Saturday, January 10, 2009

Designing the Learning Precinct

In "The New Design Partnership" (Teacher Magazine, Australian Council for Educational Research, December 2008) architect HamiltonWilson discusses the design of flexible learning spaces at Queensland universities and schools. He criticises traditional learning spaces which assume that pedagogy was exclusively in a didactic mode (that is teachers talking at students). In reality there is a need to support collaborative work much of the time. He discusses the way learning modes can be switched at the Collaborative Learning and Teaching Centre at University of Queensland by electronic screens and lighting.

The library is moving from an individual pursuit to one with some coursework. The new Balnaves Foundation Multimedia Learning Centre at Bond University is given as an example of this (hopefully the building is more functional than the clumsy name). A large art gallery space was converted into a series of subtly defined study spaces using furniture and technology. A third example given is a new Integrated Learning Centre being built at Brisbane Grammar School.

One point the article doesn't make is about the relative costs of these new learning spaces versus traditional classrooms. The new designs tend to take more floorspace and require more expensive technology. The cost of computers and interactive whiteboards is dropping. Also if the flexible spaces are used to replace classrooms, the costs should be comparable. However, administrators need to keep in mind that unless carefully planned the cost to maintain the Learning Precinct could be much higher than traditional classrooms and libraries. The learning technology and high technology fit out can require frequent maintenance, technology upgrades and be subject to frequent failures, disrupting classes.

ps: This positing was prepared at the Tuggeranong Library. This is both a public library and and part of the Lake Tuggeranong College and is an excellent example of efficient use of learning resources.

No comments: