Building new spaces, Breaking Down Walls

Classrooms, schedules, subjects, maybe homework, too – they’re all man made inventions for the classroom to produce workers – or, as I see it, walls from the Industrial Revolution type thinking that was once relevant to learners and educators.  These walls need to be torn down, so that we no longer strive to produce regimented workers, but creators. Sal Khan – everybody knows Khan Academy – did just that.

Students can rebuild these walls into spaces of their choosing. What this, really, means to me is that students can’t be forced to learn anything they’re not interested in, although I guess this has always been the case, even pre -Internet. This notion is even stronger, though, today as learners have access to learn about anything they want whenever they want.

learn anytime anywhere

Image from Pixabay

As I try to figure out how to inspire students to rebuild the learning parameters that I’m used to, I should keep in mind key motivators for learners today. One element that could be a key motivator, as cited in Living With New Media, is peer feedback. Learners can mess around and geek out with other people who have the same interests, where the feedback isn’t from an authoritative figure, but from a peer on equal playing level. Peer feedback and comments can be used as much stronger learning tools than red pens from a teacher.

With peer feedback in mind, it’s a good idea to, perhaps, examine just how potent comments and peer feedback can be with learners today.

Also, as an IB educator (my mentor with 16 years of IB experience broke  the IB down into these workable elements: question, criteria, real world problem, interdiscplinary), I’m thinking of how Problem Based Learning can fit into this idea. Also,  as a librarian, how can I put the power of peer feedback  and geeking out – into action. I hope this becomes clearer when we go back to school in August, but for now I see that students need time and space to come together, share, and feedback – digitally and/or physically.

As I’ve studied the first unit in becoming GET certified, I see that the Google Suite offers powerful ways of collaborating, sharing, and presenting in their suite of tools. Opportunities to write, create, analyze, collaborate, etc. It’s all there.

Also, I can see that I can support teachers and students in suggesting tools in collaboration and presentation. It’s easy to suggest tools, though. I’m more interested in bringing problems to students where they can solve together,  instinctively using technology as a tool, or looking for help in using the right technology tool, to solve problems together. Again, I’ll have to try in August when school starts because I haven’t tried in the past, really. It’s also important for me to remember that I can learn from the projects of others, too. The wheel need not be reinvented, as many like to say.

In the immediate future, though, now that I’m taking on a new job, I’d like to develop a mission statement for our library. Keeping in mind that I’d like to embed technology effectively, practically, and authentically, I would like to use a collaboration tool that allows for all library stakeholders to have a voice in the process. To get things going, I was thinking about using a padlet to just let everyone share their thoughts on what libraries mean to them, and then go from there. Or could could something be done on Social media over the course of a few weeks or months?

Closing thoughts: Seems like motivated students are getting most of their useful learning outside the classroom, when geeking out with others and growing/learning through peer feedback. Still, however, and perhaps the most important thing I must remember, there are students who are not as motivated, and they really only might  be messing around or hanging out.  I suppose it might be a good idea to get to know students, and help encourage  the ones who geek out to inspire others to do the same. This tells me, students, while at school, need less walls and more time and space to explore together and learn from each other. Students can try and solve things together probably far greater, if I give them more opportunities, time, and space, rather than subjects, classrooms, and desks.

Do you see walls being torn down in your school?






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9 Responses to Building new spaces, Breaking Down Walls

  1. After reading the title of your blog this week – I really wanted to share this article with you. Last year, I got rid of most of my tables and added couches and bean bags to my classroom. It really was an eye opener to me to see my students in a new setting where they had space to create and explore and less “walls” to their learning. As I continued to read your blog, I see this isn’t totally what you were discussing. Although, I hope you still find it interesting! You shared so many useful links and videos and it inspired a lot of my thinking behind my next post. So thank you! Will you take pictures of your library space when you get it setup? I am interested to see. Our library could also use some revamping, so I would love to share these ideas (or connect you) with our new librarian.

    I also will start my GET training next week. Let’s keep in touch about progress and ideas from our learning.

    To address your final question, “Do you see walls being torn down in your school?” I am not exactly sure the best way to answer. Next year will be my third year at my school and nearly 1/2 of our staff will be new. This has pros and cons as well, but I am looking at it as a really great opportunity. I think that is my biggest takeaway so far from starting the COETAIL program. As I step into a new role, I am able to open the door to other teachers, students and families about learning through the opportunity of peers all over the world. Just keeping up with the COETAIL bloggers I have been able to reflect on my practice and think of so many new ideas for improvements and change. It will be an excellent opportunity for me to inspire others to mess around, geek out, learn and inspire others online. What has been your biggest takeaway so far?

    • Mike Leyland says:

      Wow! Abby, thanks for sharing your blog post – the change of space in your classroom looks fantastic. It must’ve been an awesome experience. Ironically, you quoted Sir Ken Robinson in your blog post, and, really, it was reading his book a few months ago that inspired me to make some professional changes. After reading his book Creative schools, my mind hasn’t been the same. It’s led me to do this course, really.

      Definitely, let’s stay in touch. Thanks! I’ll share my journey in this new role, as time goes along.

      With regards to takeaways from COETAIL thus far, I’m just kinda blown away by a lot of the things I simply don’t think about or don’t know. It’s hard to keep up! I feel really lucky to be part of this network. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Michael, nice thoughts you jotted down on this one.

    It seems there are so many things to thinks about, so much information, so many articles…uf!… it’s a never ending story. As I said in my last post, the more information we have, the less we know.

    Anyway, we always have to move forward and that’s the feeling you passed on to me through your words.

    Loved the resources you added to your post and, like @abbisand said above, gave me a lot of new ideas for my next post. Actually, this subject about the education in Finland is something that I’ve been wanting to explore for a long time.

    Thank you, Michael, and keep up with the good work!

    PS: still can’t figure out how to add links to comments…

    • trying out:

      education in Finland

      yes, got it!

      • Thanks, Dudley. It’s amazing how different the Finnish approach is from the USA. Man, I was reading an article the other day – can’t remember where – and it was showing research that had been done in Early Years Education. Kindergartners were (are) getting tested after NCLB in 2003 (maybe 2004). In Finland, they don’t start school until 7?!? I think kids just get to be kids – explore, learn, and have fun. Why wouldn’t we just adopt their philosophy and approach? What’s to lose?
        Thanks for sharing. A lot to think about.

  3. Ryan Harwood says:

    Great post Mike. You’ve asked a lot of great questions here and hit the nail on the head as far as Google and collaboration. Padlet is also a great tool for collaboration and gathering ideas. I wonder too if something like a Twitter wall displayed on a screen in the library would generate some interest too. There are lots of them out there, but the link is to the only free one I found with a quick search. I’m intrigued with how these tools could be used to help people share ideas as well as generate more. Let me know if you try it out!

    • Mike Leyland says:

      Thanks for sharing the link to a free Twitter wall, Ryan. I might give it a go in a few weeks. Let you know how it goes!

  4. Troy White says:


    I guess your premise of “I’m more interested in bringing problems to students where they can solve together, instinctively using technology as a tool, or looking for help in using the right technology tool, to solve problems together” does indeed follow under the umbrella of being a media specialist- which is exactly what you are getting at with your embedding “technology effectively, practically, and authentically”. I like how you as a librarian are taking a holistic and active role with your student population. We all know that a pro-active librarian who seeks out ways in which he/she can help teachers facilitate content subject learning are extremely appreciated.


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