The need to develop new ways of learning is gaining ground and is largely linked with demand for increased flexibility of pace, place, and mode of delivery. Gone are the days when a large desk in the front of the room for the teacher and rows of individual desks started at you. Modern schools are veritable kaleidoscope of creativity.
Flexible learning is multi-layered and multifaceted. Broadly, it’s a continuous approach in terms of time, pace, place, content and mode of learning. Its purpose is to increase opportunities and options available to learners and give them greater control over their learning through a variety of learning modes and interactions.
Increasingly, though at a snail pace, schools are ditching the seating arrangement, hallways, stairwells and other parts of the school are now are becoming places to learn too.
Brick and mortar environment
Both groups mentioned earlier, found themselves in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ learning environment when the changes were introduced. One such innovative program that’s worth being mentioned is blending online education with onsite teacher instruction. Collaboration between schools or a school and academies combine the flexibility of online learning with a ‘brick and mortar’ environment where students attend class on campus five days a week during regular school hours.
The 21st century classrooms now are filled with rolling chairs, manoeuvrable student desks and the most up-to-date technology, allowing teachers to continuously redesign their classroom space for all types of student-collaborations and interactive lessons. And when students aren’t in the class, they’re still collaborating all over the school.
One entire wall in each classroom can be painted with whiteboard paint to create an oversized maker board for notes, demonstrations and student problem solving. The hallways can be widened adding space for lockers and computer bars, glass enclosed rooms where groups of six to eight students can focus and work together. Large tiered spaces serve as flexible area for individual classes, large group meetings, media presentations and student social gatherings.
STEM classrooms can be updated to feature large mobile labs, flexible learning spaces, 3D printers and computer numerical control machine. Along the back of the school building, a large athletic lobby and weight room can be added.
No lunch table politics
For many students, the new model means a big and popular change from their brick and mortar school-less homework after school if one is on track. Because a pupil who grasps the material quickly can work through the lesson in school by demonstrating mastery of that lesson, rather than completing additional and unneeded assignments at home.
Another advantage cited by many students- fewer lunch table politics. Because of their varied schedules, mixed learning areas and independent work, they tend to interact more with each other on a one-to-one level, with less segregation between grades. Because everyone is working at their own pace, students often don’t know what grade other students are in, so they forge friendships based on similar interests and demeanour, not on grade level.
New STEM skills and the new mind-set
We are now stated to be in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Changes in primary or secondary education reflect the reality that students must be prepared for a future that is still being written. Teachers have begun to understand better that there are certain 21st century soft skills that need to be imparted to students. Collaboration, communication and creativity should be big part of what they’re doing. Flexible learning spaces that make the most of a school’s technological resources help facilitate this goal.
The schools demonstrate that classroom or school design can fundamentally change the way students learn and help prepare them for a future that still is taking shape. What we’re moving toward is flexible learning environment, which is not just the physical space, it’s the mindset, the skills intended to be taught, and the physical environment, all combined into one.