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How Important is the Learning Environment?

June 10, 2018

 Have you ever walked into a restaurant, looked around and decided to leave? I have. Maybe it was too crowded, or too loud or just ran-down. Ever walked into someone's home and the sense of warmth and belonging overcome you... or perhaps the opposite? Guilty. The moment we enter a room, it is in our nature to size it up and decide if we belong or not (Martinez & Stager, 2013). 

 

It is the same for students and parents who enter our classrooms for the first time. Your classroom environment can make a student who isn't excited for school become immediately excited. When I was in the classroom I took immense joy in creating a welcoming  environment, one that said that I took time and care into creating this space for my students. This is so important because it let my parents, students and administration know that I was dedicated and excited for the year ahead. Now that I am out of the classroom, I still believe environment is critical and sets the tone for the year - but now I also know that the learning environment is much more than just the space. 

 

If you have explored my website or blog, you know I am currently an Innovative Learning Specialist that has a true passion for makerspaces and the maker

movement. My innovation plan is all about bringing the maker movement to the other school libraries in my district and this all begins with creating an inviting atmosphere that encourages creativity, imagination and discovery. Generates a buzz in the air that goes beyond just the school library and infects the hallways, the classrooms and the community. Thomas and Brown's book, "A New Culture of Learning" (2011) is full of fundamental ideas that can shape this type of learning environment. According to Thomas and Brown (2011) "the new culture of learning is taking root and transforming the way we think about information, imagination and play" (pg. 268).  This new culture of learning lends itself so easily to the maker movement and it's importance is being recognized by many educational researchers

 

While many recognize the power of play and how it correlates to learning, the biggest challenge I have faced while implementing my own makerspace is the kickback from the word play"School is a place to learn, not for just playing" they tell me... but I know that there is no such thing as "just playing" - that is how we learn. The wonderful thing about playing is that students who play will learn without even knowing it is happening (Heraper, 2017). To address this challenge, I believe that the correct environment can convey the importance of the maker movement and the benefits of play. Students and people in general are attracted to an environment that invites curiosity, inspires creativity and encourages playfulness. When nay-sayers see the effects of this type of electric atmosphere of learning, I believe their opinions about the role of play in education will begin to change and they will view the power of makerspaces more broadly. 

 

It is my hope that that I can spread this new culture of learning throughout my district and community through the maker movement. I believe that if we can create an engaging atmosphere for learning and experimentation, all students across our district will be offered new opportunities to work together, learn through playing, solve problems, build new things and discover their passions. Dr. Harapnuik (2015) discusses the importance of taking a holistic approach when creating a significance learning environment that is student-centered. He speaks about how it is vital to have this environment first to encourage students to take risks and ownership over their own learning. 

 

We have the power to equip our students today with the critical skills that can be acquired in an open and active environment, such as a makerspace, and can prepare them for tomorrow's careers. 

 

 

References:

 

ChangSchool. (2015, Dec 14). Dr Tony Bates on Building Effective Learning Environments. [Video File]. Retrieved from URL https://youtu.be/3xD_sLNGurA

Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8). Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE). [Video FIle]. Retrieved from URL https://youtu.be/eZ-c7rz7eT4

 

Heraper, S. (2017, Winter). The Philosophy of Makerspaces. CSLA Journal, 40(2), 22-27.

 

Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance, California: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

TEDx Talks. (2012, Sep 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM. [Video File]. Retrieved from URL https://youtu.be/lM80GXlyX0U 

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

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