To innovate or amplify? Reflections on Talking Spaces 9

Talking Spaces 9 was our most thought-provoking event to date. A strong desire to improve learning environments was at the heart of all presentations and workshops. However, it’s safe to say that we are approaching this common objective in varied ways.

This is what LEaRN members have been pondering over the past week, following the event:

  • Do we need step-change improvements, continuous innovation, or should we amplify existing models to best accommodate future learning and learners – or a mix of all three?
  • Is it time for educators to take increased responsibility for design quality outcomes, or are there benefits in interdisciplinary approaches where education visions are iteratively tested through the development of concept designs with architects?
  • How can we find a balance between scaling good ideas that have been found to work well through research and offering opportunities for people to try something new, and potentially better?
  • Given the demand for many new learning spaces, is it best to take control of processes to develop universal and system-wide models, thereby avoiding highly specific outcomes that are not transferable into the future?
  • We saw and experienced four vertical learning environments at LCI Melbourne, Prahran HS, Richmond HS, and on campus in the Glyn Davis Building. There were remarkable similarities across the four settings in terms of scale, height, stairs and the use of central atria. Yet, there were also differences in how learning communities occupied these spaces. What more can we learn from patterns of use?
  • Our workshops explored new technologies, ways to ‘read’ spaces, and how learning environments can support physical and mental comfort while accommodating learning conversations. Were conversations stronger for being interdisciplinary or were they weakened by being too broad?
  • We are also better understanding the varied pressures that people in different roles must respond to and the perspectives from which they operate. Governments and system leaders commonly seek efficiencies and lower cost options that can help stretch limited budgets, while concurrently enabling sector-wide innovation in ways that may not otherwise be possible.

Of course, not all innovative design concepts have worked, but steady improvements over the last decade in particular have certainly been realised. We hope the decade ahead will bring further developments and improvements in learning space design and in the productive entanglement of pedagogy, space and technology.

Finally, we hope you all enjoyed a stimulating conference, left with further questions to ponder, and developed an even stronger desire to improve learning environments into the future!

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Ben Cleveland