Learning spaces of the third kind

The first kind of space was highly organised. In these 'class' rooms, our students gathered, seated in rows, facing toward a single part of the space - the front. At the front of the classroom were all of the important things, such as the teacher, and of course, the teacher's tools. Many of these, the blackboard, the projector and the screen, and eventually other new technologies such as television and video, were placed at the front of the room because this was where all the action was. The students looked on as spectators, and occasionally as active participants in their education. Students learnt by listening. The sage on the stage was the centre of attention, and pivotal to the process.

Next came the second kind of space - rooms where people could face in more than one direction. The action in these rooms had moved away from 'the front', because although the teacher still influenced the students' education, there was now more emphasis on participation, interaction, ... and yes, collaboration. Now students were seated around tables, facing each other. They had technology on the tables. They were able to create their own projects, learning together with the teacher acting as a facilitator. Students learnt by doing and making. The guide on the side was still within the room, but now every part of the room assumed equal significance.

The third kind of space is still emerging. It is appearing in more and more institutions every week. It is an active, immersive space where just about anything might happen. This third kind of space is no longer confined to a room. Students carry technology in their pockets, information floats through the air, and the they use their own devices to seek and capture it. There is a sense that learning can occur without the teacher being present in this same space, although the teacher may be there anyway, as a co-learner as much as a facilitator. Education is co-constructed, and the tools and technologies provide the scaffolding to support the learning. Students learn by creating, connecting, discovering and sharing.

In my institution, we will soon be embarking on a new project. I'm calling it eXSpace. One of our computing suites will be taken away, the benches removed and the desktop computers and cabling reassigned elsewhere. We want to move away from giving students the message 'this is where computing is done.' The result will be a new experimental learning space. It will be a place where anything can and might happen. All of the space will be flexible, and the walls will play a role in that flexibility. We are planning makerspaces, technology sandpits, soft play areas, gaming and robot testing zones, experimental lighting and sound systems. There will also be interactive touch surfaces on the walls, and as new technologies and tools become available, we will test them out in this space before we deploy them anywhere else. eXSPace will be a place we can try out new ideas, new pedagogies, new tools. I aim to write more about our progress with eXSpace as the project develops. (Watch this space).

Photo by Steve Wheeler

Creative Commons License
Learning spaces of the third kind by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Anonymous said…
So many pic buttons hiding the scroll-bar on the right hand side. I think these are trophy images. They are making your page unusable in Windows 10, so please remove them. I have seen other sites using blogger and they only use 1 or 2 pic buttons on the right, keeping the rest of the scroll-bar clear and accessible.
Gary Gruber said…
Good luck, best wishes and high hopes for your eXspace learning environments. When you take the position that learning can go on anywhere, even outdoors with no defined spaces, it opens up a world of new possibilities. Place=based learning is not confined to a building, needs no artificial lighting, or power other than that of the curious and inquiring mind.
manmalik said…
"Students learn by creating, connecting, discovering and sharing." as opposed to "Students learn by taking in knowledge like a vessel, connecting ideas in their heads alone, experimenting and discovering alone and keeping their learning to themselves" Surely I like the former model as opposed to this later one that I have added. A lamp can light 1000s of other lamps and still shine bright and together they all shine brighter. Individualised/Personalised learning is fine but please do not make it individual learning and sell the education system to crony capitalists as they know best to model something on an individual and trap them alone in their business model.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thank you for your kind recommendations, Maged Boulos.
Steve Wheeler said…
That's my ultimate intention Gary. Thanks for your comments.
Steve Wheeler said…
I guess this project was partly inspired by your very own TEAL experiments at Portsmouth University, Manish. I'll try to avoid all of the pitfalls you list ;)
manmalik said…
Hi Steve, Been so long isnt it.. :)
I did a critical systematic review of MOOCs as part of my PhD at Lancaster in eResearch and TEL and the findings also influenced by that. MOOCs tend to be individualistic despite the potential to be social and intercultural.
Reducator said…
I love MOOCs mainly because I cab go at my own pace without hinderence from other people. I personally hate collaberative learning even though I'm aware this is helpful to some students.

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