Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Design Your Perfect Learnscape

If you could design your perfect Learnscape, what would it look like?

We are in the process of putting together plans for a new building for our institution. We would love to have a purpose-built learnscape included in these plans. This would be a flexible learning space that would represent our institution's learning and sustainability goals and be a physical representation of the way people will learn and work together in the future. We would be delighted to have your ideas on this.

Here are some of the principles and features we are suggesting:

Principle 1: Bringing people closer to nature – the Learning Lab would include indoor and outdoor learning. Glass doors on the main rooms would not only bring the external environment into the room visually, it would also allow learners to move their formal and informal discussions outdoors onto a patio area. There would also be an outdoor learning space for 10 people, and a green space for outdoor experiential learning activities.

Principle 2: Supporting diversity – Adult learners have diverse learning preferences that are built upon culture, past educational experience, and their degree of openness to new ways of working and learning. The Learning Lab would include two main training rooms that could be merged for large group work. It would also feature a small informal room (Sandbox) with comfortable arm chairs and wall workspace for more intimate discussions. It would also have individual areas for more personalized work and reflection in the Blog Spot (IT space).

Principle 3: Encouraging multiculturalism – The Learning Lab would draw on educational traditions from different cultures, linked with its goals to support diversity. It would include in its outdoor space, a Yurt (10 persons) for more intimate (fireside-type) discussions, a Stamptisch in the open meeting space for debate and sharing, and some flexible spaces that could either reflect more traditional learning environments, or be spaces for circles and storytelling.

Principle 4: Convening, creativity and co-creation – Features of the Learning Lab would be designed to encourage convening, innovation, dialogue and co-creation of new ideas and actions. Here are a few of the ways that design would encourage these practices:

* All the tables in the Lab would be round tables,
* All rooms would be painted different warm, bright colours,
* The chairs in the main training rooms would be different colours,
* One entire wall of each room would be a white board,
* No wall clocks would put pressure on participants or facilitators,
* Learning spaces would be personalized with art from around the world,
* More intimate spaces would have soft furnishing and carpets,
* Different communication media would be available for participants to use – from the Blog spot IT space, to the equipment in the main learning rooms.

Our goal for the Learning Lab is to create a learning space that promotes our goals in the world, that supports a diversity of learning styles and preferences, and is consistent with the needs of a learning organization devoted to sustainability. It would integrally link the internal world of the learner, to her/his colleagues, workplace, and to the wider world.

What do you think? What can we add? What would you add/change to make your perfect Learnscape?

3 comments:

jay said...

I'd add some off-campus learning spaces. Having everything in one enclosure may send a signal of surveillance. How about a few learning nooks elsewhere in the building?

Gillian said...

That's a great idea. We could even "brand" them as learning spaces. Yesterday when they proposed the design to the staff they said that there would be wide corridors that they could put soft chairs in for people to sit and talk. It seems to me that a couple of exposed groupings of chairs here and there would not be very inviting to people wanting to have real conversations. Do you know of any institutions that have created great learnscapes that we could either read about, or see on their websites?

Lizzie said...

Speaking with the fundraising team about the new building design and proposed 'learning lab' within, the issue of whether or not we should create a defined learning space was pertinent.
As advocates of informal learning within our organization, how can we communicate consistent messages? - i.e. On the one hand, that informal learning occurs incidentally during free-coffee mornings, by the water-cooler etc. And on the other hand, communicate the need to create defined learning spaces (having promoted the idea that informal learning doesn't happen by design)?
I guess they come together when the 'whole' building is conceived of as a learnscape. The learning lab is then just a petri-dish... a space for purposeful experimentation and reflection, communicating the will to become a smarter learning organization. Presumably the 'learning nooks' then become the breeding ground for the culture that spreads from our petri-dish througout our invisible college..?