Twenty places to visit in 5 days may seem a lot, but the hectic schedule didn’t deter the 13 school and ECE leaders from New Zealand who travelled to Melbourne on the CORE MLE tour in September. Interest in modern learning environments (MLE) has become a hot topic, and it's been a priviledge to help organise and be a part of the tour. Here's my take on the tour, and I hope it helps inspire others to participate in further MLE events and tours.
Designed as an opportunity for New Zealand educators to experience a range of modern learning environments to help inform their decision making back in New Zealand, the tour included visits to state and private schools and centres, and to new school builds and renovated schools and centres. Participants had the opportunity to speak with principals, teachers, and students about their experiences in these environments, and were accompanied by the architects involved on several of the visits.
In addition to the school visits the group had the opportunity to attend a meeting with at the Department of Education, who briefed us on the background to the new school building programme in Victoria, and were able to ask questions of the programme managers there.
Another highlight was a visit to the Architecture Faculty at the University of Melbourne where we spent a few hours interacting with the members of the team there, who are heading up the learning spaces design project, including Kenn Fisher, whose work is familiar to many involved in thinking about the link between learning space and pedagogy.
While the initial focus of many in the group may have been on looking at the building design, use of space, and furniture, it soon became apparent that it is the emphasis on having a sound pedagogical vision that makes the difference when it comes to how these spaces are used, whether they are new buildings, renovated buildings, or simply creatively used re-locatables!
The ways in which architects had worked with the pedagogical vision of the schools/centres and expectations of their communities was clearly evident in the places we visited. From the Reggio-inspired early years centres to the merged secondary schools in a low socio-economic area of Melboure, the integral link between the architectural design and the pedagogical vision could be seen.
The group was accompanied by Dr Julia Atkin, who shared her knowledge and experience as someone who had been involved in the design process of many of the schools we visited. Greg Carroll and I were also there to help lead the tour.
At the end of each day we spent time debriefing together, capturing thoughts, images, and reflections on the online tour community site. These reflections, together with the hundreds of photographs that were captured and shared, will make a valuable resource for the tour participants as they now work back in their own contexts with staff and communities on the design and building of modern learning environments to meet the needs of their own students.
CORE is planning another tour early in 2014 – details will be available early in term four. If you would like to be a part of our next tour, please contact us and register your interest.
- CORE MLE information
- Modern Learning Environments: Three NZ Case Studies
- Modern Learning Environments: Not ‘any colour as long as it’s black’
- Download: MLE White Paper
- MLE Matrix
- EDtalks MLE channel