Sunday, December 20, 2015

Classroom Inspiration & Transformation. Your #InspiringSpaces!

Over the past 4 weeks, we've challenged you to share your inspiring learning spaces on Twitter and we're so happy to have seen all the entries come in! We gathered the entries in a G+ Collection for easy viewing - take a peek here

And while it was SO hard to only choose 4 winners, we asked each one to share a bit about their journey with inspiring learning spaces below: 

Simon Ashby - Hampden Street School, New Zealand 

I was wandering around my class listening to students, motivating etc. and came across a student who said, "I'm stuck, I don't know what to write about..." a fairly typical situation.
A thought came into my head, well, why not take a walk and think about it I said.
Then another spark flickered, why not take your walk inside the classroom-it was a fairly cold and grey day...
So I grabbed my masking tape and marked it out on the carpet in our shared (5 classes) breakout space. The first student tried it out, complete with thinking-man type facial features (finger and thumb to the chin), and after about 5 minutes, he said....I've got it!
The rumour quickly spread that this was a great place to get ideas...and thus it has become popular to use.
An afterthought....try and keep it to one student on the road at a time, otherwise they tend to create an F1 bumper car style race!

Lori Franzen - Los Alamitos High School, CA

My students and I wanted to create a warm, welcoming space for teens. We wanted a space which would invite lingering discussion as well as open new topics.
We decided to paint the ceiling tiles with the covers of our favorite books. I took the ceiling tiles down, sent them home with kids, and trusted the students would return something wonderful.....and they did!
My Thanatology class wanted to open to all students the types of conversations we had daily in class; they found Candy Chang's TED talk on her Before I Die project. The students replicated the Before I Die wall in the back of my classroom and the students still write on it every single day.
My #inspiringspace has become a gathering space and touchstone for students across campus. My room is FULL of students (many of whom I don't have in class) all day long. In truth, their presence is what inspires ME.

Nvyette and Kevin - The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA

When we first moved into the classroom a few years ago, we were intentional about making the space more student-friendly. We decided to get rid of the two clunky teacher desks in order to maximize our corner spaces. In the photo, you see our reading nook. We asked a relative who works in contracting to build the bench and purchased patio pillows to soften it up. We also added a neutral color rug and wicker baskets to house our classroom library. The bean bags add additional flexible and comfortable seating options. Instead of adding another bulletin board to display our word wall, we framed out a square area with thin molding and used twine to divide it up. Students gravitate to the reading nook - it's a great collaborative space for partner and small group work.

Michael Morrison - Laguna Beach USD

Michael wowed us with his many #inspiringspaces Tweets - including this inspiring space for teacher training and classrooms with HUE lighting. He also shared some videos of teachers describing their spaces.
Here's an article he wrote about his school district's journey with inspiring learning spaces.

Thank you to everyone that participated in the Challenge and to our friends at Smith System who donated their inspiring furniture as prizes! Don't forget to check out the Collection and to keep sharing your spaces with us online!

Monday, December 14, 2015

No Internet? No Problem. 10 Ways to Use Google Offline!

Heading into an Internet dead-zone over the holidays? Have no fear! There are many things you can do with Google without connecting to the World Wide Web.

  1. Chrome Offline Gmail App
  2. Using Maps without a Connection 
    Save a copy on Apple devices and on Android 
  3. Files Accessible Offline
  4. Play a Game! Just use the spacebar to start after losing connection.
  5. Listen to Music
  6. Chrome Calendar App
  7. Plan for When You're Offline Permanently 
    Choose what happens when you can no longer use your account: 
  8. Preload Documents
  9. Access Documents Offline on Mobile 
    Open the document > Settings > Keep Offline 
  10. Find Chrome Offline-Capable Apps
Did you know EdTechTeam does a 1:1 with Chromebook Workshop? Visit for more info.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Digital Learning Spaces: A Multidimensional Approach

Part 4: Digital Learning Spaces

David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

Many schools have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, a 1:1 program that provides students with a device and a new level of connectivity to resources, people and ideas. As expected, such capacity is disruptive to the ways in which education has operated for decades, and these programs directly challenge schools not only to rethink how students learn, but where they learn.

New connective technologies for every student means that learning in the physical spaces of school has the opportunity to change and that this enhanced capacity should encourage the development of additional spaces for learning - specifically, dedicated digital spaces for learning. By using these new technologies to create such spaces, schools can create more expansive conditions for where kids can learn, effectively enlarging those conditions to include a mixture of spaces that can support learning in the typical physical classroom, online, and in a blend of both spaces.

This larger ecology of learning spaces can look different for every school, but the time has come for schools to develop serious online locations for learning. Certainly, a thoughtful approach for developing digital spaces could include locations for teachers (Google Classroom) and for students (Google Apps for Education) that provide both with a range of tools that support teaching and learning. Additionally, and beyond “school-owned” digital spaces, schools must negotiate and find value (and acceptance) in the social spaces that students already inhabit. A mixture of school-supported spaces, coupled with student-selected spaces, can create a compelling mix that can support interesting learning connections.

Blending a two-part digital space (teacher and student) with the traditional physical spaces of schools can create a multidimensional approach to how spaces are used for learning, and creates the conditions for a new contemporary spatial landscape. Forward-thinking schools will realize that using devices just to connect to the Web is not enough, but connecting students to intentionally designed digital spaces that provide students with a broader learning experience will be essential in creating relevant and inspiring schools.

Join the Challenge!

Check out the #InspiringSpaces on Twitter for learning spaces ideas from around the globe! We're giving away furniture from Smith System through December 11th so share a picture of your inspiring learning spaces for a chance to win!

Week 1 Challenge Winner: Simon's Thinking Road!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The New Classroom: Dynamic and Inspiring

Part 3: The New Classroom
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

The fundamental spatial unit of learning is a classroom. But that is shifting. With the emergence of technology, and the rise of global connectivity, how people learn and where they learn is rapidly shifting.

No one should discount the importance of a location like a classroom. Such a space honors the timeless value of the interactions between student and caring adult. Such a space remains relevant because that’s where kids are located.

But it’s time to change what that space looks like and how it supports learning. Are rows of desks, a dedicated front of classroom, with a teacher desk and posters on the wall something that inspires today’s student?

The first step in redesigning the classroom is to discard the notion it has to be a “classroom". Re-crafting spaces into contemporary learning spaces can mean many things. The identification of the desired student learning experience is essential in that process, and it should come first, but what schools do with furniture, with wall finishes, with technology, lighting and floors is indeed important.

The new classroom is most likely highly flexible and agile. Flexibility relates to the ability to reshape the space; agility refers to the speed at which that can be done. Both concepts considered together create the characteristic of adaptability and the classrooms capability to shift and support a shifting expectation for learning over time, perhaps over a decade or longer. The new classroom is also interconnected with digital spaces that support learning in physical classroom spaces, but can also serve as their own learning venue. There is no doubt that inspiring spaces for learning include both physical and digital spaces for learning and employ student technology devices as the conduit between the two.

How schools help teachers see how these new spaces can support learning is an important question. Spatial change guarantees only that students will sit in more comfortable furniture. Obviously, there is much more than that at stake. Schools must work with teachers to understand how that change can support a new vision for learning as specified by the expectations for the student experience. Schools should provide professional learning opportunities for teachers to help them understand how to use new spaces in their roles as designers of experience.

It’s time to change the image of the traditional classroom. It’s time for a new tradition, one built on creating dynamic and inspiring spaces that are relevant to today’s student and that support a new and contemporary learning experience.

Are you up for the #InspiringSpaces Challenge? 

We want to see the great spaces you've designed for your students! 

Enter the challenge for a chance to win awesome prizes from our friends at Smith System each Friday through December 11th! Visit for all the details. 

Follow #InspiringSpaces on Twitter and G+ to see what your fellow educators across the world see as compelling and inspirational spaces. We hope that what you see will provide ideas, resources, and support your interest in what learning spaces can mean for students.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Experience, Not Things: Design an #InspiringSpace by Defining the Student Experience

Part 2: Defining the Student Experience
David Jakes
EdTechTeam's Director of Learning Spaces
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

The design of inspiring spaces for learning begins with identifying the student learning experience that you want students to have.  

Have you asked this: What do you want your kids to experience? What constitutes an inspiring experience? If so, then you are ready to go with designing spaces that support that. If not, take the opportunity to craft a set of expectations for learners that defines what kids will do in school.

Developing inspiring spaces is not about technology, it's not about chairs or tables on wheels, it's not about whiteboards, beanbags or other things. It’s about creating the vision for the student experience first. All that “stuff” comes later.

When really good designers create spaces, they ask about the wants and needs of students for their learning. It’s a deep dive beyond the mission and the vision of the school. It’s about looking at learning from multiple angles and perspectives and developing a community-based understanding of a set of ideas that identify what kids should experience as learners.

For example: In this school, students will have the opportunity to engage in learning experiences as an individual and as part of a collaborative team.

Or: In this school, students will have the opportunity to determine how they represent their understanding as well as what tools they will use to do this.

Doing this first captures a set of statements that can set the stage for an inspiring experience that takes place in an inspiring space.

By defining learning like this, the school has effectively created the conditions required for the design of space. If the experience is ___, then the spaces have to be ___ . Creating these expectations for learning first ensures that informed decisions about the “things” of the classroom can be made and that those decisions intentionally guide spatial design.

These decisions can then suggest furniture, colors, lighting, floors, technology - all the stuff that goes into a composition capable of manifesting the experience.

Everyone knows what a classroom looks like. Everyone knows what a library and a school looks like. The true question is not what those spaces look like now, but how can they be intentionally designed to support a new condition for learning based on what you believe that to be.

Try one of these tips to create an #InspiringSpace for your students!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Inspiring Spaces and 10 Ways YOU Can Create One!

Part 1: An Introduction into Inspiring
David Jakes is the Director of Learning Spaces for EdTechTeam and leads the Learning Space Design Studio. The Studio, created to support schools in developing compelling and engaging learning environments, is the most recent addition to the comprehensive services offered by EdTechTeam.

How do you inspire your students? That’s an important question for every educator to contemplate and answer. What invitation into learning do you offer, and how can learning spaces be a part of that invitation?

Does your classroom invite learners into an inspiring experience? As they cross the threshold into the classroom, what does the classroom itself say about learning? How does it cue the learner to the expectations for learning and the student experience about to occur?

Inspiring spaces can look different to different people, but such a space can take kids somewhere new, somewhere magical even, where it is possible to be immersed in the wonder and curiosity associated with meaningful and joyful learning.
Inspiring spaces empower, engage and create the conditions for learning. Simply stated, inspiring spaces can help make kids better learners.

For teachers, spaces that inspire can be part of a palette that they use to design experiences for learners. Imagine what teachers could create for learners if they had a space that was agile, flexible and could be reshaped on demand? How would that shift what school would look like? How would that reshape the experience for students?

We've compiled 10 tips for creating inspiring spaces for your students today.

Have you used any of these tips and tricks in your classroom? Stay tuned for a special call-to-action for a chance to win sweet prizes next week... and check back here for parts 2 and 3 of our Inspiring Spaces series on the blog.