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Furniture for active learning spaces

Alison Mallett, KI Europe, discusses how to ensure learning spaces are prepared the new active way of learning

Posted by Rianna Newman | August 20, 2017 | Facilities

The maker culture features a connected and personal focus on active learning and doing. It comes as no surprise that maker culture is supported widely by top entrepreneurs and innovators. Where experiential and creative confidence lives, so too do the tech founders, the application and industrial engineers, the authors, scientists, artists, and the next generation of teachers and education professionals. Each will be well equipped
to bring about the next cycle of disruptive innovations and technology in decades to come.

More and more educational institutions are embracing this pedagogical evolution in order to nurture the skills required in the workforce of the future. This new active, human-centred approach to learning develops agency, meaning students become independently capable of expressing creative confidence and curiosity within their environment. No longer do we find educators at the front of a room, lecturing. Instead, we see an inspired shift, from teacher to mentor, whereby distributed teaching and learning is occurring throughout a fluid, interdisciplinary process. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and now the expanded STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) live here. Students use technical tools such as 3D printers that proclaim that a ‘different’ kind of learning is happening within this space. 

A makerspace is by nature one that facilitates and encourages this dynamic learning method. So firstly, the conventional idea of a classroom, linear and constrained, must be erased. Technology now means that everywhere is a place to work, learn and interact. By thinking outside the traditional four walls of the classroom, we can promote uninhibited exploration, support movement, interaction and collaboration – not just between teachers and students, but between the students themselves. Here are a few idea starters showcasing common themes observed across the maker movement, that may serve as a conversation starter for what would best work for your unique requirements and culture.  

Flexible storage: 

Maker-centred learning involves prototyping, crafting and many iterative processes. Design-based approaches to problem-solving will often require access to supplies, and a safe place to store a work-in-progress. So, storage within the space should be mobile, vary in size, and user-friendly for easy on-demand access.  

Work surfaces:

Students need a place to create – whether this is a large work surface for individual or group work. In this new learning environment, the work surface isn’t just for a notebook or laptop. It now could quickly transform to become a place to set up a 3D printer or robotics, or other learning tools that will enhance and reinforce agency (the capacity to make choices and decisions). 

Seating:

Adaptive seating solutions easily allow students and teachers to move throughout a space, giving them the freedom to select different styles of seating based on their needs. The importance of movement in an active space is vital – not only does it facilitate new ways of learning as already discussed – movement in and of itself is proven to be beneficial to human health. As with agile workspaces that discourage a sedentary working culture, an active learning space can improve concentration, retention, productivity and wellbeing for both students and teachers.  

Writable work surfaces:

Surfaces for expressing and sharing ideas – markerboards, magnetic or tackable/stickable walls) allow students and teachers to generate and easily synthesise ideas as they work through the creative design-thinking process. 

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