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

Project history

Hillbrook brought iPads into the classroom — and immediately let them go right out of again, as part of its 1:1 24/7  iPad program. Quickly, and almost organically, with the introduction of these instant-on, ever-ready, almost-transparent devices, the flow of the classroom began to shift. Teachers could easily transition from introducing content to enabling individual or collaborative work. Students, conversely, weren’t confined to their desks to take notes or to the board to share. Teaching, and learning, had suddenly become more flexible.

An “aha” moment

It’s a significant breakthrough. One now being followed by an even greater “aha” moment: if iPads altered — and improved — the ways students and teachers learned and taught, than other change factors needed to be considered, too. A natural place to start was the learning environment.

An exciting partnership

So, in partnership with Bretford® and HERO, Inc, (Human Environmental Research Organization) a research and consulting firm, Hillbrook looked to redesign its traditional computer lab and develop an agile, experimental learning space, called the Idea Lab (iLab for short). They emptied out the original room and repopulated it with Bretford® mobile flip top tables, mobile whiteboards, and soft seating chairs. This gave everyone ‘room to move’, and enabled iLab users to build a custom workspace for class, group, or individual work. Students have flowed from class to the iLab as necessary, and the iLab itself has taken on many new configurations.

Initial impact

The iLab has become a perfect environment for collaboration. The initial impact seems to be an increase in creative energy and engagement of students — no small feat. And the staff is energized, too. The foundational idea of the iLab project is that, along with powerful learning tools and great teaching, the learning space is also an education tool. And like any tool, when used appropriately, it supports and delivers enormous benefits. Hillbrook is witnessing first hand that environment does matter, and that technology has an impact on how and where learning happens. “It has an untethering effect, which allows us, if we dare, to rethink what teaching and learning look like,” they report. Hillbrook is leading the way in building a new paradigm for educational spaces, laying the groundwork so other schools might follow.

The next phase

During the 2012 summer break, Bretford® EDU 2.0 furniture will be installed and the iLab space will see complimentary upgrades in flooring and wall colors. Over the fall and winter trimesters of 2012, teachers have planned to conduct identical activities and projects in traditional learning spaces and in the iLab. The research team will collect student outcomes,teacher evaluations and anecdotal and ethnographic evidence will be collected to understand the agility and adaptability of learning spaces, and how spaces can support learning and teaching. Ultimately, the discoveries made here will inform classroom design around the world.