Rethink computer labs and underutilized school spaces to better reflect a new generation of learners.

How are we modifying our current educational spaces to keep up with emerging technology and the need to innovate and collaborate?

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna

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Evaluation results

2 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. - 100%

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. - 0%

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). - 100%

Agree. - 0%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 0%

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. - 100%

Somewhat. I could see this working for many schools and classrooms, but it might need some adjusting to fit a broad diversity of contexts. - 0%

Not a lot. This seems like it might be better suited to only a few contexts. - 0%

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). - 100%

Agree. - 0%

Neutral. - 0%

Disagree. - 0%

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. - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 50%

5 - A lot! There's nothing like this already and I'd love to have it in my school or classroom. - 50%

16 comments

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Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Process for Identifying and Converting Underused Learning Spaces into Beehives of Activity.

Step 1: Hold a contest or host a nomination process for "Tired Space Transformation" that works with your school calendar.

Step 2: Create a Google forms to have simple submission of a photograph of the current space and paragraph or two of what could be imagined in that space.

Step 3: Promote the contest (school newspaper, social media, backpacks, whatever works).

Step 4: Host a design charrette shortly after the deadline and invite a variety of students (all that submitted ideas), faculty, staff, parents and community partners to participate. (Can a local business or PTO sponsor this?)
1. Have each idea on a separate large pad and allow open comments for first hour.
2. Give everyone in attendance 3 Avery dots and have them vote on their top ideas.
3. Select top 3 ideas, based on top vote getters (most Avery dots).
4. Break participants into 3 teams and have them do a short brainstorming session on their topic with a trained facilitator.
5. Pizza break.
6. Have each team develop a rapid prototype of their idea (to scale) and begin to price out items (research).
7. Come together and each team pitches concept to the entire group (including decision-makers).

One idea (minimum) is selected to move forward for development.
The community may be invited in to the school over the summer to help transform the space (including a mini grant from PTO or foundation to provide curriculum development or needed inservice, depending on type of space).
Do a big reveal just before school starts and thank volunteers and contributors (ask PTO for help here).

Unveil!

P.S. If a school doesn't have space to transform, perhaps it can get nominations for reusing existing spaces after school for the community to use (gym, art room, computers etc.) to extend tax payers investment in their schools and benefit to the community.



Step 5:

Photo of Richard Meyer
Team

Great point, Dan, about how to get faculty to use space in a particular way. My thoughts are that most schools are designed as a series of boxes down long hallways. Each "box" is designed for the teacher to stand in front of the class and deliver knowledge as the students politely listen. I know I am over generalizing here, but this is true more than we might want to believe or admit. If we believe that learning should be active and visible, does this model of "box" classrooms work for engaging students in collaborative work where they are able to demonstrate their learning? I think spaces in schools needs to flexible in terms of size, layout, etc. The spaces should be designed to support student learning, not teaching.

So, as a consequence, we need to work with teachers and principals to incorporate pedagogy that encourages active and engaged student learning. Once teachers experience the effects of student centered learning in their classrooms, they will begin asking for spaces that are designed differently and offer flexibility to the teachers and learners. If we continue to support teaching where the teacher "stands and delivers" for the majority of the time, it will be difficult for folks to see any need for change. In the "stand and deliver" model, boxes work very well!

I think Britta's examples of IN1 and IN2 are right on target! Shouldn't we be providing spaces like these in all of our schools? Just my thoughts!

Photo of Dan Ryder
Team

Thanks, Richard.

Your comments have me thinking about order of operations, linear and non-linear problem solving.

How might we transform our boxes into flexible spaces? To what extent need we advocate for a space and to what extent may we develop our own? How might we unlock those boxes from within and enable our students to have a through the looking glass experiences as they come into our what-appear-to-be-ordinary boxes?

Has me thinking about Paula Marra's idea for Pop-Ups: https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/evolve/what-if

And Hannah Walden's idea about walls to inspire creativity and problem solving:
https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/evolve/inspire-student-creativity

And Joseph Williams' notions on flexible space:
https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/evolve/create-flexible-spaces

And at the heart of it, as you articulate so well, deep, active, engaged learning. If that isn't happening, no number of moving whiteboards and comfy chairs will make a real difference. No different than the start up that fails because it is making a product no one wants despite having a foosball table everyone plays.

Photo of Dan Ryder
Team

I love the image and it has me wondering what spurred this particular transformation of space? 1 to 1 made the space unnecessary for computer labs, boom, awesome, yes. What conversations or catalysts were in place that made folks say, "Hey! We need salon space"?

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Hi Dan,
The students at our school have been actively involved in helping us design our innovation hub (coming summer 2016). Rather than wait for that to be built, I grabbed an unused computer lab (do first and ask permission later) and have turned it into my working prototype for our Innovation Hub, called IN2. So, we call it IN1. This space is the working model of lean start up and design thinking and is always changing based on who is in the space and what they are doing. It is almost never tidy and all the white boards and chalk boards are full. Within one year, the empty lab is now full with students doing maker projects, using design thinking as a way to improve our school and human condition and creating project teams to move their ideas forward.

Photo of Dan Ryder
Team

Love the titles, (IN1, IN2) and the flexibility of the space.

What sort of prodding/cajoling was necessary to get folks using the space per your intentions? Or was is innovative use of space just par for the course in your school?

Photo of Carolyn Wendell
Team

Hi Britta,

Great to have you back! I'm excited to see you take this idea forward. I have a couple of things I have been thinking about. The first is that what you did with your old computer lab seems awesome and reminds me a bit of Garth's inquiry and design lab. Have you seen that post recently? It's quit fleshed out and I think it is another great idea of what you could do with these under-utilized spaces in schools. https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/inquiry-design-lab.

Also, it would be great to see some sort of plan as to how a school may decide what to do with an under-utilized space. Maybe you can think about what the process looks like to define what happens in the new space? Who decides? How is the decision made? Would you recommend there are maybe 2-4 options of what you can do with the new space? or would you recommend everyone convert an under-utilized space into an innovation hub similar to what you have tried? Obviously there is no right answer here just some things to think about.

Really great stuff already Britta!

Carolyn

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Thanks for the lead to visit Garth's page. We are in the final stages of designing the operation of our innovation hub and have both a learning lab and maker space and idea bar. I love Garth's idea of "thought books" and need to figure out how to issue everyone who comes to IN2 (our Innovation Hub name) their own thought book. I'll think about what the process might look like for repurposing tired spaces. I think some sort of application and nomination system during the year (nominate your favorite worn out space for a facelift) might generate some great things to consider - both from the student perspective and adults. Then the top choices could be selected and a design session held to co-create what that future space could look and act like. IMSA converted a storage space to a student lounge area that has board games, comfortable furniture and space to study in-between classes and after school. We recently also took a corner of the cafeteria that was just walk through dead space and made it into the Titan Cafe - an trendy Starbucks feel to lounging space to grab a cup of coffee, soft drink and chat with friends. The process for both projects was different - one initiated by students and one was staff driven. The one initiated by the students is more used (since they had the vision and worked hard to get it) rather than the space designed by adults for the students (that is the wrong approach in my opinion). We'll keep thinking about it.

Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

These are great ideas Britta! I wonder if some kinds of needs assessment could be created and available during the year for both faculty and students to use to help identify needs that might exist that could be addressed by reforming and redesigning an underutilized space?

At my own school this year, we just transformed two traditional computer labs into classrooms for other subjects and converted a large storage closet into an Innovation Lab where work that used to happen in the computer labs can occur, as well as a ton of new work/learning. The computer labs were redefined as classrooms due to a need for more teaching space because we had faculty sharing classrooms and the storage closet was repurposed with a plan to be agile and responsive to changing needs in the coming years. I wonder if flexibility should be a cornerstone of new space redesigns?

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Hello! After a hectic start of the school year, I've got my head back out of the sand and am ready to collaborate on this topic. Thanks to Richard Meyer for provoking my thinking to expand it beyond just computer labs. So, I've changed up my headline and question and would love to hear if any of you have modified tired old spaces into active learning hives. Go!

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph
Team

Hi Britta,

Great idea! Would love to know a bit more about how schools might go about transforming old computer labs into innovation, collaboration and maker spaces? What makes for a good maker space? What are the components--physical and interaction wise--of a space built to cultivate innovation, making and collaboration? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Hi Elsa,
Sorry for the delay in my reply. The start of school has me with little time for outside thinking. Here is a link to my presentation about converting a computer lab into a Maker Space that I gave last February at a professional development day from my SelectedWorks site: http://works.bepress.com/britta_mckenna/3/. I've learned a lot since then and our 2.0 version of the space is coming along nicely this year with 9 Maker Squad students taking care of the technology, assisting learners and supervising open maker lab time after school. So much to learn and then iterate that by the time IN2 opens (our innovation hub coming summer of 2016), we will be on version 3.0 of the operation of our maker space.

Photo of Richard Meyer
Team

Awesome idea! I agree that labs need to go. However, I think we need a larger discussion about the use of space in schools. Are there spaces that might be able to be configured in a variety of ways to meet a number of purposes to promote innovation, collaboration, and sharing? What types of furniture do we need for these spaces? Just some things to think about!

Photo of Britta Wilk McKenna
Team

Richard, I agree that schools should annually do a "space audit" to see where student traffic goes and why. It would be wonderful to have students experience a design thinking retreat to reimagine underutilized school space from their point of view. Perhaps this could be student leaders on a Saturday or annual school hack day where the bigger questions of "What if?" was posed to create ideas of how to change school (physical and operational). These ideas could then be the foundation for adults to be inspired on not only creating these spaces, but then learning opportunities that take place in these spaces and tie them back to standards and lessons that "must happen" instead of starting from the standard and developing the activity.

Photo of Heather Best
Team

Yes! What a great way to use what we have and make it better. The elementary school where my children attend has started this conversion from a traditional computer lab to a STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art, math) room. There are still some desktops, but there are also other areas created for multiple uses and creative use.

Photo of Hannah Walden
Team

Those comfy chairs!

The cabinets remind me of similar cabinets that were in my former school's IT room. They were covered with notes/drawings/diagrams/goofiness in dry erase marker. If I had cabinets in my classroom, I'd definitely do something similar.

I think it's an excellent idea to transform outdated computer labs into maker spaces that encourage collaborative explorations. However, my school is just now building a new (pretty awesome) computer lab. Although we are 1:1, we are an iPad school, so the computer lab will be stocked with updated PCs. I'm not sure what the setup will look like yet, but I'm hoping that there is some flexibility in design.