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Creating Flexible Learning Spaces - Four Tips to Help You Get Started

Friday, April 13, 2018
Friday, April 13th, 2018 by Brent Smith, ELB Education Consultant

While “flexibility” may seem to be nothing more than a buzzword these days, its practical application and long-term impact on our future generations should not be underestimated. A quick job search shows that companies and other hiring organizations are increasingly seeking employees who are flexible, versatile, agile. Many of today’s employees wear many hats and work across multiple teams and functional groups. Agility is key. Schools that have been quick to recognize this trend, understand the importance of creating flexible learning spaces that best prepare students for the diversity ahead. But what does that all mean and what is required to make it happen? Check out these four useful tips and practical recommendations to help you get started creating your own flexible learning space!

Tip 1: Flexible Learning Still Requires Order, Structure

There’s a general misconception of the term “flexible classroom.” While I was in college, one of my professors assigned the class a project that he viewed as “flexible”. Students were given the opportunity to create and then grade their own projects- whenever, however they wanted. What initially felt like an easy project for me, soon turned to a very challenging one as unexpected life events diverted my attention. The lack of structure caused me to de-prioritize the project and building my own guidelines to ensure completion of the project simply took too much time. The outcome was not favorable as I failed to submit a deliverable. While this project may sound appealing to many students, the lack of sufficient structure led to my, and likely others, ultimate demise. Teachers, myself included, should therefore remember that flexible classrooms, like traditional classrooms, still require some order, structure, boundaries to ensure students thrive and achieve results.

Tip 2: Remember that Old Breakthroughs Are Still Helpful Today

Nearly two decades ago, I was taking an education theory class where I studied Howard Gardner's Intelligences and Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Although these theories aren’t new or “cutting-edge,” teachers can always look for ways to improve how we incorporate multiple intelligences. Because of our own biases, we often resort to creating assignments that favor our preferred intelligences. Instead, we should be focusing on the differences of our students and provide opportunities which showcase their varied strengths. Additionally, students who don’t have their physiological or safety needs met are never going to be able to work towards self-actualization. Therefore, even though we are trying to create 21st-Century classrooms, that doesn’t mean we disregard old breakthroughs. There is still resourceful information from the 20th Century that can help teachers adopt a flexible mindset in their flexible classroom.

Tip 3: Bring the Classroom- and its Content- to Life

If you type “flexible classroom” into Google, an assortment of classroom layouts, furniture options and technology solutions appear. While important, flexible learning spaces require more than just physical elements. Also key are the teaching techniques, practices and pedagogies that can make a classroom, including its curriculum, more engaging, responsive, and supportive of student needs. Popular pedagogies like flipped classroom, problem-based learning, and collaborative learning cater to multiple learning styles, and help instill notions of agility, variability, and interdependence. Students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and in doing so learn to accept and appreciate new and diverse challenges. This is an important part of “flexible” learning. Likewise, since classrooms tend to take on the personality of the teacher, maintaining a flexible mindset, as the leader, is vital to ensuring the strategies implemented are successful.

Tip 4: Use the Proper Tools to Meet Student Needs

While a talented pastry chef can make a pie crust with just a bowl and fork, if you give him or her a food processor, they will produce so much more and in a manner which is more consistent and efficient. In a similar way, a good teacher will always find a way to inspire and engage his or her students, but when provided with quality technology and the right flexible furniture, they can seamlessly enhance their lessons and further engage their students. Teachers who want to create this type of flexible environment, should be supported by their leaders and provided with the right tools to enhance the future-focused skills of their students.

Now What? Where Do I Go from Here?

ELB Education has everything teachers and schools need to create flexible learning spaces: technology, furniture, and dedicated, experienced education consultants to provide support throughout the process. However, schools must first decide if they want to provide flexibility-focused professional development first and then add the technology and furniture components later, or if they’d rather adopt new technology and furniture first and then provide the teacher professional development that supports flexibility in the new environment. Either way, as long as teachers embrace a flexible mindset and overtime learn to employ the right tools and techniques, their new learning spaces will only be limited by their own imaginations.

If you are looking to create flexible learning spaces and desire more information or support, Contact Us.

References

Delzer, K. (2018, March 13). Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks - EdSurge News. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks

Krishnamurti, J. (2007). Education and the significance of life. New York, NY: HarperOne.

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About ELB Education
ELB Education has been providing innovative teaching technologies since 1986. With over 30 years experience, we are passionate about supporting teachers, providing a comprehensive range of technology solutions, training and information about the effective use of technology for 21st century learning.