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Open Space, by us! - Rethinking Homerooms

Set the tone for a creative learning environment by giving students creative control over their homeroom. Empower students to modify the layout of desks, walls, and cubbies, and give them the freedom to decorate their open space.

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15 12

Written by DeletedUser

The physical environment that surrounds us plays a large role in how we think, learn, and work. So why is it that students are placed into standardized classrooms, separated into rows and columns of desks, and stuck with decorations that reflect the teachers' personal history and tastes?

My hypothesis is that kids need some creative control over their learning environment in order to foster creative confidence. I believe we can achieve this by empowering students to modify and decorate their own homerooms and create an  open space that reflects the creative identity of the students.

 In urban planning, open space is a natural and cultural resource that is unmarred by planned development. Let's apply that principle to the classroom. 


In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

Step 1: Establish a set of broad guidelines for homeroom design to encourage the creation of a creative learning space with teachers and administrators. Step 2: Provide a set of decorative supplies and easy-to-move furnishings for each homeroom. Add in creative tools to the mix, such as whiteboards, post-its, etc. A wall to write on would be a big plus! Step 3: Set aside homeroom time during the first week of school to allow students to collaborate in designing their homeroom. This allows students to meet one another, work together, and apply their creativity from day 1. Step 4: As students move between classes, they will experience the open space of their peers and gain exposure to creative diversity.

How might you envision your idea spreading across geographies or cultures so that it inspires young people around the world to cultivate their creative confidence?

I do not know if homerooms are used in public school systems outside of the United States; however, I believe that with further research, we can introduce a variation of this idea to fit each educational system's specific culture. The goal is for students to have input over their physical learning environment and thus provide a creative channel.

What skills, input or guidance would you like to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Input from teachers and administrators, Input from workspace designers, Prototyping advice, Piloting advice, Any other suggestions or feedback from the OpenIDEO community
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Team (5)

Carole's profile
Carole

Role added on team:

"Creative workplace design can definitely be applied to classroom design (and vice-versa)"

Hao's profile
Hao Dinh

Role added on team:

"Hao's "Grow by Design" team is already hard at work educating students in design thinking. His input would be invaluable."

Jeff's profile
Jeff Nagata

Role added on team:

"Jeff's field notes from the Design H classroom were very interesting and I've like to know more about the actual physical classroom space and setup."

Saskia's profile
Saskia Baard

Role added on team:

"Saskia's post on ClassroomC30 is an example of this concept in action outside of the U.S."

Woroud's profile
Woroud Ahdali

Role added on team:

"Vittra Telefonplan is extremely innovative and I'd like his input on how we could adapt that to the U.S. education system"

15 comments

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Photo of Carole
Team

This is a brilliant idea Wenjie! Starting in schools to re-design the learning environment, we could even think of expanding it to workplaces, so that adults can keep their creative confidence in creative workplaces that also reflect their identity. If the experiment is successful in schools, maybe young people who have gone through it could share their experience with employees in companies working in their communities. They could even facilitate similar open space design sessions in these companies, a nice way for them to apply the skills they will have developed thanks to the support of professional designers helping them in the classroom!

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Carole! I definitely agree, and I know a lot of startups nowadays are designing their offices to foster creativity and innovation. I'd love to get some advice from professional designers who work with physical space design.

Spam
Photo of Carole
Team

Thanks to adding me to your virtual team Wenjie. I look forward to engaging in further conversation and seeing the concept evolving and improving thanks to other OpenIdeators :)

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Today's businesses with a more open view has discovered that it is better when employees are happy at work.
When they feel comfortable and happy with the essence of the company they tend to work better, and consequently increasing the work efficiency!
You know the company Zappos?!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CcLIPaUz3E
They have a great culture within the company! Ôÿ║
And yes, they do a really great job!

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Exellent idea Wenjie!
I think everywhere in the world we have problems with the way of traditional teaching.
While I was reading your proposal, I remembered the TED video by Ken Robinson.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

In fact, I believe that the entire educational system needs to change, but it's a GREAT idea to start with the SPACE!
The environment can indeed change everything!
And further improve the relationship between people inside the room, with teachers and students and the person with the environment. The student may feel more comfortable and consequently learn more!
Thank you for the inspiration! :)

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Photo of Yann Hirlimann
Team

good ideaWenjie. At first I thought you were talking about a room at home. Maybe your concept could be extended to the student's home. I wuld call it "reclaim the living room", and make the living room not a TV watching room but a real creativity space where both parents and teens can create after work.

Spam
Photo of Sam Graham
Team

Good idea!
Im guessing this is for primary students?
Giving them a seating plan and having them decorate their area is a great way to inspire them and make them creative!

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Thanks! I'm using my personal K-8 experience as a reference point.

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Photo of Jeff Nagata
Team

This is an awesome idea, Wenjie! I love it because it would give a creative voice for students to express their creativity, and at the same time allow kids to make changes in a environment where they might not be used to making structural changes (schools).

The relationship between classroom space and the creative energy of kids was actually a big topic when I went to visit Studio H. The biggest challenge that Studio H faced was creating a space that struck a balance between exploration and structure.

Too much open space and free activities without structure can be intimidating for kids, and might paralyze them. Emily Pilloton also told me that students can start to just wander around, because they can get bored easily without some form of basic structure to jumpstart their activities. This is a problem that Studio H encountered with their high school classroom, where they have huge space.

At the same time, having a big space can also allow students to fully explore and engage with their environment, especially if there's enough activities that fully takes advantage of all the space.

On the other hand, having a compact space can also be problematic because it squeezes kids with tons of creative energy into space that's too small. It can end up being way too chaotic to structure any kind of activity. At the same time, having all those students squished together can also spark tons of collaboration, and a mixing of creative diversity in a way that might not happen in a bigger space.

Overall, I feel like this is a idea that would benefit a lot from rapid prototyping, to see what kind of structure really taps into the creative potential of the kids that are trying to make change inside of it.

I hope this helped! Let me know if there's anything I can expand on, too. Looking forward to collaborating with you!

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Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Jeff! I definitely agree with your points that the space should be limited to a certain degree and there should be some kind of overall structure in place. That's why the first step I listed is to work with teachers and administrators to establish a set of goals and guidelines for what we'd want to achieve with an open space.

I've thoroughly browsed the Studio H site and its very cool what they've tested out so far with their mobile classroom concepts. Ideally, I'd like to take those lessons learned and apply it to a re-design of existing homerooms and classrooms. Most public schools are limited to working with what they already have, so maybe its better to write down some kind of ideal framework or draw a series of concept homerooms to start?

From a rapid prototyping standpoint, I'm still not sure how to go about getting that level of feedback without building a physical space itself.

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Team

DeletedUser

I totally agree. Often times, homeroom is just thought of as a place to get homework done - or just sit around and talk to friends. Why not make use of this time by inspiring something creative?

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Team

DeletedUser

Absolutely! I thought back to my own homeroom experiences and felt that it was a waste - my teachers would always enforce quiet time to do homework, which led to a lot of restlessness because 1. some kids hate the silence and 2. it's tremendously boring if you have no homework / finish early.

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Photo of Hao Dinh
Team

Wenjie, love it! I like how you incorporated using collaboration, creativity, and diversity into your idea. The best part, in my opinion, is enabling the kids to meet each other early in the year.

I'm partnering with local schools to teach them Design Thinking and like the idea of having the students use DT to develop spaces, e.g. homerooms and other common areas.

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Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Hao! And I agree with your point, I definitely see a lot of potential for providing students the opportunity to meet and work together right away. You already know I admire your Design Thinking program - through your experiences so far, how have you seen design thinking impact the development of homerooms and common areas?

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Photo of Saskia Baard
Team

Hi Wenjie

Interesting idea! I like the idea of rethinking what the learning environment can look like. I think it’s a great way to get children involved in how their own environments look like. For general creative confidence, and also to envision what difference they can make to other environments too.

Some ideas:
1) I like your reference to urban planning – might this idea also be suitable for the school ground?

2) Maybe eventually this can flow into a challenge using design thinking to improve the environment surrounding the school?

3) Maybe the school can get someone in like a designer to lead them through a creative process to consider specific things of working together, so it isn't just 'making it pretty' but really functional and answers to their needs too.

Some questions [I don’t have answers yet either :-) ]:
1) I agree that it would be useful to consider what homerooms are like in other schools and countries. Like always, Wikipedia was a useful start for me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeroom
How do we keep it a functioning classroom? The broad guidelines you mention may play a key role here.

2) This inspiration http://www.openideo.com/open/creative-confidence/inspiration/learning-the-power-of-quiet/ highlights some interesting points about different styles of thinking especially about introverts and extroverts. How can this idea be implemented in such a way that it takes the different personalities into consideration keeping it inclusive?

3) In your steps of how to achieve this (love the clear steps btw) you mention “...provided... easy-to-move furnishings ...” What about schools with limited resources already? Can we come up with a low cost alternative as well?

4) Does the design change each year with every new year group? How can we make it as easy to ‘re-design’ as possible without waste of materials but that it still feels personal to each group?

Sorry for the long comment :-) But would love to hear your thoughts on some of the above!