Saturday, 6 April 2013

We created a "Starbuck's" classroom...

We started with an inquiry question... "why aren't Starbuck's Coffee houses drive through only?" 

We discussed this question for quite some time... here's what we came up with:
  • They wouldn't sell as much coffee (to which we asked why, and the answer was "people like hanging out at Starbucks")
  • They like hanging out at Starbuck's for a number of reasons:
    • The smell
    • The coffee
    • The treats
    • The books (if the store is inside a chapters book store, which they often are in Canada...)
    • The leather couches
    • The fireplace on a cold winter day
    • The free wifi
    • The ambiance (we looked that one up...)
    • The public art (done by local artists)
    • The comradeship; hanging out with friends
    • The patio (on warm summer days)
    • The friendliness of the baristas (we looked that one up too)
    • The background sounds (music, chatter about interesting topics)
    • The "coolness" of it all... the environment as described by the above reasons. We felt it was a laid back, relaxed and enjoyable place to be
    • We even figured out that every time you turn around in a Starbuck's coffee shop, you run into something (and further realized that what you run into is usually for sale:). We realized that cramped spaces don't have to be cramped in a bad way if they're set up right, and if the folks within the spaces get along OK. So we came up with this model of learning and living to frame our learning interactions, and put a giant version of it on our wall.

We reference the Hope Wheel often. We use it to contextualize our learning, to solve problems, resolve conflicts, set goals and teach others (that's the "Elder" part of what we do in the Responsibility phase of the north.) It has become the social, emotional and intellectual platform that our physical learning space is supported by. It's the model we use to think about things. You can learn more about this learning model here.

So we took a look at our classroom and decided that we could create this type of environment to learn in, sans the coffee perhaps:)

We decided that couches, books, free wifi, public art (done by students), comradeship, friendliness and the "coolness" of it all would be easy to emulate.

We got rid of the desks and put tables in their place. We found a couch and a coffee table. We hung (and continue to hang) art created by students. We put some mats on the floor. We created a private corner office that we take turns using each day. We already had free wifi. We created some cool lighting effects with a couple of lamps. Recently we even took a donation of a free electric fireplace! How cool is that?

So now we learn in a "Starbuck`s classroom," and we really like it.

Answers need questions...

Generally speaking, questions need answers, but a colleague reminded me a few week that some answers need questions too.

Learning slows down drastically, or even stops completely when we get to a point where we believe we know everything we need to know about something. When we think we have all the answers, perhaps that is when we need to question things even more. Innovation to me isn't necessarily a completely new approach, idea or process. Innovation can often mean a retooling of elements that already exist.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust
At the heart of inquiry is the art of questioning. I believe the "voyage of discovery" Proust refers to is entirely about perspective. When learners instigate their own and others thoughts through questioning they are pushing the boundaries of perspective. Challenging our conventions about learning and knowledge happens in that cognitive place where time is taken to deconstruct what we think we know about how things should be, and where unencumbered thought magically turns into innovation. I am encouraging this process within my classroom.