Home' Independence : Independence Vol 36 No 2 Oct 2011 Contents The Centre’s four-level structure
encompasses the School’s library and
information services, a number of
flexible learning spaces of different
sizes that are configurable in multiple
combinations, the student services
area (coordinating counselling services
and the provision of career and
academic advice), the staff professional
development library and the ICT
department (home to both the support
staff and the network hardware).
Underpinning the design and use of
the spaces are several key theoretical
imperatives that align with current
research on good teaching and learning
· The design intent must reflect
· Learning must always be visible
· Learning is necessarily a social activity
· Technology must enable not dictate
· Spaces that demand students work in
teams demand team behavior
· Flexibility in design that allows for
instant transitions in learning modes.
The Centre’s technologically enabled
flexible spaces afford students the
opportunities to create, design and
problem solve while working in a
variety of learning modes.
The entry opens into a mezzanine area
known as the Learning Commons,
an open space adjacent to the library
collection that links visually to the
historic parts of the school. Its café
style booths and LCD display screens
are particularly popular before and
after school for more informal student
collaboration and enable learning that
is at once social and visible.
The Forum is a popular, interactive
lecture and large group presentation
venue, enabled by wireless network and
split screens to cater for groups of up
to 250 learners to instantly and visibly
connect with and share their learning.
AHISA invited its partner Woods
Educational Furniture to comment on
trends in educational furniture design.
Think back to images that you have seen
depicting early humans. Many of those
images would have been of people sitting
around a fire, eating and communicating.
Note that I used the word communicating
rather than just talking.
Communication is far more than just the
spoken word, and being able to see each
other’s faces allows us a far better pathway
of communication than staring at the back
of the head of the person seated in front
of you. And yet until recent times this has
been the model for the design of learning
interiors in schools. Inspired by leading
designers, educators and architects, this
old model is changing to embrace what is
commonly called collaborative learning.
We know that social discourse and
collaborative learning are critical in the
development of well rounded citizens.
We have seen, particularly in recent
times, the sometimes tragic behavioural
consequences of student isolation in the
Educator David Thornburg extols the
virtues of ‘primordial learning metaphors’
which he defines as the Campfire, the
Watering Hole, the Cave and Life. Camp-
fires are a way to learn from experts or
storytellers; Watering Holes help you learn
from your peers; Caves are places to learn
from yourself; and Life is where you bring
it all together.
I see many Australian classrooms and new
schools taking the design lead from Europe
to incorporate these modalities in the
refurbishment of classrooms and designs
for new buildings.
Today we manufacture so many more of
the modular type work surfaces that can
be pushed together to form ‘learning pods’
– designs that support both individual and
collaborative learning. Furniture designs
DESIGN FOR COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
Director, Sales and
have also changed to suit the softening and
de-institutionalisation of schools.
Many schools are also incorporating ‘soft
furnishings’ in learning space designs.
Comfortable and attractive, if positioned
wisely, soft furnishings can reduce ambient
classroom noise by up to 15 per cent
simply by absorbing rather than reflecting
sounds off hard surfaces.
Research into the effect of room colour on
children’s learning is also having an impact
on the interior design of schools and
therefore on furniture. Awareness of the
benefits of ergo-dynamic furniture design
for both the musculo-skeletal system and
children’s learning performance has also
improved school furniture design.
Another big issue for school interiors
is providing furniture that suits the
increasing heights of students. Australians
are following the same stature increase
trends as most other countries of the world
(with the exception of the US and North
Korea). Since the Second World War, the
stature of Australian males, for example,
has increased at an average rate of one
centimetre for each 10 years.
In Australia, leading school furniture
manufacturers base their designs on
EN 1729, the European Standard for
School and Educational Furniture, as this
Standard has been ratified specifically in
response to the change in human stature.
The growing interest in environmental
sustainability and an allied interest in
the health and wellbeing of students are
also prompting schools to consider the
importance of environmental ethics in
relation to the materials used in school
furniture. Schools should strongly consider
using only products made by companies
that have had their range certified by GECA
(Good Environmental Choice Australia) to
ensure that no volatile organic compounds
are present in the furniture. A GECA audit
and certification is assurance for schools
that students are not being subjected to
chemicals such as formaldehyde leaching
out of desks and chairs.
Glenn Webster has produced an information
booklet, 10 steps to better learning interiors. A
free copy is available from Woods Furniture Pty
Ltd by emailing email@example.com.
10 Independence Vol 36 No 2 Oct 11
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