Modern Learning Environments become Innovative

What’s in a name?

  • Community of Schools = Community of Learning
  • Charter Schools = Partnership Schools
  • Modern Learning Environment = Innovative Learning Environment

Given that the Ministry of Education has launched it’s latest site as ile.education.govt.nz I suspect it is here to say.

I still think it is a fad though.

 

Here are some additional reasons why, apart from cyclical nature of schools and education, what is popular now won’t be in 10 years, and what was popular 10 years ago isn’t popular now, and what was introduced 20 years ago is coming back into fashion now.

In my article ‘Are Modern Learning Environments a Fad?‘ I looked at what MLE’s (now ILE’s) are, and what some of their pitfalls are.

Recently, my current school has undergone a serious upgrade of its classrooms, which bear the resemblance of how they did when they were built in the 1960’s, maybe with a coat of extra paint. Other than that, not much changed. The cabinetry for example, is all solid rimu sacrilegiously painted over with enamel white paint. So the board has been making plans to begin to upgrade these spaces, and we were lucky to visit a series of schools, as well as gain perspectives on the latest trends from our property manager.

We were shown the latest and greatest and encouraged to put glass sliding doors between the classrooms. We were told of the flexibility this space would then have, where teachers could open up the doors and combine classes, work closer together, team teach, as well as have flexibility in furniture spaces as well. We were told the distractions from the other class with kids peering through soon dissipated as the children got used to it.

However, our teaching staff resisted. For several reasons.

  1. Wall space. Putting sliding doors between classes knocks out a large space from which to display work, reminders, posters and other important learning prompts in the class. Given that the other walls consist of windows down both sides, and the new whiteboard wall on the other, we wanted to preserve as much wall space as possible.
  2. Distraction. Despite assurances that students got used to the windows between the classrooms, or the possibility of adding frosting, we felt that students would get easily distracted by the goings on in the other classroom. Given that recently we had doors installed with glass panels going to the floor, and the tendency of students to look out the door while sitting on the mat, we figured that our students would take a longer time to get used to the doors.
  3. Cost. Added cost of the doors onto an already inflated cost (and more than the Ministry would provide us with) helped with our decision not to allow the classrooms to be joined.
  4. Behaviour. Each year our school works out the classes students will be in for the following year based on a myriad of different properties. One of those properties is student behaviour: which students don’t work well together, which students clash, and how many ‘difficult’ students a classroom teacher has. Because of this, many of our most challenging students are kept separate through assigning them to different classes within the same year level. Opening up the adjoining classrooms would bring those students who we tried to separate back together, and open us up to issues.
  5. Size. We have had some schools say that they have some students working in flexible spaces and open classrooms up, but those that have problems learning like this (demonstrated through their behaviour) are kept in more traditional classroom setups. Our school simply isn’t big enough to do this. We have two classes at each year level, and use these, as mentioned, to alleviate behavioural problems as it is. Assigning a ‘well-behaved’ class to a MLE or open plan classroom isn’t going to happen because we only have two classes at each year level and we’d be opening those two classes onto each other.

Thankfully, the Board agreed and we are remaining with single cell learning spaces, with upgraded walls, windows, and carpets, and hopefully some furniture as well.

Luckily they did so, as when the builders were pulling the lining off the walls, they found a large black cable running through where the sliding doors would go. We were told by the electrician on site that the large black cable was in fact the main power line for the entire school, and we really didn’t want to know the cost involved in relocating this to accommodate for the doors.