I was prompted by Howard to think more about the intersection of Learning and Architecture. Howard states:
I’ve been thinking about how to create educationally relevant physical and social spaces for networked everyday learning. The similarity is in the importance of physical space and tacit learning.
And poses the question:
So . . . how do you think that architecture can help design diverse boundary social spaces where learning can occur in everyday and serendipitous circumstances.
Being a complete novice at architecture, and mindful of constraints of space, time and money in countries like ours, responding to Howard is difficult. The few things I have come across in Learning Space Design (Johnson and Lomas, Brown, Oblinger) make me think the ideas are interesting because they are taking the habits, behaviors, preferences, teaching and learning styles more suited for the new generation and intersecting them with solutions that can respond to these behaviors.
On the other hand, the web-social and physical learning spaces now have examples with initiatives like CCK08, EdFutures, spaces on virtual worlds like SecondLife and the designs mentioned in the above links.
But I think that there are a few spaces I would like to design – from perhaps an intuitive, self satisfying perspective – but spaces where I would feel happy learning in. These spaces would have to conform to a few aspects:
- They would have to immerse me in the content I want to learn about – not just digitally, but also experientially – not just for a moment, but for the entire duration of my learning.
- They would have to be spaces that are free-form, encouraging group collaboration as well as have a way that is unlike the traditional lecture hall design for a facilitator/teacher to address students
- They would have to be open, in the sense that I can leverage more resources than just my peers and the instructor and that there are many other sources that influence and inspire
- They have to be intelligent, draw and engage everyone in the classroom, providing the teacher a way to judge intensity of involvement
- They have to be analytic – be able to track learning actions and allow the teacher to modify the course of the class dynamically
- They have to be interactive – be able to give me ways of resolution of my issues and engage with content immersively
- They have to take advantage of location – in a world where we are digitizing increasingly, the value of a location is starting to diminish
- They must have simulated components – components that enable me to operate in a constrained world, yet at the same time allowing me to make mistakes
- They must have tools for structured collaboration – like a Six Thinking Hats tool
In essence, I would design a classroom that is immersive, open, experimental, has structured tools coexisting alongside informal learning, participatory and where the teacher has real-time tools and data on the group.
How do these ideas result in an architectural design? This would depend on time, effort and most importantly, money. My challenge to architectural experts (as also learning technologists) would be to design spaces that can keep these features while keeping costs low and replication easy, particularly from a developing country. The sheer number of physical classrooms required in these countries are enough to sustain enough businesses over a long period of time, provided they address considerations such as these and others like environment protection, terrain, infrastructure etc. as well.
I would also understand and agree that designing a new architecture for learning also needs to take into account teaching methodologies and curricula, as well as account for cultural differences. Some of my ideas may be very specific based on influences that theories such as Connectivism have had on me and maybe altogether irrelevant in traditional space or even social space) design. But I hope some of this makes sense. Thanks for providing an opportunity for me to think and research about these idea, Howard!