Sunday, December 16, 2012

Towards the Second Build: Minecraft, right brain thinking and 'rooms within rooms'

As we moved through the school to begin consulting with the more senior students (years 5-8), there was a noticeable progression in thinking about learning environments. This wasn’t entirely surprising given the age of the children perhaps but it did exemplify a deep engagement with the role of the built environment in their learning.

What was noticeable in the students’ designs was, in general, a greater sense of proportionality and a stronger sense of realistic expectations. What was noticeable in their thinking was a growing depth of understanding about the relationship between the space and their learning, and in a growing level of self-awareness of their own use of space. 

The consultation with students in Learning Hub Three was designed along similar lines to Hub Two. As well as analysing existing spaces there was also the opportunity to design potential spaces. As with previously, a number of individuals and groups were interviewed regarding their design thinking. 

Initial work was done with Hub Three students gathering data about like and dislikes in the existing spaces. Groups of children took a series of photos of places they liked and disliked, added these to a plan of the hub, along with ‘Like’ or “Dislike’ symbols. They then annotated the plans with their own observations and justifications. The older students were perhaps more willing to be critical of things that they didn’t feel worked so well, for example acoustically, but reflected that it was often the way they chose to use the space rather than the space itself that was the issue.

One group commented that:
I like the library because it is good for learning and reading (picture of library breakout room).
I like this because it is good to store stuff (picture of cupboards on left hand side of hub).
I like this because it’s cool and comfy (picture of the couch).
I like this because it is a good learning space (picture of whiteboard at front of room)
Too many windows! More curtains for lockdowns (picture of breakout room windows).
I dislike this it’s too messy and we never use it (picture of store room).

Students were invited to put together designs for possible hubs. These were completed either individually or collaboratively. Some students opted to create Three-Dimensional representations of learning spaces using Minecraft (discussed in an earlier post), and now reported in IT News and Crown Fibre Holdings.

A number of students were interviewed about their own designs and thinking. These highlighted a number of aspects including students’ deep understanding of the nature of the space and how it can impact on their learning; reflections on sound, colour and light; the nature of withdrawal rooms and how they are used.

Take this excerpt for example; a couple of students who earlier this year had been learning about the difference between left and right brain learning were able to apply this to their own design.

L- … with walls we can have different colours which are beneficial to learning.
J- For example we are doing light green walls and carpets and things like that.
CB- So what’s a good colour which is beneficial?
J- Green is the best one for learning.  When we did this we brought quite a bit of what we were learning in, so we had skylights and things like that, so having things which give natural light.
CB- So you have brought in some things which you already talked about as being part of your brain learning?
J- and instead of blue that’s meant to be purple (pointing to design), The bean bag thing, purple, purple is very good for imagination so this is pretty much the reading room and it’s got a curved bookcase, and you’ve got purple beanbags so your imagination’s growing as you read, very good for right hand side.
L- And we’ve got this room which is left brain learning.
CB – So you’ve got a right brain learning space and a left brain learning

J- But you do need to cross them over so this one has got the element of the other, its not just left, its got a squiggly wall for some creativity, and the curvedness and this one is also, rather than just being creativeness it’s got the doors and things like that, elements which make it quite left. A room where you can get down to work in a nice area and have meetings there.
L- We also have plants, and we want plants placed around the room.
J- Particularly the plan was to have some lilies, and computers, they draw away the static from the computers which is bad for the computers and bad for you, but the lilies draw it into them, when you’ve been working on a computer for too long you can be distracted in your learning, so it takes away that. We did like the element of openness; we’d quite like a couple more of these solid walls and being able to see right through”

One of the themes to come up in dialogue with Learning Hub Three students was around the idea of different levels. A number of children drew small sunken areas, and others, stairs with a landing that could be used as a seating area and learning space (Labarre, 2012). It has been interesting to observe students using different furniture settings in the hub. When given the opportunity to have an additional two tables, the older students (as well as Hub One students) opted for taller stools around taller (900mm) tables.

The provision of quieter spaces was a recurring theme. There were a number of comments about acoustics, and a feeling for a small number of students that spaces were, at times noisy. Some spoke about having a quieter and darker space to work in where they could avoid distraction. This was along the ideas of a ‘room within a room’ theme that Stephen Heppell (2012) refers to.

The idea of being able to access other learning hubs was raised, particularly in reference to more specialist areas for learning. Students talked about having different specialist areas in different hubs; not every hub for example would need a green-screen or cooking area.

Hub Three students considered increased flow to easily accessible outside learning spaces important. There was a sense that being on the second storey made that more difficult, and was possibly a lost opportunity.

Students were intrigued the idea of a wall that they could sit in to read. They had seen some images of these (Labarre, 2012) and liked the separation but also the visibility that the wall enabled.

  • Split levels- raised with steps to landing area (stairs could accommodate tote trays
  • Quiet spaces
  • Kitchen area and sink
  • Idea of room within a room
  • Access to outside spaces for learning
  • Space for plants inside
  • Dividing wall that we can sit in to read
  • Access to other hubs to enable collaboration
  • Skylights giving natural light
  • Wall and floor coverings to reflect colours that are beneficial for learning
  • A more closed space for those who are more easily distracted

Heppell, S. (2012). Rooms within rooms. Retrieved from

Labarre, S. (2012). School Without Walls Fosters A Free-Wheeling Theory Of Learning. Retrieved from

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