The Learning Well

What could the Ivanhoe classroom look like in the year 2020?

This question was posed to leadership last year by our then Deputy Principal and now Principal Elect, Gerard Foley.  The year was chosen as it was the year that the next batch of Year 7 students would be graduating at Ivanhoe.  The task of predicting what the landscape will look like in five years is as difficult as it is to predict what will happen tomorrow but through the process of looking at cutting edge innovation, analysing research and being prepared to think dynamically about learning space design, a clearer path can be mapped.

Where do you start with such a process?  For us, it was about designing a space that could cater for a variety of learning interactions and this began with David Thornburg’s work with primordial learning metaphors.  In his seminal piece “Campfires in CyberSpace: Primordial Learning Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century” Thornburg states that since the beginning of civilization, learning interactions have been influenced by the location and formation of the venue where learning happens.  He lists the following four metaphors:

  • Campfire – a place to gather as a large group and share stories
  • Watering hole – an informal space to gather with peers to share, learn and teach
  • Cave – a quite space to retreat and find solitude
  • Life – the application of our knowledge

Throughout Ivanhoe, there are many spaces where these four metaphors are evident.  There are lecture theaters, breakout spaces, multi-purpose classrooms with moveable furniture and quiet reading nooks.  Our challenge was to try and cater for all of the metaphors that Thornburg listed in one classroom.  Due to a recent move by IT Services to a new space, a blank canvas became available.  Within this sandbox environment we wanted to play with formations, pedagogy, furniture, technology, ambience and of course learning.  Feedback from students and staff would amplify the areas that were or were not working.  Below is our starting point, our first iteration.  In further posts, I will write about the technology we have implemented in the room and the pedagogy we are exploring.

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