also set up so that an ‘expert’ on a particular skill can easily show others how to do that skill. Connected to this room (although not shown in the pictures) is also a shared art space that students can access when they need it.

Chill-out Space

quiet space

This space is around the corner from our Collaborative Learning Space. This is a small area where students have the opportunity to work in a quieter space. The low seats also have a great view to the field. As this is a smaller space that is generally out of the teacher’s view, we intend to have a booking schedule, and students also have to earn the right to use it.

Tech Hub

Tech Hub

Our learning common also has a shared tech hub, that is decked out with Google Chromeboxes. This area is intended for students to use at any time that they need to do some research. As our year 10 cohort are on Chromebooks all of the time, we do not think we will use this space too often (therefore it is free for other year groups to use). However, this space could come in handy if a student’s Chromebook has run out of battery towards the end of the day.

Conversation/Reading Space

conversationreading area

This is a space that is at the end of our main common area that also joins up with the next part of the common that our Year 7 team will be using. We have set this area up as either a conversation space or a reading space. If a teacher needs talk to one or two students, they could break off into this area to have a discussion. This space could also be used for reading, or just if a student wants a slightly quieter area where they could work independently.

Final thoughts:

Moving into a new learning space from a traditional learning space is going to be a big and exciting change for our staff. My two year 10 colleagues and I have put a lot of thought into how we think each of our spaces can enhance the learning of our students. We have also put a lot of thought into how we are going to use student agency to encourage self-responsibility within these spaces (which I will blog about in the next week or so). However, we also realise that it is all untried at the moment, and on future reflections we may change from these original thoughts on each space. I intend on writing new posts reflecting on how our transition into our new ILS goes, and I would love to hear any feedback and comments from anyone with experience in MLE’s and ILS’s. So please feel free to comment and share your experience below.