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Physical Space in a Blended Learning Environment

Physical Space in a Blended Learning Environment

Author: Kathleen Johnson

This lesson provides the students with the ability to conduct an environmental scan of the physical space and classroom configuration within the teaching environment for a blended learning approach

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Source: Digital Access Key Image; Morgue File;; Classroom Image; Morgue File;; Case Study;

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. Today, we're going to be looking at physical space and how it interacts within a blended learning environment. For today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Frank Gehry, who is an architect. And I think that's very appropriate when talking about physical space. And he says, "I think it's important to create spaces that people like to be in that are humanistic."

By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to meet the following objective. You will be able to use one of the provided tools to do an environmental scan of the physical space and classroom configuration with in the teaching environment for a blended learning approach.

First what we're going to do is we are going to take a look at a resource that was developed by the University of Edinburgh. This is a case study. And what this case study really looked at was how can learning spaces be developed to echo the constructivist learning paradigm? Basically what that means is how does the learning space really affect the way in which students encounter that education?

And so what the case study does-- and we'll take a look at it right now-- is it really walks through all of the different learning redesign of various learning spaces. And what you can see here is it not only gives you a background as well as the story and the relevant questions that were asked through this, but we also got to look at here what happened. The tutorial took a look at redesigning different learning spaces and looking at what occurred when they were working on redesigning these learning spaces.

They spoke specifically with a number of different groups the same as we redesigned these study pods, group study rooms, and common areas, what was the effect on the students? How did they see that and view that and use that as a way to help with their learning? What was really great about this resource is it takes you through the feedback that the students gave. And what I really like is it shows you a lot of those pictures, so that you can see what the new space looks at.

This whole case study really focuses in on the benefits of re-imagining your space and what that can do to your academics. What I really like about this case study is it hones in on what advice would you give to others. Because we're not the University of Edinburgh. We're not redesigning a whole library, but this is really the takeaway.

First engage three groups of people-- academics, technologists, and management. And I think the way you can really apply that to what you're doing are I need to think about what do I know that I need my students to be able to do. How can I get technology involved in that to make sure that we have that blended learning environment? And then go to your administration and say how can they really help me?

Build and test prototypes with key elements. On a smaller level, that could literally be mapping out on a page in front of you a different ways that it could look or up in a word program. What are different ways I could arrange it? And then finally, do not expect that a change. And space will be that catalyst for immediate pedagogical change. Meaning that it's going to take a little while, but moving around that physical space can really help.

So when we look at moving around the physical space within your classroom environment, there are a number of questions that you want to consider as you begin looking at the physical space for a specific course. First, you want to ask yourself, how does the design impact collaboration? If I have an exceptional amount of collaboration within my class, I want to make sure that the way in which I put students into that classroom helps to aid in collaboration rather than taking away from it.

One big change that's been made at schools is moving from those kind of standards stuck in place tables to sled desks. And then some schools are even moving from sled desks to these pod desks that are a little more on wheels. That really help students move around within the space and can help aid and collaboration. Or if you know you're always going to be splitting your students up into groups of four, you can arrange the desks in such a way that they're already in that group to begin with.

The second question you're going to want to ask is how does design impact communication? That is not only communication between the students, but also communication between the students and the teachers, as well as student communication with the outside world. I notice that I have a big, big window that leads from my classroom into the hallway. And the simple act of rearranging some desks so that students weren't staring out the window, that the desks weren't facing that way has really helped with student engagement.

I also placed some bookshelves in front of the window at right about sort of average chin forehead level, meaning that there's still access to view the hallway, but you don't see every single student who passes by. This can help avoid that parade mentality where oh look someone's walking by. Let's watch them go, even though it's not actually that interesting. But an avoidance mechanism.

The third question to ask is how does the design impact critical thinking? If we're asking students to be critically engaging, are we putting the classroom environment in such a format that allows students to engage critically? Or are we opening them up, as we've talked about before, to elements of distraction?

Finally, the last question to ask is how does the design impact creativity? Am I in a completely white cinder block classroom with absolutely no windows to the outside world? Or do I have elements on the walls that can help inspire creativity?

Now the one caveat I'm going to add here is that just because you have things on your wall doesn't mean you are inspiring that creativity. Sometimes having too many decorations in a classroom can cross the line from feeling homey and comfortable all the way over to I'm distracted because there's so much to look at. It's really good for you to ask yourself these questions as you begin changing up the classroom environment, because you always want to make sure that your classroom environment matches your major objectives for the course.

Finally and most importantly, I want to emphasize that whatever you do with the physical space, it needs to have a purpose. The physical space and the classroom environment should do more than just look good, right?

First and foremost, you want to ask yourself where are the spaces? With in this element, where are the spaces that I am expecting students to learn? Where are the routine spaces that they will be asked to look? Oftentimes classroom management can vary greatly based on the spaces that you identify as student observation areas, student work areas, and student discussion areas.

Then you're going to want to ask, how do those spaces interact? Are different spaces open and clear and easy for people to get to? Perhaps you have one area where a group of students can work collaboratively, and then another area of the classroom where students are expected to read quietly. Are those spaces too close together? Are they too far apart? Are we making sure that we are helping to establish a physical environment where students are able to perform the tasks that we ask them to?

Third, you want to ask yourself, how do the students know what these spaces are for? Is there clear signage? Is this something that you establish on the first day of class and expect them to remember? How are we establishing routines when it comes to physical space, so that students understand and know where to go?

And finally, have I posted the expected routines of the space? Are we expecting our students to just remember these, or are they posted up in each physical space? Are they on a syllabus? And a lot of the answers to these questions really change depending on the age of the student that you are teaching.

If you are a kindergarten teacher, those expectations are going to be much more concrete than perhaps if you are a high school teacher as opposed to someone teaching secondary education. So it's really important to just make sure that we are following along and helping our students be as successful in the physical space as they can be.

Now that you've reached the end of the lesson, you are able to use one of the provided tools to do an environmental scan of the physical space and classroom configuration within a teaching environment for a blended learning approach.

Now I would like to take just a moment for reflection. Now that you've learned all about the way in which physical space can impact a blended learning environment, what do you think will be the most difficult part of adjusting the physical space in your teaching environment? Feel free to pause the video for just a moment as you think about your answer to this question.

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted towards helping you discover more ways to apply the course.

Notes on "Physical Space in a Blended Learning Environment"

(00:00-00:27) Intro

(00:28-00:44) Objectives

(00:45-03:50) Classroom Environment Case Study

(03:51-07:13) Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Curriculum

(07:14-09:41) Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Space

(09:42-09:56) Review

(09:57-10:36) Reflection

Additional Resources