Are you a school looking to transform your learning spaces?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Each week, Mark Hubbard Paragon’s President, will be posting a 2-minute vlog that aims to help K-12 schools create environments that foster active learning and enable it to flourish.  We are calling the vlog series, “Transforming K-12 Learning Spaces”.

This week’s vlog is about Collaborative Learning.  Watch now, and tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Come back next week when Mark discusses Sensory Ergonomics.

In this week’s transforming K-12 learning spaces vlog, Mark Hubbard shares some tips on redesigning your school library.

As the purpose and function of school libraries evolves, transforming the physical space to accomodate these changes becomes imperative.

With some thoughtful planning and a touch of creativity, you can design vibrant, 21st century library spaces that serve as a central hub for digital teaching, learning and research in your school.

Let us know what you thought about this post in the comments section below and please share new topic ideas.

Next week’s topic is about Maker Spaces. We’ll discuss how to create a maker space in your school.

Thank you for joining this week, and thank you for supporting Paragon Furniture.

In this week’s transforming K12 learning spaces vlog we will continue to explore how learning space design affects student success, but this week we will put the emphasis on design elements such as color and texture.

How the elements in our environment affect us emotionally is referred to as “sensory ergonomics,” and it’s just as important as physical comfort.

Factors such as color and texture can affect a student’s mood significantly, and decades of research suggest this can influence a student’s ability to focus or succeed.

Next week’s topic is about Redesigning School Libraries. Mark will discuss how to transform traditional school libraries into vibrant 21st century learning centers.

Thank you for joining this week and as always, thank you for supporting Paragon Furniture.

When you are designing a maker space, you’ll want to make sure the space promotes creativity and collaboration. You can encourage both of these traits through the design of the space itself. How do you do that? Watch this week’s vlog post entitled, “How Do You Create A Maker Space In Your School” by Mark Hubbard.

There are so many classroom seating options out on the market today – recognizing what to look for will certainly help narrow the search.

This week Mark Hubbard discusses what to look for in K12 student seating.

Thank you for watching.

You can have really powerful experiences with kids and not spend a lot of money on your maker space.

Watch Mark this week as he discuss, “Tips for Equipping a Maker Space on a Budget”.

And thanks to Convergence Design Lab for allowing Paragon® to showcase one of their maker spaces in this vlog post.

Check out the Digital Atelier @ Tilden High School and see how Convergence Design Lab designed the space to advance STEAM literacies and interest-powered learning!

Making the shift to active learning can be a big transition for many teachers, especially if they have been lecturing for their whole careers.

For one thing, it involves giving up some degree of control over their classroom and transferring ownership of the learning process to the students themselves—and this shift can be accompanied by a profound sense of loss.

Teachers with little or no experience in leading active learning strategies might find it somewhat intimidating to try a new teaching style. They may feel anxious about looking vulnerable in front of their students if something goes wrong.

These are legitimate concerns stemming from genuine emotions. Introducing change of any kind often makes people uncomfortable, and when you add in the fact that teachers are performing their jobs in front of an audience every day, that anxiety becomes even more magnified.

Leading a successful transition to active learning requires understanding and addressing the emotional implications of this change for teachers. Here are three important change management strategies that can help K-12 leaders do this effectively.

  • First, Clarify the purpose.  Make sure all staff members understand why you are asking them to make the change, and how it will help them become better educators.When they understand the benefits of doing so, and how active learning can engage students and lead to independent thinking and deeper learning, teachers will be more likely to try it in their classrooms.
  • Next, Provide direction.  When you give teachers a clear road-map for change, and you communicate and support them throughout the process, then you remove some of the barriers that might discourage them from trying—such as anxiety that they won’t know what to do or how to do it.
  • Lastly, Apply pressure and support.  Pressure is anything that makes it harder for teachers to continue doing what they were doing, and it can range from simply asking them to change, to making the new behavior a part of their professional evaluation system. Support would be anything that makes it easier for teachers to try something new, such as bonuses, incentives, training, or even overt permission to take risks without having to be perfect.

In Paragon’s resource guide entitled, “How to Lead Active Learning in Your Schools“, you can read more about making the shift to active learning and how to manage the change with teachers and students.

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Are you looking for a template to follow when designing high-quality maker space experiences? In their book Invent to Learn, authors Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager describe these eight characteristics of a good maker space project:

  • Purpose and relevance. Is the project personally meaningful to students, so they feel invested in it?
  • Time. Have you given students enough time to plan, carry out, test, and revise their work?
  • Complexity. Does the problem require knowledge from multiple subject areas to solve?
  • Intensity. Does the project provide an outlet for students to deeply engage with the material?
  • Connection. Are students collaborating with each other or connecting with powerful ideas and/or experts from around the world to solve a problem?
  • Access. Do students have sufficient access to materials and information to complete their project?
  • Shareability. Does the project provide an opportunity for students to share their work with an authentic audience outside of school?
  • Novelty. Does the project represent a fresh idea? (If you’re assigning the same tasks to students every year, they can simply draw upon prior students’ experiences rather than reaching their own discoveries.)

Redesigning your school library requires rethinking how you want the space to function—and what new roles you would like it to serve.

As technology becomes an increasingly important part of education, and as teaching and learning continue to evolve, how will these shifts affect the use of your library space?

Through the website, the Chicago Architecture Foundation offers a series of design challenges for students. One of the these challenges is to redesign the school library space.

Although this challenge is intended for students, the advice it contains applies equally well to K-12 leaders.

According to DiscoverDesign, here are three key steps to follow in the redesign process.

Gather Information.

You can’t propose a new solution until you have fully assessed your needs.

To do this effectively, you should involve all stakeholders in the process, so you are getting input from multiple perspectives.

Here are some action steps to guide you.

  • Articulate an overarching mission or purpose for your school library. If its purpose used to be proving access to information, what is its purpose today? This could be helping students make sense of the information around them, making sure they know how to find the information they need, or preparing them to be effective digital citizens, to give a few examples.
  • List all the needs you would like your school library to serve. Include every function you can think of that would advance the mission or purpose you have just articulated. Don’t be afraid to be creative or expansive; you’ll have a chance to whittle this list down later. For now, let your only limit be your imagination.
  • List all of the features you like about your existing library setup. Then, consider all the ways your current library is not very well designed or doesn’t meet the needs you outlined in the previous step.
  • Survey or interview students, teachers, and library staff to get their feedback on these questions. What new features or functions would they like to see in their school library? What changes would they make to the current space if they had the chance?
  • Measure the dimensions of your current library. Take photos of the existing space. Consider how many students it should be able to accommodate during a given class period, as well as how many books and additional resources you will need to make space for.
  • Research how other schools have redesigned their library spaces. This guidebook is a good start, but you can also search online and visit neighboring school districts to get additional ideas.

Brainstorm Ideas

Once you have gathered this information, the next step is to think about the implications of your findings. Then, you can begin sketching out some rough ideas for how to approach the space. Here are some suggestions to guide you.

  • Form a design committee that includes students, teachers, library staff, and parents. This will ensure that all stakeholder groups are represented in the design process.
  • Prioritize your needs and goals. Consider which uses of the space are most important to you. Make separate lists for the functions that are non-negotiable, those you’d like to accommodate if you can fit them into your budget, and those you can live without.
  • Think about the design elements that will enable you to meet the goals you’ve deemed most important. For instance, if one of your goals is to make the library an inviting place where students will want to gather, might a café make sense as part of the design? If a goal is to foster creativity and technology skills, should you consider adding a maker space?
  • Identify the design elements you like from libraries in other schools or districts, and consider how you can incorporate those ideas into your own project.
  • Sketch out a rough floor plan of your redesigned library space. Start thinking about where the various design elements you’d like to include might fit.

Develop a solution.

Once you have some rough ideas in mind, you can begin establishing a final plan. At this stage, it might make sense to bring in an architect to help you with your planning. Here is some other advice as well.

  • As you’re designing the space, consider what types of furniture would be most appropriate, based on how you envision the space will be used. Also, consider what kinds of media you will need, such as large screen monitors or interactive whiteboards, “huddle stations” to support collaboration, or video conferencing equipment.
  • Think about the role that lighting plays in the space, and how you can bring more natural lighting to bear.
  • As you are drafting your plans, consider what kind of budget you have and how this might impact the final design.
  • Run your initial ideas by students and staff for their approval. Ask for their input, and incorporate this feedback into the final design process.

When you are designing a maker space, you’ll want to make sure the space promotes creativity and collaboration. You can encourage both of those traits through the design of the space itself. Here are some ideas to guide you.

  • Ask students what they want. Giving students a voice in the design of the space can inspire their ingenuity.
  • Build flexibility into the design of the space. Use furniture that can be arranged easily in many different configurations to promote different kinds of student groupings and activities.
  • Take inspiration from the “stations” approach to classroom design that is common in elementary schools. Consider creating separate areas for different kinds of activities, and equip each area as appropriate.
  • Include open, informal spaces for students to gather together, brainstorm and bounce ideas off one other. Soft seating options can make the space comfortable and inviting for students to congregate.

Let Paragon Furniture help you design the space itself using our MAKER FARM™ Series Tables and Boards. Contact us today at 800.451.8546.