Hillbrook School, an independent, coeducational JK-8 day school in the heart of Silicon Valley, is leaping straight into the fray of mobile learning.

A Space Revolution –
What we’ve learned from the iLab

Posted on July 13, 2013 by Don Orth under iLab now
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The iLab project was recognized as an opportunity to collect evidence to answer the question – does an agile space work? The Human Environmental Research Organization was enlisted to help collect, analyze and interpret evidence.

The collected evidence falls into three broad categories:

  1. Anecdotal evidence: Informal information in the form of stories, photos, recordings, observations and direct personal experiences. Anecdotal evidence is largely qualitative.
  2. Ethnographic evidence: Expands on anecdotes, employing in-person observations, photographs and videos, structured interviews, survey questionnaires, focus groups and similar tools. Ethnography seeks to capture everyday behavior in context. Ethnographic evidence is a combination of qualitative and qualitative.
  3. Empirical evidence: Results from a more structured, data intensive approach to collecting information. One begins with a specific question (hypothesis). Answering this question almost always involves a form of comparison: for example between similar groups under different conditions, or comparing something before and after a planned change. Empirical evidence is quantitative.

Over the course of the research project, a wide variety of information, observations and evidence has been collected. Most of the evidence is qualitative, meaning analysis and interpretation rely more on patterns of behavior illustrated by examples rather than on numbers and statistical analyses.

iLab configurations

The Findings:

  1. Agility is more than simply flexibility. It is purposeful adaptation to present need. Highly agile spaces are nimble and can be purposefully novel to spark creativity and risk taking within a safe space facilitating exploration and learning.
  2. Traditional classrooms are designed around a more structured model (of both space and time) encouraging students to stay on task and commit to a more linear process. Highly agile spaces like the iLab afford a wider variety of teaching and learning styles and behaviors. Both settings are important and each demonstrates strengths depending on the activity, material and learning styles.
  3. Students in highly agile learning spaces engage in more exploration, mobility and movement than those in traditional, static learning spaces.
  4. Permission and ability to interact with and manipulate the physical environment leads to more energy and engagement.
  5. Teachers’ roles change when students are given responsibility and permission to manipulate the physical environment. Teachers describe this changed role as being more like a coach, referee or guide, than the traditional ‘sage on the stage’.
  6. The frequency and amplitude of motion (both macro and micro movement) is greater and different (i.e. more purposeful rather than “fidgeting”) in a highly agile learning space when compared to a traditional, less agile, more structured learning space.
  7. Movement is an integral part of learning. Beyond kinesthetic learning, movement engages the physical with the cognitive.
  8. By affording manipulation of the physical environment, the iLab encourages students and teachers to engage both physical space and the cognitive “problem space” as part of an integrated whole.
    1. An important element of the iLab is how it is used outside of normal classroom periods.
    2. Students use it in both formal and informal ways outside of class (e.g. study + play).

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