Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where do we look for good examples?

One of the important aspects of the recent CETLD-hosted Learning Spaces Special Interest Group (SIG) was the way it brought together people across education, and between educationalists from universities and from other institutions. So in addition to learning development people, there were also librarians and computing specialists; and as well as representatives from Brighton, Sheffield, Sheffield-Hallam, Sussex, Nottingham, Cardiff and Coventry universities there were also participants from the V& A and Writtle College. 
As well as visits to both CETLD and InQbate, part of the CETL-C initiative, the group explored examples they had each been asked to bring of good learning spaces they knew; in terms of what was effective, was what challenging and issues around evaluation. 
As well as some of the more well-known innovative learning spaces recently built in unversities, types of spaces discussed included some from elsewhere:

·       Outdoor formal garden space, Devon  - good for formal, informal, complex, varied, surprising and aspiration reasons; challenges for weather, intrusions

·       Herman Miller National Design Centre, London.  Multi-functional modular open space. Good for flexible, adaptable, “aspirational”, interesting use of partitions; challenges – noisy, flexible, adaptable, jack of all trades etc. and noisy

·       National Art library, V&A museum, good for quiet, peaceful space, old desks, beautiful view, challenges can include high noise at times   

I have also recently been looking at the various Google offices again, and thinking two - potentially contradictory - thoughts. First, that we need to look at these too (and the whole impact of ideas of the 'knowledge economy' on office design. And second, that we need to know more about what is distinctive about spaces for post-compulsory learning, so that we can really understand what kinds of changes (whether physical or virtual) can enhance learning at this level. 

Image shows facade of Herman Miller National Design Centre, recently opened in the Aldwych in London.