Anywhere, everywhere

The famous tryptic: “anyone, anywhere, anytime” is often used to characterize the changes in the learning process. Innovative learning experiences will get rid of the constraints of space and time and be much more inclusive and personalized.

The education systems are mostly defined by their learning spaces. Schools all over the world still reproduce the teacher-students top down relationship and are directly produced by an industrial approach to education. Ken Robinson gives three of these industrial principles— conformity, compliance and linearity – that still define our learning spaces. Our universities’ amphitheaters tell the same story of unilateral and linear relationship under which a teacher tells the truth to a large group of often passive students.

A literature review on classrooms’ design made at Princeton University concluded that “the traditional transference model of education, in which a professor delivers information to students, is no longer effective at preparing engaged 21st-century citizens. This model is being replaced by constructivist educational pedagogy that emphasizes the role students play in making connections and developing ideas, solutions, and questions”.

Our new schools, our new universities will be characterized by the design of new learning spaces. Part of the problem we are facing with this new situation is that new spaces are not always made by those with recent experience of teaching or studying in classrooms. Architects and promotors have not fully realized that learning ultimately belongs to learners (and teachers). In a recent work done for one of the leading French universities, I addressed the need for new learning spaces as part of a global reflection on the future of learning and teaching. It takes a lot of effort and imagination to go beyond the clichés that characterize the “digital era”. Which are the genuine expectations of both learners and teachers? How can they overcome the dictatorship of spaces? Even though we are clear about the need to change our learning and teaching practices, we are still thinking in terms of traditional spaces. Even though our classrooms or amphitheaters will be smaller or more flexible, they will still be there.

Can’t we think learning and teaching without thinking of classrooms (large or small)? If a learning experience can take place anywhere, why should we bother about the space? Shouldn’t we insist more on the capacities and skills required by our students – and teachers – to recognize any space as a potential learning space?

In her book on learning spaces, Diana G. Oblinger reminds us thatthere is value from bumping into someone and having a casual conversation, there is value from hands-on, active learning as well as from discussion and reflection, there is value in being able to receive immediate support when needed…”

Conversation in a park (probably Gainsborough and his wife), Gainsborough Thomas (1727-1788) Location : Paris, Louvre museum © RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Conversation in a park (probably Gainsborough and his wife), Gainsborough Thomas (1727-1788)
Location : Paris, Louvre museum
© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Bumping into someone can take place anywhere. Learning is no longer or not only about technology. Learning has to do with the way we occupy the space, with the way we live together, we engage into conversation together.

Innovative learning has something to do with casual learning, transforming any space in a learning space: a waiting room at a doctor’s practice that creates new opportunities for patients to exchange and learn from peers, a fast food restaurant where wifi connection enables customers to take an online course, a park…

In a park or in a fast food… Anywehere. Everywhere…

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