How can schools design workspaces specifically to:
foster creativity and innovation,
allow for productive collaboration,
and showcase student work in curated exhibits?
This was the starting point for the adult Creative Coffee sessions that were held Friday 12th September. Given that I had interested people who could not make the same venue and time simultaneously, I chose to use the same framework to give the conversations cohesion. The framework was deliberately left broad in order to tap into as many aspects as possible. 5 people joined the discussion overall: a PhD student and English teacher, a Science teacher, a librarian, an Art teacher and a Special Education/English teacher. None currently work with me, but all have done so at some point, and know the school that I work in well.
The responses were given initially as a written brainstorming, followed by a conversation about the common themes and concepts that were raised. Responses, and discussions were very broad, but the following commonalities were raised:
Lots of space, preferably flexible, with appropriate furniture (that adds and subtracts) to suit formal and informal interactions, and ample storage (5/5).
Natural light, display cabinets/spaces (some mentioned lockable) and curated Art/student work (3/5).
3 people wanted the space to be clean and uncluttered, and the same number referred to equipment and resources. These respondents also mentioned colour, but the discussion in relation to this aspect was interesting as all believed different colours to be the best. This fits with the research coming from Blackmore et al, who indicate a range of responses to colours, but which are often contradictory (is blue better for younger or older students, or should it never be used)? (Blackmore, Bateman, Loughlin, O’Mara, & Aranda, 2011, pp. 25-26)
Interactive ICT was specifically mentioned by 2 people, with a third mentioning interactive whiteboard/permanent whiteboard as important. Charging devices was identified by 1 respondent.
In terms of “feel”, safety, knowledgeable staff, and a mix of private/public spaces were suggested (3/5).
The context of the individual’s workspaces/places came through in a number of ways, with a number of people from the same school highlighting a need for respect.
Three phrases really resonated: “having tasks that challenge, and encourage enquiry and experimentation”, “different textures”, and “staff/student input”. It is critical that users of the space are involved in its development, and that all share a common understanding of the intended teaching and learning outcomes sought by developing a physical or virtual learning environment. Tapping into the clientele through a design thinking process through collaborative methodology in which every voice is heard, is the best way to avoid design disasters of varying kinds (Brown, 2009, pp. 26-28).
The adult Creative Coffee meetings were used to guide the school based meeting set up for the 15th at lunchtime. More on this later!
Blackmore, J., Bateman, D., Loughlin, J., O’Mara, J., & Aranda, G. (2011). Research Into the Connection Between Built learning Spaces And Student Outcomes; Literature Review. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from Department of Education And Early Childhood Development: https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/publ/research/publ/blackmore_learning_spaces.pdf
Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Collins.