School Building Design

With our new building about to take place I’ve made this little spot to collate some thoughts on building design.

Have a look at Dandenong High on the 7.30 Report.

The APPA website has some fantastic resources.

ABC‘s By Design is also very informative.

Details of the extension to Sydney’s Giant Steps school: for children with autism, designed by Mury Architects
Photographs: Brett Boardman courtesy of Mury Architects.

Should we include workstations that students stand at?


Heppell has had quite an effect on the shape of learning in my classroom. Here is a neat little of example of layout ideas grounded in a pedagogical framework.

Particularly their show an a school designed for kids doing life with autism.

FutureLab is yet another example of the Britts taking this issue seriously.

This is the department of Education in (Victoria Australia) page on school design.

I’ve just been listening to Futurelabs Dr. Tim Rudd on building design. Once again, I’ve very impressed on the content – though he was not very concise in his delivery. Following is a slide I’ve lifted from his presentation which I think is most particularly relevant for our school at this time.


Responsiveness – short term changes
–Agility – e.g. environmental
–Flexibility – e.g. Moveable structures, furniture
–Adaptability – semi permanent but changeable
Diversity- providing variety of space types and sizes – responding to pedagogy/learning styles
Fluidity – how environment on the whole flows and whether spaces are organised in an integrated and blended way.
Open ended design – design incomplete – allow final shape of school to evolve by use. Over design – locks learning in
Reconfiguration – constant change and re-programming

The notion of reconfiguration I find very interesting – and most importantly, the idea of ‘co-design’ ie: ask the kids what they want.
Imagine a grid of 9 one foot squares laid into the ground like a phone pad.
Each square when stepped on makes a sound. It could be middle ‘C’ for example.
Kids then jump on the squares and make a tune – working together or individually or accompanied with other instruments.
Imagine if kids could program whatever sound the squares produced, three with nouns they’ve recorded, three with
verbs and three with adjectives.
Numbers could be used. The squares could even be of a material that represents the words (not a touch screen – a toe screen).

This is an example of kids designing their learning space and even the learning that happens. Actually, I’m sure there would be some sort of touch screen computer with a program like this already if not a “toe screen” setup too.

Here is the live presentation. – If you read the PowerPoint first, you’ll get more out of it.
Here is the PowerPoint.
Have a look at the list of videos from Futurelabs. There is some stunning and thought provoking ideas there.
Interestingly, the thought of Personalised Learning (PL) dominates as a reaction to the horrors of standardised learning.

Merely an evolution of a “Taylorist” world view, PL could easily become dressed up as a “Red X” or “Six Sigma” (building on the Fordist conveyor belt theme) Tayloristic
problem solving technique that appears to be grounded in the agency of the learner but is just an epistemological tool for the Structure.
What is missing in all of the discourse thus far is the notion of school design and pedagogy being grounded in the notion of LEARNER ADVOCACY.
This is built on the International Council of Nurses idea of the definition of nursing including patient advocacy.
I am suggesting a deliberate move away from a systems approach to school design, administration and pedagogy – and a strategic connection to the idea of experiencing teaching and learning as the ecological affordance of a relationship between learners and learners’ advocates.

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