Last week, I had the privilege of attending EDspaces for the first time. Held each year in different cities across the US, this three day event is hosted by the Education Market Association, who we recently partnered with in the design and development of our latest research study.
MDR not only attended EDspaces – getting a feel of the exhibitor floor, taking in content (on topics such as social emotional learning, STEM, maker movement, school safety, the influence of learning environments, design and innovation) – but we were also privileged to speak. We co-presented research on the Impact of Learning Spaces on Student Success, with President/CEO of the Education Market Association, Jim McGarry. Over 100 people joined us to learn more about what teachers want in learning spaces, and how recent renovations improved student outcomes. Our session was held in interactive classroom number 24, called Transformative Learning by OnPoint.
For those who have never been, one of the fun ways EDspaces displays the intersection of space and learning is by hosting the breakout sessions in model classrooms. Each room was designed by a staff of designers and partner companies, like Boxlight and Paragon Furniture. In Classroom 24, OnPoint specifically featured interactive classroom capabilities for attendees to try, including collaborative spaces, moveable seating, technology, and more.
MDR was in good company at EDspaces as many other folks shared their experiences and revelations related to space, technology and pedagogy throughout the 50+ sessions. Overall, the EDsessions at EDspaces were enlightening, enriching, and inspiring. Flexibility was a big theme throughout the conference. Not just related to desks and chairs, the concept was integrated into conversations from learning styles and assessment to giving kids the freedom to think and work independently and in different parts of the school.
In a session called “The Impact of Learning Environments on Student Engagement,” Lizzy Asbury, Dalane Bouillion and Yanira Oliveras-Ortiz shared a study they performed and published by the University of Texas. Based on student and teacher quotes, we learned that students are more engaged when they have more space to move around. They even feel the day goes by faster. The student-teacher relationship improved because the students appreciated their teachers for being “lenient” by letting them spread out. The experience of these children in their new classrooms demonstrated all the ways flexibility was discussed throughout the conference.
As education leaders it is important to keep the immense value of space on student outcomes top of mind when developing product and services for schools. We’re all in the business of improving student outcomes, and learning spaces are where the magic happens!
Recap of other important themes from the conference
Pedagogy and Student Outcomes: Many sessions provided unique survey results and empirical evidence on how learning is influenced by the environment – with before and after studies, and other achievement metrics to support their claims. One of the ways to help motivate school leaders and other stakeholders in the design of future learning environments, is to provide them with tangible, concrete evidence that the buildings that students occupy day after day really do influence their ability to learn. Furthermore, teachers have the expertise that should guide part of the conversation about how to improve school environments, and they should be included as part of the design team in some capacity.
Design and Infrastructure: The time for teachers to only lecture students at the front of the classroom will soon one day be behind us. No longer will classrooms be defined by students seated in straight rows of desks. Many classrooms today, and in the future, will be considered “student-led,” which provide opportunities for movement, collaboration, and in-the-moment learning activities with a variety of tools. So, what does a classroom like this look like and how do we design them? Many sessions addressed the process of design, the challenges, and the outcomes, so attendees could walk away with design strategies to implement in their profession.
Environmental and Health Topics: A big part of the conversation about how to design education spaces, includes how to keep students healthy, safe, and considerate of the environment. Sessions relating to school safety provided tangible approaches to this national issue. Being a responsible citizen today includes sustainability considerations, which were also a topic of many sessions, for how to create and maintain green schools. Teaching students as whole individuals, with a mind and a body, means that schools should consider how wellness can be woven into the school day – providing opportunities for movement, ergonomic considerations, and other important variables related to health.
Technology and Hands on Learning: The impact of technology on the classroom is that accommodations must be made to enable these innovations – because students that have access to these tools are better off for them. As emerging technology becomes more available in the classroom, different design solutions will be made. The design of a room meant to become a maker space will be different than the design of a space for other domain knowledge. Many technological capabilities require the use of unique components and hardware, and modern classrooms will need to be designed to feature and store them properly.