Getting hands-on with learning spaces

November 2017

 

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An innovative app is allowing schools to take charge of designing their learning environments.

Modern, innovative, flexible, active – the terminology associated with learning environments can make classroom design and furniture selection a daunting process for schools.

But an innovative ‘Classroom Planner’ app is allowing schools to focus on what will work best for their teachers and students.

The app, provided by Woods Furniture to schools free of charge, allows schools to experiment with different options for their spaces.

Richard Jenkins, general manager at Woods Furniture, says the challenge has always been getting schools to visualise the potential options for their learning environments. So the company approached a business in Lithuania that had developed an effective interior design app that Woods Furniture felt could be adapted for schools. The Classroom Planner app has been up and running since August last year, and is constantly being refined and updated.

“We like to work with schools to get them started on the app and then leave them to have a play on their own,” says Jenkins.
The app’s drag and drop function lets teachers experiment with the placement of furniture.

“It’s important to make schools accountable for the design of their space,” says Jenkins.

Pillans Point School in Tauranga worked closely with Woods Furniture to create different settings within their learning spaces. Assistant principal Christine Shearer says the furniture selection was integral.

“We need to have furniture that suits different learning styles and just works well for all children,” she says.

Shearer says their learning environment has been beneficial for teachers too.

“For the teachers, we have constant professional dialogue. For the children,
it’s wonderful – they can form relationships with four or five different teachers.”

Jenkins believes teachers need to be trained to teach in modern learning environments as the reality of two to six teachers teaching in one space can be quite a departure from what they might be used to.

He also stresses that furniture choices need to be made carefully, as quality hard furniture lasts a long time, and says schools need to be wary of spending a large chunk of their budgets on soft furnishings, which typically have a much shorter lifespan than hard furnishings.

This means not rushing in to buy the latest fad items, and thinking carefully about the flexibility of furniture choices. For example, tables and chairs should be able to be used separately or grouped together in different formations, allowing for both conservative and contemporary teaching uses.

Jenkins says there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to designing or fitting out a learning space.

“It comes down to the individual school and their priorities,” he says, “The learning environment should be a reflection of a school’s community.”


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