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MLEs: That’s just a classroom with a beanbag isn’t it?

Started by Tessa Gray 04 Feb 2014 1:46pm () Replies (40)

Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) or flexible learning spaces is a trending influence in our current educational landscape.

So where do we start?

In the following video, Mark Osborne (CORE Education) encourages us to start with the learning and ask ourselves,

What is my vision for learning, what is my school’s vision for learning?


Considering modern learning environments from EDtalks on Vimeo.

When considering Modern Learning Environments, Mark also invites us to consider, what we know about the brain and how we/our students learn best and to ask, how can we create learning spaces/environments that enable different learning processes to become rich, real and relevant for our learners?

Mark Osborne and Derek Wenmoth (CORE Education) have gone one step further and created a MLE matrix for educators to consider when visioning, planning and implementing Modern Learning Environments. The MLE matrix is a self-review tool with questions designed to ignite some clarity around dimensions, such as educative purpose, learner focus – right through to infrastructure, furniture and funding.

Still thinking about where to start? 

A couple of educators have recently tweeted the same sentiments. In response to this, Marnel van der Spuy has started this shared Google presentation and invites anyone with a perspective about Modern Learning Environments (in the junior school) to add their ideas, experiences, resources here. Please feel free to jump in Smile



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  • Cathiesten (View all users posts) 04 Feb 2014 9:51pm ()

    Just started thinking about moden learning environments and have alterations planned for our aged classrooms.  Have begun by de cluttering and using working walls and making room spaces more open aby using available space as teaching spaces, even the corners! Information from Ewan Macintosh's site Notosh, and their 'lab' link to get ideas.  It' s a start. http://notosh.com/lab/learning-space-2-de-clutter-to-let-learning-get-messy/

  • Wrong Account (View all users posts) 05 May 2015 2:18pm ()

    I think that one of the most important factors to take into consideration when exploring resourcing of MLEs is to remember that buildings are still buildings and people and still people. What is required in order for MLE's to be established and run effectively to help ensure learning outcomes for students and teachers is a shift in teacher paradigm. I am currently employed at a school built in 2011 with a strong vision for maximising what MLEs have to offer as well as a focus on teaching and learning as inquiry. I have seen first hand these spaces work both exceptionally well and extremely poorly. The number one key aspect for success was the collaboration of the staff working within each space. Collective ownership of all aspects. The buildings are just enablers to help enhance learning. If teachers are not prepared for their practice to be on 'show' and not be precious about their areas for development, then they need to start thinking about whether or not working in future focussed school settings is for them. They don't have to have it sorted right now, but it is essential that they are open to their practice and thinking being challenged in a constructive way. In an MLE, that is enriched with IT, it is also essential to educate our parents as well as our students. Parents expect school to be the way it was, with a focus on Reading, Writing and Maths. Parents need to be part of the journey, so they too can see the value in why we are aiming to educate the way we do....getting parents in to see these spaces functioning  during the school day helps them develop a concrete understanding of how catering for individual learning styles and developing personalised learning programmes should and in most cases does lead to better outcomes for their children. As for the students, they are the most flexible of all. They adapt to change fast and as long as teachers are genuinely open to hearing student voice and developing a model of shared ownership of both the learning and the space, in my experience the shift from a traditional setting to an MLE is quite an east transition for most.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 12 Feb 2014 10:46am ()

    That sounds so exciting Cathie, I'd love to be a fly on your wall/s!

    Wouldn't it be cool to have some kind of stop-frame-animation or a visual way to capture the transformation of your spaces? Maybe even demonstrating how students work differently because of these changes? Smile

  • Senga White (View all users posts) 12 Feb 2014 12:20pm ()

    A library colleague of mine did that using an i-pad app to show the busyness of her school library during lunchtime.  She has posted the result on YouTube. She said it was relatively easy to do and could be done in this context for this purpose. 

  • KB (View all users posts) 13 Feb 2014 3:58pm ()

    We have just linked (knocked holes in the wall) our old rooms to create 2 teacher hubs, moved the library so we could create a large space for our junior hub, sorted out/minimalized the furniture (would you believe in a little 10 classroom school we now have one room stuffed to the gunnels with unwanted furniture), emptied 2 classrooms to create a performing arts/presentation room and an art/project making room. It's still very much a work in progress, but soooo much fun!  I strongly recommend it!

  • Lisa Allcott (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 1:31pm ()

    Hi Kris,

    Great to hear about the changes in your classrooms. I visited an intermediate school last year that had knocked down walls and opened up all sorts of spaces to create greater flexibility for students. Very responsive to student needs and a much more fluid way of learning.  I'd be interested to know where your library moved to whether you see it as part of the MLE. We're very keen to see school libraries developed as modern library learning spaces alongside learning hubs and are happy to toss ideas around about how schools can achieve this.

    All the best, Lisa

  • Bruce Henderson (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 3:37pm ()

    Hi Kris

    Sometimes a chainsaw is a useful educational tool! Developing flexible learning spaces that allow for a range of learning environments, can open up possibilities in more ways than one.

    Our school has a wide (8m) "corridor" between two parallel lines of classrooms, which we have set up as the "Learning Street". It has six classrooms, the library and the staffroom opening up onto it with double or fanfold doors, and is a social, assembly, working, performance and PD space, with a large drop-down screen, data projector, sound system etc. built in. It is such a great space!

    What's important to remember of course is that it's not the spaces, but how teachers (and learners) use the space, how they develop innovative and engaging learning experiences that really make the space come alive. It sometimes takes time to teachers to get their heads around this, as it involves changes beyond not just the four walls of their old classroom but their "mental" walls -how they perceive teaching and learning to be and the strategies and controls they are used to. It also involves teacher and child interactions on a level that may take a while to develop.

    It's a great journey to have though -good luck with it!


  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 5:01pm ()

    Hi Bruce,

    I think you identified the key to MLE - how it is getting used. I am all about using the Golden Circle of why - how - what, and the vision underpinning the open / flexible spaces must the shared by the staff using the space to ensure we are not teaching 'inside the box' within the MLE space. Flexibility to meet varied needs is another one of the key points I have been thinking about, and it sounds like you have the facilities in your space - great!

    I am especially keen to hear how people are adapting exisiting spaces as many of my schools don't have funding for new spaces or big renovations.

    Thanks, Monika

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 3:30pm ()

    These are all inspiring developments, I can't wait to hear more. 

    You might enjoy this blog on the death of the student desk The Obituary of the Student Desk 1887-2013.

  • Margot McKeegan (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 5:19pm ()

    Linking Modern learning environments with modern learning practices is certainly key. As I work with schools in this area - many teachers would like to see examples -based here in NZ - of new spaces or adapted spaces in existing rooms. I started a crowd sourced presentation - for anyone to share images (with pedagogy tips in the notes).

    Please add images lets build a visual resource for all. - Modern Learning spaces

  • Kathe Tawhiwhirangi (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 5:30pm ()

    Great idea Margot :-) Thanks for starting this off. Cheers

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 5:51pm ()

    Ww thanks Margot, maybe we could combine your crowd-sourced presentation with the original one Marnel van der Spuy has started - in this shared Google presentation?

  • Karyn Gray (View all users posts) 14 Feb 2014 8:18pm ()

    We are lucky we have just moved into a MLE. However the last three years we have operated in property as far from MLE as possible. You don't need the flash buildings or furniture. It's all about the vision you have for learning.

    Have a read if these if you have time.



  • KB (View all users posts) 17 Feb 2014 9:44am ()

    Hi Bruce, I couldn't agree with you more...

    "What's important to remember of course is that it's not the spaces, but how teachers (and learners) use the space, how they develop innovative and engaging learning experiences that really make the space come alive. It sometimes takes time to teachers to get their heads around this, as it involves changes beyond not just the four walls of their old classroom but their "mental" walls -how they perceive teaching and learning to be and the strategies and controls they are used to. It also involves teacher and child interactions on a level that may take a while to develop."

    It took us most of 2013 researching, checking out blogs & videos of NZ experience as well as overseas, visiting school, working with our BeL facilitator, talking to the BOT/parents/kids... The bulk of the time was spent getting our heads around it all. Personally I have taught in a couple of open plan/variable space schools so could help guide discussions, etc. Our classrooms aren't new, the holes in some aren't as big as we would like, some of the furniture is a bit makeshift at the moment. However the teachers are very cool. Because we took the time to prepare as practioners, we accept that things may not run totally smoothly at first and there maybe times when we feel a little out of our comfort zone, but we have support in place and most of all we have trust.

    We launched into this because we felt it would beneifit the children academically, socially and emotionally. Like our children we accept that we are all learning and progressing at different levels.  :)

  • David van de Klundert (View all users posts) 17 Feb 2014 10:31am ()

    Like most school sentering into MLE we have done much research and school visits believing that this is best prtactice for our school community. This year we have decided to, after a solid year of in house professional development, to put teachers into teams of two-but still in single cell classrooms. The main aim is to focus on collaboration. We belkive that an MLE environment-knocking out walls etc will not be effective unless we have a cul;ture of collaboration working first. This has also seen us raising the profile of our teacher aides, restructuring the use of CRT and ORS release time, and reformatting our performance management process with a firm eye on our RTC focus for the year as well as making sure teachers are gathering evidence to support their growth through TAI processes. We want our teachers to reach important conclusions and then to come and see us with a sledge hammer or two and say, "The wall is the only barrier that exists between these two rooms that is inhibiting our collaborative team approach." Hopefully we'll have some dollars in the bank to buy some more sledge hammers.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 21 Feb 2014 11:04am ()

    imageOver in another 'room', in the Self directed learning in a MLE thread, Cathie has asked for any ideas about effective ways to encourage self-directed learning in a MLE environment.

    What do you do (systems, strategies, processes) to help your students organise and manage their own learning? Reply here.

  • Chris THEOBALD (View all users posts) 25 Feb 2014 11:23pm ()

    Kia ora tatou, 

    I have recently created a trademe version of a MLE - and while we are building up to its full and effective use. the kids are loving it. 

    I would appreciate any feedback on the following blogpost


    I am more than aware that the space is secondary to good teaching and use of the space, but so far I have attempted to make a space that enables flexibility and has an ability to adapt.

    I am enjoying following up on the links that everyone has to awesome MLE related sites and posts.

    nga mihi nui


  • Mandy Vanderwee (View all users posts) 18 May 2014 8:31am ()
    3. How could I help students feel at home at school, understanding that they need to buy in to 'school' before they buy in to 'learning'?  
    This is comment by you Chris, on your trademe blog page is crucial to the reasoning of MLEs.  Like I have observed so far......children are engaged by new layouts......what does that do to achievement?
  • Sonja Barneveld (View all users posts) 28 Feb 2014 8:11am ()

    While I think MLE's are really exciting and make sense - the web redevelopment project I am currently working on includes information for parents. While I was in Christchurch earlier in the month as well as catching up with Derek I also met one of the project managers for a MLE build when I was in my base company office (they are sub-leasing space there) In the context of the conversations we were having about our various projects it turned out one of my colleagues has an 8 year old at the school in question.

    She is an involved parent and as someone with a strong professional background in IT has a natural sympathy for 21st century learning. However she was very unsure about what how the change would be experienced by her daughter. While she likes the idea of learning being more individualised and fluid she had some quite reasonable questions about what that might look like in practice for particular learners, that hadn't quite been answered by the school's communication. 

    One of the themes we are finding in the parent user research is that parents are asking for more information to help them understand aspects of education that have changed. Having just read Chris's blog post about his "trade me" classroom and the importance about connecting the learning environment to home, I am interested to hear about how his students' parents have been engaged in understanding what this new environment will offer.

    For instance as a parent of a child with high functioning ASD who finds noise and lack of structure challenging, how is this going to work? Or is a child who finds it difficult to work in groups going to be able to avoid that, rather than be encouraged to develop those skills. How will this work for the distractable child? How can this degree of individualisation possibly be manageable for teachers? I came back thinking it would be great to have some video/stories of parents and teachers talking to some of those themes and how the diversity of children's learning needs are met.

  • David van de Klundert (View all users posts) 28 Feb 2014 9:25am ()

    Great food for thought--the bloig was agreat read--I really enjoyed the no frills adaptions in the photos. One aspectr of a MLE environment--which is where we are heading to-and in response to your questions Sonja in light of parent concerns and catering for diverse neds is to put in place processes whereby children can take responsibility for their own learning and engage in the learning process. I went to a Kath Murdoch workshop last year titles: "Learning for Themselves: Building Learning Capacity in the Inquiry Classroom." This workshop highlighted a very important element that is, I believe, approapriate to MLEs, personalised/individualised learning etc which is that all learners need to be aware of how they learn. My questions to prompt more discussion are: How do we do this at a deeper level with our children? How do we respond to individual need when children begin this process?, What aspects of our approach to pedagogy need to change?

  • Mandy Vanderwee (View all users posts) 18 May 2014 8:21am ()

    I agree Sonya.  There are questions to be answered.  I think it entirely depends on each individual classroom and situation but we need to make sure change is made for the right reason and not just because everyone else is doing it.  Community consultation and examining class or space make up is important. We would want any transition to be positive for all involved including any chidren with special needs. Being inclusive of all students and providing a safe emotional environment is part of NAG 5.

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