The IDEA, A 21st Century Learning Space

The Innovation, Discovery, and Engagement Area (I.D.E.A) of Glenbrook North High School is a 21st Century learning space designed for all learners. Designed to foster a community of scholarly exchange and a culture of interdisciplinary connections, the I.D.E.A. provides multiple opportunities for learning and professional development.

The intent of the I.D.E.A is to provide a 21st Century habitat for the development of 21st Century habits. The space, located adjacent to the school library, provides adaptable, customizable, and flexible spaces that support both formal and informal experiences for learning, with scheduled professional development, as well as opportunities for just-in-time learning. Spaces such as a “Thought Lounge” encourage creativity and innovation, and opportunities for reflection in a “think tank” atmosphere.

A “New Media Literacies” production area, capable of supporting high-end media development, is available to both students and teachers, with the intent of fostering interaction and collaboration between the two groups in an effort to blur traditional roles and relationships in order to create a school of learners.

Technologies embedded in the space focus on the capture and distribution of learning events, as well as the ability to connect to any location around the globe. This helps facilitate a digital version of the I.D.E.A. that model learning independent of time, space, place, and device. An open wireless network and open device policy encourage users to bring and utilize personal technologies for learning. Finally, the goals of the space are enhanced by a realization that all surfaces can serve and contribute to learning, so that creative uses of walls, carpeting, windows, and even support pillars extend the learning experience.

The I.D.E.A is designed to be an open and visible space for all learners, with multiple entry points for participation. It is intended to be a magnet for learners and learning, and is quickly becoming a place where self-directed learning and diverse learning modalities are accepted, encouraged, and are integral components of the Glenbrook North experience. Rooted in research on space design, learning theory, motivation theory, and learner traits, the I.D.E.A. brings together all learners in a social learning space designed with intent.

Space Design Summary

The Innovation, Discovery, and Engagement Area is a 21st Century learning space designed for all learners and independent of artificial barriers. Designed to foster a community of scholarly exchange and a culture of interdisciplinary connections, the I.D.E.A. provides multiple streams of learning and professional development centered on three core values:

  1. Multidimensional Learning and Teaching
  2. 21st Century Skills, Habits, Experiences, and Dispositions
  3. Just-in Time Support and Learning Streams

Space Goals and Targets

  • The development of 21st Century Habitats for 21st Century Habits
  • Foster Design Thinking and New Media Literacies Development
  • Provide Formal Professional Development Offerings
  • Enhance Instructional Design and Curriculum Infusion
  • Prioritize Faculty Support, Resource Development, & Informal Learning
  • Develop Global Collaboration and Conferencing
  • Encourage Collaboration and Engaged Learning utilizing a Thought Lounge and Think-Tank Opportunities
  • Promote Innovation, Research, and Development
  • Build and Grow a Professional Library (Physical and Digital) as part of the Knowledge Commons
  • Create a Student Instructional Support Team
  • Model Learning Spaces

Design and Guiding Principles

  • Space Design Driven by Pedagogy, Learning Theory, and Motivation Theory
  • Adaptable, Customizable, and Flexible
  • Engaging and Inviting
  • Technology-Enabled and Mobile
  • Encourage Non-Linear Thinking and Brainstorming
  • Foster Self-directed Learning and Diverse Learning Modalities
  • Multi-Dimensional Learning Space
  • Open, Visible Space with Multiple Entry Points to Participation
  • Magnetism
  • Collaboration, Community and Social Constructivism
  • Challenges and Changes Current Mindsets
  • Encourage Innovation, Habits of Mind, and Play
  • Learning Capture
  • New Media Literacies and Design Structure

Design principles are based upon Educause Learning Space Design Research (much of the above cited and adapted from their work on Learning Spaces), Apple 21st Century Learning Space, Coffeehouses (Caribou in particular), Google Design Team, and the International Society for Technology in Education Learning Space Research.


I’m excited to be presenting at TCEA for the first time and getting to see the Innovation, Discovery, and Engagement Area (IDEA)rebuilt at the conference. It is a great honor for Glenbrook North High School and the work done to create this space for all learners, students and staff.


    • @ryanbretag truly interesting stuff in that post. From whom did the idea originate?

      • @pjhiggins 4 years ago, I sat w my principal (now supt) & we said a PD space for all learners is needed. We started designing & researching

        • @ryanbretag @pjhiggins Video tells the story of your learning spaces& what your vision is This is inspiring & I plan to share w my Supt

          • @roblyons @pjhiggins I greatly appreciate those thoughts. That is the best compliment we can get about the space

          • @ryanbretag @pjhiggins While we’re closing in open spaces 2 create more labs you’re creating thoughtfully planned open learning envirnt Nice

      • @pjhiggins this past summer, we brought it to life after much work including an ethnography study I led on learning spaces – great FUN!

      • @pjhiggins but in the end, I firmly believe it was constructed by the entire learning community. Their ideas & needs are everywhere in it.

  1. Mr. Bretag! I was so excited to see a post about the IDEA come up on my Reader 🙂 As you know, I absolutely love the IDEA and frequent the space regularly. As a student who has the privilege of using the IDEA I can definitely attest to the fact that the IDEA achieves the goals you mentioned and provides a unique, engaging learning environment. Above all else, I think the IDEA is incredible because it is so versatile. I come in there to blog, have meetings, collaborate with the Torch Editorial Board, and get tech. help. I absolutely adore the IDEA and it is certainly one thing I will miss most about GBN when I graduate. For any other schools or teachers looking at some of the concepts behind the idea, as a learner who uses it I must say I highly recommend this for any school!



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