Many of us are reconsidering our library/learning spaces and how they can better fit the needs of our students and schools. But before we start buying furniture or retrofitting our rooms, we need to establish our intentions for the space. A well-designed space works because all the pieces of it serve intentional purposes — purposes that are matched to those who use the space. It means, in a classroom or library, meeting the many “intentions” that make it flexible throughout the given day or year.
As we rethink what we want our classroom instruction to look like or what we want our libraries to do, unearthing our needs and intentions is critical. What if we were designing for curiosity and “wonder” as Christian Long and David Jakes pondered at Educon 2.6 in Philly, for example? What does that intention look like?
At TCEA recently, I shared some resources that can help us unravel those intentions and needs more clearly. Many are gathered from the excellent work of Cannon Design, Third Teacher, Fielding International, and Edutopia.
Using critical friends to come in and observe our space in action, using sticky notes to identify obstacles in our rooms/libraries, including students in visual brainstorming, or interviewing students are all strategies that help us expand our thoughts on what our learning space can accomplish. What are other ways to listen to our students? Michelle Cooper, a librarian in Henderson ISD gave her students blank paper and had them sketch what they thought their library space could be; our middle school teacher Tana Fiske listened to student concerns and set them on the real world task of redesigning their classroom.
As we approach reinventing our spaces, Melanie Kahl, from Edutopia’s REMAKE project, asks us, “How can we channel the optimism of a designer, the resourcefulness of a hacker, and the playfulness of a maker? I love the word optimism here–we have to suspend constraints and believe in the possible in order to allow our creativity to blossom. We have to be able to be playful in our approach to reinventing our spaces.
At the end of the TCEA session, we added to a Google Doc list of resources that have inspired me by crowdsourcing a few more. Feel free to add resources that have inspired YOU to the Google Doc as well! And be sure to check out the Edutopia REMAKE classroom redesign video for an inspiring example of how intentions lead to a beautiful (and inexpensive) classroom redesign.
How do we dig deep into what our intentions (and our students’ needs) are? Hopefully these strategies and sources of inspiration (below) will help you begin that journey.