Space to learn

A view of an ILE in Botany Downs Secondary School

There are a large number of trends that are or will be having an impact on education. Reading the 2017 NMC Horizon Report can be little daunting. Even so, my experience with many (most?) teachers is they have the wrong mindset. They just want to be left to get on with teaching in the way they always have. It’s all too easy to shut out that change and not take it on board.

There’s a lot of this going on, I think.

In my case there are a number of trends that impact directly on me. As Director of eLearning, it’s my job to prepare for eLearning trends and to ensure these are integrated smoothly (although that is easier said than done). Currently I am researching Virtual and Augmented Reality, which is becoming more educationally valid as time goes on. I’m also looking at 21st Century Learning Design. These will have a huge impact, not only on how we teach but also on the design of learning spaces. And it is learning space design that is the trend that is having a biggest impact on my school and on me.

Luckily, the trend towards innovative learning spaces has arrived at the right time for MBC. As we are being co-located to a new site by 2021 it means that, far from being a trend that is half a decade off (as suggested in the 2016 NMC Horizon report), the trend is impacting us now. In fact, we have been through a couple of months of lab design, culminating in submitting our ideas to put forward to the MoE.

The biggest issue I have with the design of a new school (and I should say I have been involved with the design of another new school in 2002 in the UK) is not knowing the cost parameters that come with such a design. It’s exciting to take all of the accumulated knowledge and come up with new, innovative designs. But, based on past experience, I know that there are limits. Usually based on money (lack of). So what is designed is usually a compromise.

Associated with the move towards ILEs is the need to support staff and students in how to correctly use the new spaces. Having visited a number of new schools in NZ, there is a big variation in how the spaces are used. Although many schools have an ILE, they are not necessarily using it in the best way. The NZ Government (at the time of writing in limbo) has stated that there is a requirement for all NZ schools to move to implementing ILEs. It has to be written into the school’s 10 year plan. However, although there is funding for school rebuilding, there is not necessarily the same attention given to changing the mindset of staff.

Mindsets do need to be changed. At MBC we have taken action in building trial ILE spaces. This is an approach I think all schools should be doing. In science we decided to take out a prep room between two of our labs and create an ILE. This made use of glass doors that slide to the edge of the room giving us the opportunity to create one large space. Or students can use the space as a breakout room. We also use it for VR and 3D printing. At this point you could say “so what?”. The answer comes when well-timetabled classes are using the space together. We have had innovative teaching taking place in that space that has led to students gaining far more than just learning content. It also opened up the eyes of most staff to the potential of an ILE.


View inside the ILE to one of the MBC labs.

On a positive note, my experience with the new build at JRCS suggest that staff who were not ‘into’ new ways of learning did not want to work or come to the school. I predict that there will be an exodus of staff in who do not buy into the new ways of teaching. There will then be a opportunity to hire new staff who do have that elusive mindset.

View in to the ILE space from a MBC lab


Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., and Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.




  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences in this area. The future for MBC and MGC with the new collocated schools is really exciting. The journey you are undertaking to develop a new learning space (Schools) is critical for the future of education in the Marlborough Region, and there is only one chance to get it right. No Pressure!!!
    I agree that the new schools will require staff to have the right mindset if they are to function as intended. However I do doubt your assertion that many staff will exodus the school. They have an identity as a teacher and will fight to retain this. Until recent times many would have been seen as successful (especially if looking at Assessment grades), they also have no options to relocate locally and maintain their identity.
    Rather than expecting them to leave, I think the schools will need to spend a lot of time and effort assisting these teachers to succeed in the new situation, as Stoll, L [1998] suggests reculturing may be the way forward). If not there is a real danger of them becoming a negative subculture within the school, with the threat this could jeopardise or sabotage the success of the new learning environment.

    • No pressure – too true!

      I like your point about this being forced. If this were something that was ‘immediately’ needed, then more staff might be involved and have bought-in to the process.

      There are a number of staff who have already stated that they are not going to stay. That’s because of the age of the staff, many are near to retirement (although the age of the staff is decreasing). So, when we get to the new site, my prediction is that there will be a shift to a younger staff and one in which the majority have the required mindset.

      You’re right about assisting staff- all staff need support in how to best use the new spaces.


2 + 15 =