As our newly renovated Upper School is nearing completion, my thoughts and attention turn to the spaces that we have used to build our blended learning environments. Do the tools that we have chosen support the goals and compliment the goals of the physical spaces? Are there shifts in our framework that we need to move to in order for these goals to be more congruent with each other?
First, our newly renovated high school space has been built to support a technology rich environment which supports collaboration and intellectual collisions between learners in the environment, both adults and young adults. Following the 79 Ideas for Using Redesigning of Learning Spaces as defined by the Third Teacher, gone are classrooms and hallways. Instead, we have Learning Studios, most with attached Seminar Rooms. We have an open commons which has seating along the edge and tables for groups to gather. We have Project Spaces with movable glass walls which open into Collaboration Spaces. For me, this is the 21st Century equivalent of the Parisian Salon or coffeehouses of the Enlightenment. <<An audio interview of Trung Le, the architect for our new space, on EdTechTalk’s Conversations with friends and fellow EdTechTalk hosts Lisa Parisi, Maria Knee, and Sheila Adams>>
For the previous six years we have built our blended learning space using Moodle as our starting point. At this time, it fit our needs a place which would support threaded discussions and provide a repository for handouts and materials generated by the teacher. It allowed us to begin to have student upload assignments as teachers got used to the environment. Two years ago, we added Google Apps for Education, which provided the communications and collaboration hub. Initially with the core suite of tools, email. calendar, docs, and sites, we have created an environment which allows for creative spaces and tools to be used by all. It has allowed us to begin to shift our pedagogies to ones which support the ability to communicate and collaborate.
However, I am not sure if Moodle, provides us the right platform from which to build anymore. It does not offer a fluid, adaptable, more social environment that I feel will better suits the shifts that our new physical environment will provide. It is my opinion that Moodle by design, it is more of a teacher-centric model, with the delivery of information being controlled by the lead learner. This does not congruent with the pedagogy of the new spaces that we will be occupying.
So I begin looking in earnest. My plan is to do some small system tests using a few environments which will provide us more of a fluid, social space. Narrowing down our choices, I hope that we are able to begin to pilot the use of one of these next year to see if it will match what we are looking for.
This will be an interesting journey that I am looking forward to embarking on. I would love to hear your experiences.