An abundance of ideas are on display at this year’s TCEA convention, but I am most struck by the innovative ideas shared and displayed throughout the conference when it comes to learning spaces. With this year’s theme “Innovate Learning. Transform the Future,” the physical space of learning can be the catalyst for transformation in your classroom or school. As we came to the end of the 2018 TCEA Convention & Exposition, I discovered three takeaways about learning spaces.
1 – Space
During our “Show and TEAL: What We’ve Learned” session, my Bishop Lynch High School colleagues and I discussed our school’s designated learning spaces, which are dedicated classrooms for technology-enhanced, active learning. Since these rooms were designed during the renovation and new construction phase of our campus improvements, our school was fortunate to have multiple classrooms to designate as innovative active learning spaces.
While your school may not be able to dedicate a new room to this endeavor, you can start with what you already have and turn it into an active learning classroom. During their session “A Transformation Story: Active Learning Spaces,”Melissa Motes and Kali Little of DeKalb ISD shared how their district implemented a teacher grant program to help furnish one classroom at a time. Currently, the district has designed two active learning classrooms on their three campuses, with three more classroom re-designs in the works.
Motes explained, “We had seventeen applicants for our first round of Active Learning Space grants and were able to furnish six classrooms.” She observed that their new learning spaces have transformed both teaching and learning in their district. “Students absolutely love the new classrooms,” Motes said. “They have the ability to choose their type of seating or desks whenever they want to be still or need to fidget a little to keep their brain stimulated. The entire atmosphere has changed in those classrooms.”
2 – Stuff
If you have funding available now or are working on grants and budgets for the future, be sure to check out the Robert Knight Exhibit Hall while you’re here. The exhibit hall this year hosts many companies and furnishings that can help your school create an effective and engaging learning space. You are not only able to see but also experience modular furniture that could be used in a new learning space on your campus. Does your classroom design include technology enhancements? Then check out the interactive whiteboards and screen companies, too.
While module furniture, interactive screens, and writable surfaces may not be in the budget for next year, don’t be afraid to repurpose and refurbish what you already have in your classroom. Your classroom can be low-tech or no-tech, too. Learning spaces don’t mean having the newest bright and shiny thing. It’s how you use and reconfigure what you already have that can make a difference.
3 – Solutions
Just as we did during the planning and design phase of our active learning classrooms at Bishop Lynch, talk and visit with others who have already “been there, done that.” If time permits, visit other schools with already transformed earning spaces completed and in use.
One of my favorite questions to ask those who have already transformed spaces at their schools is “What would you do differently?” The answer to that question provides you with a wealth of information that can save time, money, and headaches. You may encounter other problems along the way, but then you will be able to share your successes and suggestions with others implementing engaging learning spaces on their campuses.
This year’s convention is also host to invaluable round-table discussions groups called Solution Circles. For those in attendance this year, there is a Solution Circle on Redesigning Learning Spaces. Attending a solution circle may give you the contacts and confidence needed to create a new learning space at your school when you return.
Even if you weren’t able to join us in Austin this year, I hope my observations on this conference trend transformational learning spaces has given you some food for thought. For more information on other innovative topics and what is going on at the 2018 TCEA Convention & Exposition, look for #TCEA on social media to join in on the innovation and fun!
Beth A. Burau has taught prek-college across various content areas since she began teaching in August 2000. She now serves as the Instructional Technology Coordinator and German teacher at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, TX. She is a proud member of TCEA and a TCEA certified Campus Technology Specialist. She is attending her sixth TCEA Convention this year and it is her second year as a presenter. Follow her (@FrauB) and her team (@ITeamBL) to join in their active learning space adventures.