Not just a pretty space

It was great to be invited to talk as part of Radi! in Riga this time last week.  You can see why it is the current European Capital of Culture.  Beautiful varied architecture, hundreds of special events – culture in the very broadest sense, and large giant snails!

This year’s theme for the conference was design thinking: If design is used in a smart and deliberate way, it can stimulate entrepreneurship and influence innovation development, as well as improve the social sphere and contribute to the quality of life.

The right design for the environment we work and learn in is crucial.  It’s constitutes a huge part of any organisational culture both visually and emotionally.

I approach any environmental re-design as I would any artistic commission, with what I think are the six key points of good design:  colour; light; sound; space (both how its filled and the gaps we leave); the story to be told; the people who tell it and those who listen.

six key points of good design - visual

A creative, innovative learning environment to equip our children with the right skills is as much about staff and the children themselves as it is about what it looks like, and its far more than just colour, light and furnishings however important these might be.

It comes down to 3 questions:

How do you want people to feel?
How do you want people to behave?
What do you want them to do?

The Learning environment is made up of four equal parts – Learners, educators, content and resources, which neatly fit my key design principles.

Learners, educators, content and resources

We cannot possibly fill a room, or curriculum with everything children need to know for adult life.  So how does our environment engage our students to solve their own problems, to learn how to find the information and resources they need?  To truly become lifelong learners?

So, what DOES a Creative and innovative learning environment look and feel like?  I’d love to show you a definitive picture, but there are hundreds.  It comes back down to the culture of teaching and learning you want to foster in your school…

It comes back down to the elements of good design, and through research and experience these guiding principles.

Partnerships, multifunctional/ flexible, real life challenges, reflective, engaging, social & collaborative yet personal & independent, appropriate use of technology, challenging, safe to take risks, connected, assessment for learning, facilitated.

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