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Evolution of the Multidimensional Learning Space Vision

Four years ago, the vision of a Multidimensional Learning Space emerged out of discussions with students and teachers about our digital spaces. Eventually becoming part of a District-wide plan Innovation without Restrictions, the multidimensional learning space along with a movement towards mobile learning and BYOD became the cornerstone of the learning and teaching components of the vision.

Evolution One: A Blended Environment instead of Separate Worlds
The foundation of this vision was to remain focus on the physical space as key and the digital space enhancing it. For this reason, a key was establishing a “reallocation of classroom time for facilitated inquiry, collaboration and creation rooted in constructivism and connectivism” or somewhat like what is today more popularly known as flipping the classroom.

The three spaces that built upon the physical space are the course space, student space, and knowledge commons space. Because of the focus on remaining true to the physical,  the majority of our emphasis was on establishing the course space within Moodle. After all, it served as an easier entry point than the other two spaces.

The problems that emerged with this vision within the first year for me focused on the fracturing of the physical and digital spaces. By treating them separately, we were doing neither justice. The reality is that those lines have blurred and the social phenomenon is something education to extract from the salient points for learning instead of avoid. Embracing and understanding it actually leads to a different view, which is what happened during the first year and the evolution of the vision to this:

There are three key shifts:

  1. The blending of the physical into the three spaces
  2. Knowledge commons shifted to learning commons
  3. The intersection and edges in and between spaces: blended, formal, and informal learning

When we stopped thinking in terms of physical and digital, what began to emerge were discussions that focused purely on learning, teaching, and space deisgn. Our roadmaps for individualized professional development emerged. Our discussions evolved to learning focused including the move away from “knowledge commons” to “learning commons”. A subtle but important shift. It elevated the importance of space design regardless of physical or digital. The result being the IDEA. We also started to focus on formal and informal learning, blended learning, and edges. This allowed for a three tiered PD program to emerge.

This has and continues to serve us well but there remains a critical piece missing. The digital piece to the learning commons. For me, it is a critical gap and we’ve not been able to fill it with a social networking tool of any value. Yes, we’ve discussed Facebook but the discussions with students, teachers, parents and administrators always left us with no solid answer.

So, this is where I’ve seen it needing to go…

Evolution Two: An Ecosystem

The shifts here are noticeable and represent a rethinking of how we approach learning and teaching. It is a shift away from teachers deliver and student receive to a peer to peer, passion driven environment where our collective and individual expertise benefits everyone as learners. It is where roles blend and hierarchies flatten so learners acquire and mold their learning from many teachers who are helping direct. Messy, yes. Non-linear, yes. Possible, YES!

As it takes shape, I envision it looking more like this instead of the balanced, highly structured model in the early versions.

The intersections are left undefined except for the original ones. Why? I’m not sure we can fully define those or even if it is worth defining.. But, there are keys to this shift:

  1. Ebb and flow of the spaces instead of static, formulaic, and balanced spaces
  2. The addition of a social networking component for our learning commons space
  3. The rethinking of the CMS/LMS model as the foundation (more to come but snippet here)
  4. Play space has been added. This is a critical shift if we believe in passion-based learning and exploration
  5. The original three spaces are much smaller in space on their own representing the importance of them being how they ebb and flow into the others.
  6. Learner and learning focused not teachers and teaching
  7. Passion, Engagement, Connected, Creativity, Networks, Genius, and Relationship focus
  8. Attentive to the hearts, minds, and interests of our learners and community
  9. Any path, any tool mindset

On a Path

How do we get on this path? How do we create a new narrative and share our story? How to we move beyond what has always been and think bigger than anyone thinks possible? How do we avoid complacency that easily grounds us to the original model with this and with other things? How to we look at our learners and say you have something much more than this so we are striving to unlock the real potential not the artificial ones that “land us”?

These are the questions we must address as leaders or we will die in complacency.

  1. Michael Wacker07-19-2011

    I really like the visuals you’ve provided here Ryan. I especially like the introoduction of “play” space.
    I think to trigger and connect the formal and informal there needs to be a sense of community and trust regardless of whether that takes place blended f2f and social or fullly online.
    This http://www.ryanbretag.com/blog/?p=2421 post leads me to believe that while the Moodle or (course space) is relevant as a storage mechanism, eventually it will be outdated unless integration points are tight and seamless with Gplus /Google Apps.
    Thanks for this.
    I think we’re on the same page with what’s possible in these spaces. I keep coming back to the question, “What does our online learning space design say about our methodologies, philosophy and vision?”

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