“Anywhere, anytime, anyone”: what type of learning spaces do we need to make the dream of an ubiquitous and accesible education come true?
Technology apparently is the answer. Instead of building schools and universities that will take ages and consume millions, let’s use screens and microchips. Billions will enroll in MOOCs and the future of learning will be written in the endless memory of powerful learning management systems. But the “no more school” temptation won’t solve the problem of learning places. It will only displace it. “Where do we learn” remains as important as “how do we learn” or “what do we learn”. More than ever we need learning spaces where students come together and share.
As education is continuously reinventing itself, we are about to (re)discover the importance of learning in the street. Colin Ward and Roger Hart always believed in the importance of children social capital built outside of school through play, games and sports and activities with peers where children learn to govern their own activities.
A recent educative project – the Beit project – pushes the paradigm of learning spaces to new limits. A mobile installation simply made of a set of wooden desks and chairs covered by a roof is installed temporarily in public places in order to transform them into sites of dialogue and reflection, engaging students and schools of different socio-cultural backgrounds, which together will build a common experience. No wonder maybe that this innovation is due to an architect, David Stoleru.
Two chairs, one desk, two students, one common vision, a significant place full of contents and you have designed a learning space! No need for fancy colors or furnitures: walls are abolished and learning can take place everywhere at -almost- no cost and with no technology at all.
Let’s now extrapolate this example to other places: a fast food restaurant for instance where young people spend endless hours connected to their smartphones can be transformed into a learning space with a simple interactive wall giving access to a collection of MOOCs, just as in any public library. Any city can nowadays afford a “MOOC academy”, i.e. a civic center connected to the best MOOCs platforms in the world on a 24×7 basis. A coffee machine, a microwave oven, chairs, tables and couches: this is everything we need to build a new learning space.
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