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Word play is a wonderful way to generate new ideas, and often its the only way to help any of us break free of the binds that keep us tied to old ways of finding solutions.

As this blog was partially created to help us re-think the very ‘language of school design’, it seems that this is certainly one for consideration. Even better, it comes from outside the industry of architecture. Perhaps the paradigm shift won’t be so difficult as we all think if more and more non-school design folks are already building the new vocabulary.

To that end, I’d like you to consider the following post called “Classrooms as Studios — Personal Doing Environments” from Jeremy Hiebert, an expert in the fusion of technology and learning and design and life:

Great thoughts from Remote Access (bouncing off an excellent post from David Warlick) on the idea of classrooms as studios:

“It is an intense, team-oriented, creative space where people are driven to create high-quality products. Studios are focused areas, and unfortunately in the case of the classroom, they may be too much so. In our splintered systems where kids need to ‘cover’ hundreds of outcomes in a single school year, the studio may provide too much depth and not enough breadth to make legislators happy. Make no mistake about it, kids can focus and be creative for long periods of time if they are working on issues they are concerned with and about.”

So here you’ve got a motivated, innovative teacher who wants to let kids focus on the stuff that matters to them…but is finding it at odds with the goals of the system. I love the studio metaphor, and you could add others as well: lab, workshop or any other place where you learn the things you need to know in order to actually do something of value, to accomplish a goal you care about.

Perhaps this is the real model for the personal learning environment — an organizing concept for an individual’s physical and digital spaces containing the physical and virtual tools they will need to accomplish their goals. In an educational mindset, we might think the learning itself is the important thing, but really we’re talking about doing, with learning as something that happens in the process of pursuing meaningful goals. Sometimes learning for its own sake could be the goal, but I suspect that most people aren’t motivated in that way. Working on projects, creating new things, solving difficult problems — these all require learning, but if I could accomplish those things without learning anything, I’d still do them, as long as the projects and problems were worth spending time and energy on.

This wouldn’t interest me quite so much if I wasn’t immersed in the idea of learning goals. I’m studying explicit learning goals in 43 Things, goals like “I want to learn to surf” and “I want to learn to speak Spanish”. But when I think about my own experience, I realize that learning can be painful and disruptive and embarrassing enough to make me not want to try something in the first place. My actual goal is probably more like: “I want to surf” and “I want to speak Spanish”. The learning might be what will get me there, but it’s not the goal itself.

Thanks to George for the pointer.

Update: Clarence is reflecting more this topic…great stuff.


Was particularly intrigued by a comment by Lee who stated the following in Jeremy’s original post:

“I’m not sure how transferable the “studio” metaphor is to various learning environments, but I do think it captures the idea of the learning process, but your personal learning environment will probably be what you make it, a studio for some, a journey for others, a prison camp for yet someone else. (a bit dark on that last one) I also think the “doing” vs “learning” discussion is right on. I want to “learn how to program” vs “I want to develop a web site.” Learning is open-ended and typically implies multiple objectives and is often difficult to measure or at least see clear outcomes. Doing is often the statement of a clear outcome. I am going to do or accomplish X.

I have spent some time reading about scenario-based learning and it seems to have some great structures for setting up learning as “doing”. Here is a problem. Here is a solution. You need to get from problem to solution. The creativity for the teacher is to create the problems that require to students to address the learning outcomes set forth by the pre-established educational outcomes. (or by the legislature.)”

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