Designing classrooms for the modern learner: How Silverton Primary School is co-creating flexible learning spaces with students

Over the last couple of decades, Silverton Primary School has constructed new learning spaces to incorporate and accommodate new technologies and pedagogies to reflect student needs.

According to Diane Rickard, Head Teacher at the primary school located in Victoria, the design for these new learning spaces all stemmed from the simple question asked to children: what ways can we better your learning?

Ahead of the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018, Diane shares the strategies her school is using to design personalised and innovative student learning spaces and the steps they have taken to successfully integrate new technology into classroom design to improve student engagement.

Designing learning spaces that reflect modern student needs

 “The Student Voice is a big part of the way we are designing and transforming learning spaces at Silverton Primary School. We have involved the children to help us a lot with the set-up of our learning centres.  In our learning centres, there are four corners and a huge middle space down the middle. We use a lot of flexible spaces.

The furniture is also very moveable. It’s varied inside; it’s varied in colour. There are traditional tables in lecture-style, but we also use a lot of stable-tables because we find the kids like to work on the floor, whether it is lying on their stomachs, sitting down or standing-up. So they can either stand or do their work or they can sit up on a high stool.

We also have beanbags, couches and a café-style booth that children can sit in to do work. They find it easier to listen and communicate with each other in this type of space. Within our learning spaces, we also have different areas for different types of work and learning.

For example, we might have a conference area set-up where children can speak one-on-one or with a smaller group or bigger group. Our learning centre has been designed so that we can fit whole 120 children together if we need to speak to them.  The learning centre also has breakout rooms where children can work individually if they need to.

There are also projectors within the learning space. There are four projectors to walls and there are moveable projectors that are on trolleys. The three–six student area has one-to-one laptops, so they have their own laptop; but then there is a trolley within each learning space where there are more laptops for the children to use. We also have a media centre within our school out of the learning space for the children to use.

In addition, every learning centre has a cooking space with ovens, microwaves, all those sorts of things in there that the kids can use.”

Integrating new technology into design to boost engagement

“Silverton School has a one-to-one notebook program, so the three–six students can either bring their own device or they can buy outright buy a device from us. We use the notebooks in conjunction with programs such as Office 365 and other things like Minecraft to help the children with their learning.  We also have coding programs and animation programs and we show these programs on the interactive whiteboard and students go along with it on their laptops.

We also do a lot of robotics within our school as well. Students can use their laptops and tablets to program robots to do things or move parts. We do digital literacies at Silverton as well, so students can either do a documentary – from the filming to the writing to the editing.”

Experimenting with pedagogy in the digital space

“One of the additional things we have trialled this year at Silverton is online learning. We have a Chinese teacher at our school, but with the five–six students, we decided to change it up and we’re actually doing Chinese language learning online. This means students Skype another teacher from our sister school in China.

We had another program called Over the Back Fence where we Skyped students in New Zealand, so we would run a lesson for them and then they would run a lesson for us with a group of children. We also participate in kids teaching kids every year, where children attend the Water Conference and they do a lot of Skyping; and other activities online like blogs etc.

Staff use OneNote and so we can all our programs and shared resource online to collaborate and share ideas.”

Overcoming challenges along the way

“Introducing the one-to-one notebook program within our school was a big step that we had to take and we knew challenges would arise from the changes associated. The challenges involved the logistics like ensuring that students’ devices were charged or that they had their device at school.  There was always the issue of viruses being connected to the internet at home and school on the same device.

Another challenge is sometimes devices might be broken, so then we had to send them away and the student was left without a device. This was probably the biggest learning curve and the biggest challenge for us.

We also had to collaborate on an agreement around use of devices with students. We created a contract with the children and we went though it step by step explaining what they were allowed to use the device for at school.”

Bringing staff along the journey

“We’ve come up with something called the Silverton Pathway; which contains every program, topic and collaborative teaching skill our teachers might need.

The pathway covers everything needed to be an all-round teacher at Silverton and enables staff to be able to teach the Silverton Way. It’s our way of ensuring that the skills are there for the teachers and the understanding is there as well.

Timetabling is another big part of this. For example, if someone needs to go in the Media Centre effective timetabling allows us to ensure the space is there. We also have tech support and two media teachers’ full time. We have up-skilled a few of our staff to be experts and then that will filter down to the rest of the teaching staff.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Diane at the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018 where she will further explore:

  • Designing spaces to reflect the modern student’s needs, choices, expectations and digital capabilities
  • Creating multimodal learning spaces to enhance collaborative and self-directed learning
  • Experimenting with pedagogy and the digital space to transition courses
  • Investigation into mobile-intensive pedagogies in school: a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) trend
  • Challenges teachers face in the digital education evolution

For more information visit http://designforlearning.iqpc.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

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