Are schools efficient enough with learning? [#domoreedu]


“For serendipty to happen it has to be engineered; everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing at the same time”

This notion was discussed, and it was tabled that physical space and organisation could allow this. Given that many people are saying serendipity is very difficult to achieve in large secondary schools, should we carve them up into smaller school?

Ewan suggested that this could simply create a big school with ‘lots of chiefs’.

I wonder what it is about small schools which allow this kind of thing to happen. Relating back to the quote above, is it the communication between learners and teachers which allow this to happen? If so technology could play a part. Every Wednesday I see twitter sparking as a lecture on ‘Vision and Values’ happens in the theatre below my office. I can tap in to that, see what they are doing and then alter the sessions I am planning while sat at my desk as a result.

We moved on to physical space. Ewan mentioned the book ‘The Third Teacher‘, which says that the space is a huge part of the learning. It can, but sometimes old style learning can happen in new style spaces- what it is about is redesigning the learning at the same time.

Sometimes this is about not making decisions too early, and seeing how the space evolves over time. 

We heard some great examples, but were challenged to think what we would do to make these kinds of ideas work when we are stuck with a building that has just been built, but is not designed to support these needs. 

Chris Poole was dismayed that we are still not learning from mistakes in school space design that he has been seeing for years. One of the most important for these is people not looking at where they want to be as an organisation and tracking back from there as to what they should be doing now to make that happen. The schools he works with who make this work have a ‘strong educational vision’, they then look for input outside of schools in places like shopping malls and airports; spaces where innovation has been happening. 

What are the ingredients of an airport lounge that could make a good space for learning?

Paul Hutson spoke about flexibility of space, perhaps having more students but in a space with more flow. Tony Wilson felt that even in large spaces, focused conversations could happen. Just as we are concentrating on a small debate in a trade show, the busy atmosphere can actually facilitate an anonymity. I felt that high production values that show that the space is important and maintained give the message that the activities happening in them are important and valuable to the community. David Rogers warned that it is dangerous to wait for new spaces, and we need to be innovative with what have got; even when we do eventualyl get new spaces it won’t solve all our problems.

“Airport lounges are respectful of the needs of travellers. Most schools are not very respectful of the needs of students.”

Most of the products at the BETT show are designed for young users, but to be sold to people our age. Will that produce the best products (or spaces) for learning?

The twitter discussion brought up the notion of trust; how can we show that we trust our learners in the spaces we provide for them?


If the physical space is the third teacher, what about the second teacher? The discussion then moved on to parents, and how we can involve them and put less walls around the learning happening in schools. 

Many schools set up learning cafes where parents can come into school, but how can we make sure parents who can’t physically get into school can get involved? Paul shared an example of how online blogging of work from school can make parents feel confident about what is going on in school, and actually make them feel better about coming in to school. Communicating online can break down that barrier they may feel and make them more comfortable about approaching people in schools.

Steve Philp (from a train hurtling away from us) tabled that maybe space is a red herring, and it it really about relationships. I think he has a point, but space and technology help to facilitate those relationships. It is much harder to build up one to one relationships in a small room with thirty children shoehorned into it, although not impossible. What all this technology and space gives us is structures to facilitate those relationships and scale them.

There was a bit of a discussion of ‘them and us’ with regards to relationships- with a call to acknowledge that for young people some online relationships are as real as face to face. However, a them and us mentatlity is very dangerous, plenty of young people don’t feel like this, plenty of old people do.

Is it more about people being willing to learn? Are our educators really willing to learn?

We then moved on to generate 100 ideas about how we think we could make more time or efficiency in the education system. These were then rated for how new they were, how feasible and how useful.

Ideas were collated on a google doc from the face to face discussion and the twittersphere on a google doc here.


Related posts:

100 ideas: How can we make more time? [#domoreedu]
STAR Moments [#domoreedu]
Getting started with Do More Edu [#domoreedu]


  1. Thinks for this summary Oliver. I’ve had so many ideas from this session I could write 10 blog posts from it. Now – to find the time…!

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Coding across the curriculum - Miles Berry @mberryNicky Morgan: Technology key to reducing teacher workloadFlexible learning space opening at Westfield Junior SchoolLearning to swim - Eylan Ezekiel #wherenext @EylanEzekiel Creating a sustainable education system - Stephen Heppell @stephenheppell #eduict2013Tim Rylands - Back to their future #bett2013

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