Thursday, 28 May 2015

Reflections from the CEFPI National Conference

Earlier this week I attended the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) annual Australasia Regional Conference in Canberra. This conference primarily caught my attention because of Inaburra School's plans to embark on a major building project later this year; this conference brings together educators, designers, trade providers and educational administrators from across the region. My goal was to swap ideas, visit a number of schools, learn from the range of presenters, and reflect on our plans in light of wider trends and perspectives.

For all the inconvenience of being away from work (and home) for three days, it was time well spent. It will take some time to sift through my thoughts, photos and notes, but here are some initial observations:

  • We need to provide maker-space in our school. I visited the Ian Potter Foundation Technology Learning Centre (which is a facility of Questacon) and had the opportunity to take part in a maker workshop. It was engaging, stimulating and challenging and I think the learning opportunities arising from this sort of dedicated space are wonderful!
Maker space at the Ian Potter Foundation Technology Learning Centre
  • Teachers need to see themselves as designers of learning experiences. This is a more helpful metaphor/image than many others. It is certainly better than child-minders, activity-providers, lesson-planners, curriculum-deliverers, social-workers, report-writers ... (although we do all these and more). Ultimately, we are designers of learning! Ewan McIntosh was the stand-out keynote speaker, urging us to ensure that, in building educational facilities, the design process includes both learning space and learning process. As in all good design, ensure that you understand the problem, engage in low-bet quick-and-dirty prototyping, and maintain an open and provisional stance to what you find.
  • A helpful way to conceive of the spaces in a school is to think of the seven spaces for learning. these are: secret spaces, group spaces, publishing spaces, performing spaces, participation spaces, data spaces and watching spaces.
  • While teachers can teach under a tree and it is near impossible to stop a child from learning, some learning spaces are better than others. Different space and different furnishing can enable or hinder different learning. Some spaces are better for learning than others!
  • When planning to incorporate new spaces into the life of the school, process is everything! Those who will use the space must be engaged in the process. 
  • I think we will need to set up a 'war-room' in the near future!
  • I was also reminded that Canberra is an inescapably political place!

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