Re-purposing Meeting Spaces: Collaboration Labs

This idea considers the powerful potential of re-purposing one or two meeting spaces for synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Photo of Robin U
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The image above is of a dilapidated mall in Bangkok, Thailand that caved in during a rainfall many years ago.  As it continued to fill up with rainwater (Thailand is very rainy) mosquitoes started to thrive in the spaces around the dilapidated building.  Knowing that mosquitoes posed a threat to public health, a few people who lived in the neighbourhood threw a couple of carp into the water that covered what had been the floor of the half finished mall.  The fish ate the mosquitoes.  Over the years, more neighbours threw in more fish and about 5 years later it became a mini=tourist attraction filled with hundreds of fish.  To find it, you have to really work to find an old fence with a ribbon tied to it where any of one of the residents of the area around the building will point you to where to go in, telling you to be careful and just look - not walk through the building.  They don't charge any money, they don't have a neighbourhood organization, and they did not involve the politicians (in fact, last year, after too much press, it was fully destroyed because too many people were coming to look at it and authorities were worried about the building fully collapsing on visitors). 

When I was looking through my photos for an image for this post - the image of the Fish Mall seemed perfect.

Schools, as institutions, have a lot of meetings - and too many of them have become places and times for announcements, complaints, and uninspired protocols.  Meetings that could easily be held in teachers' classrooms, in outdoor spaces, in libraries or other active, vibrant spots on school grounds, often take place in meeting rooms, offices and spaces away from high energy activities (at least for schools that can afford separate meeting spaces).

What if, instead, we:

1) Held shorter meetings with a focus on real communication, collaboration and issues in spaces where what we love about teaching and learning is close by rather than far away?  

(More on the benefits of this in another post)

2) Set aside one or more meeting spaces for synchronous and asynchronous problem-solving and creative thinking?  

What if we had a place where teachers, administrators (students? parents? custodial staff?) could go to work on identifying challenges and trying to solve them - somewhat like this online collaboration space?   This would not be a re-purposed faculty lounge - teachers need those for different reasons.  This would be a meeting room space, an office - or even a small room created from another, bigger room.

The room could have whiteboards, a few computers, some bulletin boards, paper and markers and interested school participants could choose specific challenges and specific ways to work through them?  These 'labs' could generate ideas and innovate and creative strategies.  Participants could come in for their lunch break and work together or just come in for a minute and read the topic for the month and add a few words. 

The different phases that The Teachers Guild has identified could be used as the phases for innovation in the former meeting spaces.  If teachers are inspired at home or in the classroom, they can  email or tweet it to a site - where others can read on the desktops.  The space(s) could accommodate groups, individuals, at the same time and/or at different times.

Sometimes we need to provide spaces for people to go and let things happen.  We need to make sure that if we try something like this, we give it time to work - as at the beginning, I think people will be too nervous and/or busy to think about it.

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Potential for Impact: Imagine this solution had near perfect implementation. To what extent would this solution bring about a culture of innovation within a school or classroom?

A lot! This solution would greatly bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 66.7%

Somewhat. This solution would somewhat bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 0%

Not much. This solution might help with other things, but I don't see it really bringing about a culture of innovation within schools or classrooms. - 33.3%

2. Feasibility and Fit: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If this solution were available to me right now, I would be able to use it with relatively low investment. (i.e. money, time, or skills).

Strongly agree (this solution strongly aligns to my/my school's current capacities). - 0%

Agree. - 66.7%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 33.3%

Strongly disagree (this solution would take a big lift in resources to pull off). - 0%

3. Adaptability: I could imagine this solution working well in a variety of school and classroom contexts across a diverse set of needs.

Absolutely! I could see this working for a variety of schools and classrooms with different or unique needs. - 33.3%

Somewhat. I could see this working for many schools and classrooms, but it might need some adjusting to fit a broad diversity of contexts. - 33.3%

Not a lot. This seems like it might be better suited to only a few contexts. - 33.3%

4. Scalability: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: This idea could be adopted by an ever-growing number of teachers or students without requiring significant changes.

Strongly agree (this solution could easily scale without any significant changes). - 33.3%

Agree. - 0%

Neutral. - 33.3%

Disagree. - 33.3%

Strongly disagree (this solution would require significant changes in order to properly scale). - 0%

5. Desirability: Do you wish this solution were available to you right now?

1 - Not a lot. There's not a big need for this right now and/or we use something already that fulfills a similar purpose in my school or classroom. - 33.3%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 33.3%

5 - A lot! There's nothing like this already and I'd love to have it in my school or classroom. - 33.3%


Join the conversation:

Photo of James

It's so true that these spaces are important. Teachers so rarely have 'free' together to play with ideas. Most teachers only get together to eat or to meet. The meetings usually have defined agendas. Creating spaces like this will increase the likelihood that ideas will blossom and collaboration around them will emerge spontaneously.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

This sounds great! (And, I love the fish story!) Both the attention to the fact that meetings are often held away from 'energetic activities'- kind of a mood killer, and recognizing the fact that the way we create, design, and use space matters not only to students but to teachers as well. Seems you could use the meeting prototypes with teachers (i.e. one outside, one in the stairway, etc) could be a good experiment for how you then want to use space with your students as well.

Space is incredibly inspiring and shapes interactions. What if space could map to types of meetings? For instance, every 'outdoor meeting' was about discover/observation, paying attention to our surroundings and every 'hallway meeting' was all about ideation using the walls to brainstorm on?

How might space help shape the conversation you're trying to have.

And, to the second idea, I love that you're thinking synchronously and asynchronously. From experience, for a space like that to function to it's fullest potential, I suggest that you have at least one curator/instigator on board to keep the communications clear and meaningful.

Photo of Robin U

I totally agree with the idea of having a curator/instigator. The first one to do it, should also be someone who is really good at getting people excited about something new, someone who is passionate about the idea and someone who is good at seeing and building on structure as patterns turn up.

I love your space 'mapping to meetings' idea. I wish more people would do it - because for one you are in the space you are actually talking about AND you are in a place that is full of life and not away from distraction.

As to your question about how space might shape our conversations in a collaboration lab, I think that even that discussion should be a collaborative one - with interested teachers designing the spaces they are going to use. It should be fluid enough that if it doesn't work as a space, we can move things around. Does this make sense?

Photo of Moss Pike

Great story and a great idea, Robin! I too love Elysa's idea of mapping space to purpose and would love to see schools develop the sort of "co-op" space you describe to be used by anyone in the community. Elysa's idea of having a "curator" is great and makes me wonder about the role that a "Director of Innovation" might have in a school, if in charge of the space.

How could we get this idea off the ground and think about scale? I imagine there's a cheap version, and expensive version, and everything in between. Can we develop a prototype and some sample uses that might inspire a school to give it a try? Excited to think further on the idea!

Photo of Robin U

How do we develop a prototype? How do we work on this together?

Photo of Moss Pike

Hi Robin! You can make a new post in the "Ideate" phase and add me (and anyone else) as a team member. That way, we can both work on the post and build out the idea. You could even cut/paste this post to use as a template for the Ideate post. Happy to help you get started on it!