I was checking out my blog stats the other day, and I noticed in the Referring URLs section a site that said, http://www.classroom-design.co.uk/ . I was eager to look at it because there are so few sites on my new favourite topic. It turns out that the site belongs to a really great guy named James Clarke.
James once contacted me because of my blog and the post in particular that I wrote about Isis's Stepseat. James is a (real) designer and over the months, we have been picking each other's brains about classroom design. We are like-minded people: James comes to classroom design as a designer first, but with the heart of an educator; whereas I have the mind of an educator with a strong new passion for design. Mainly, we corresponded in broad strokes: things we thought were important, the directions we wanted classroom to move, etc.
James also told me about the wonderful things he had done with his company about getting people to use their spaces and their furniture in meaningful ways. He told me about this one event in particular where they brought in students from his son's school (where James is also a governor) to teach them about the situation in Ireland and the IRA. They used video footage, had guest speakers, and used simulations so the students could understand the deeply complex issues. I was really impressed because they created an environment where not only did the students get the facts, but they also made a personal, emotional connection with their learning. If that isn't 21st Century Learning, I don't know what is.
I also found out, way after James and I started corresponding, that he wrote the Learning Journeys booklet that I enjoyed so much. The document was like a crash course in the big ideas behind classroom design. Now, when I saw that James had his own website, I was really intrigued. So I started to dig around the website, and when I got to the Influences page, I saw the pictures of Heppell and Robinson. "That makes sense," I thought. And then I scrolled down, and saw, well, ME. I thought I might be having one of those weird dreams, so I showed it to my wife and she just started howling with laughter. Nope, that proved I was awake. I showed it to a few of my colleagues at work, and by that time James had updated the photos to the incomplete Mount Rushmore of Classroom Design (Heppell, Robinson, me, and space for someone else), with the photos at the top. My co-workers were awed. Not really the effect I had predicted, as I thought it would give them a good laugh, but it was positive. To be mentioned in the same breath (pixels) as Heppell and Robinson was humbling.
I am trying to talk James into writing a book to help teachers with the interiors of their classrooms. We really need help so that our environments can accommodate our teaching practices. If we really want to inspire students, then we need to change our present, out-dated traditional classooms into incubators of wonder and creativity.