Flexible Learning Spaces

(Left to right) Austin Frye (11), Riley Weiner (12) and Drew Kruse (12) make use of the flexible learning spaces in the student center.

(Left to right) Austin Frye (11), Riley Weiner (12) and Drew Kruse (12) make use of the flexible learning spaces in the student center.

(Left to right) Austin Frye (11), Riley Weiner (12) and Drew Kruse (12) make use of the flexible learning spaces in the student center.

Jack Stobbe, Sports Editor

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To make room for the new learning spaces, lockers like these outside of Room 220 could be removed.

  With buzzwords like “flexible learning spaces” growing more and more popular with administrative boards, the students’ typical school day could be drastically different in the coming years.

  Principal Kelly Allison explained that there was a district initiative last school year to increase flexibility in the school day and possibly add more “flexible learning spaces” throughout the building.

“During the bond issue that was voted upon in April, the school was supposed to receive funds to renovate the gym. The leftover funds were going to be used to add these learning spaces,” Allison said.

  According to the Springfield Public School website, Kickapoo was scheduled to receive $8.7 million for “A new gym and additional site improvements.” The new learning spaces would have fallen under the “additional site improvements” category.  

  There are already four flexible learning spaces in place in the building. The large computers in the common area are examples of what administration wants put in place throughout the building.

  “Conversations stopped on exactly where they would go because the bond issue got voted down, but there were going to be three or four of the learning spaces on both floors. There would be one every five or six classrooms or so, but not in the heavy traffic areas,” Allison said.

  To make room for the flexible learning spaces, some of the lockers in the school would be removed. According to Mr. Allison, only 100 of around 2,000 lockers are checked out by students this year.

  Allison went on to explain that, “The design is to build a shelf one or two feet into the wall to make room for students to go out into the hallway and put charging stations and printing stations for them to access.”

  Since the school does not currently have the funds to undergo these changes, the learning spaces would not be put in place for this current school year. However, Mr. Allison is hoping to have them in place during the following school year, in 2018-19.

  These learning spaces could just be the beginning of bigger plans for the school and the district. There is a trend sweeping through high schools across the country to increase flexibility during the school day.

  “The goal is to add more student choice and flexibility during the school day. Adding in learning spaces for students to collaborate, getting away from traditional classes and being in there all day long, and trying to function more like a college campus,” Allison said.

  Some of these changes have already started to take place. Having the devices free up students to access the curriculum through Canvas and other alternative methods. Three additional printers were also added to the library to help accommodate for the rising need for access.

  Junior Onaugh Shaughnessy expressed interest in possibly having a less structured class where lectures were a smaller part of the curriculum.

  “I would prefer a more flexible schedule because you have a better opportunity to think for yourself and work on your own, but still have the option of going to the teacher for help if it’s needed,” Shaughnessy said.

  One concern Shaughnessy raised about having a less structured class period is the ability of the students to stay on task.

  “Less teacher involvement could lead to a lack of concentration is some cases. Especially in high school, because high schoolers can get off-task easily when given time to work,” Shaughnessy explained.

  While Shaughnessy has embraced some of the positive aspects of a device-centric school day, she prefers pen and paper to the computers.

  “I like it because we don’t have textbooks but I preferred when we didn’t have chromebooks. I like writing and using my notes as opposed to using the devices,” Shaughnessy explained.

  While she may not love using the devices, Shaughnessy would welcome a change to a course more similar to a college class.

  “The main point of high school is to prepare us for college, so it would give us experience of what that would be like,” Shaughnessy said.

  English teacher Jody Bilyeu is one of the staff members in favor of adding flexibility to the daily schedule.

  “I think the flexibility is great. I like variety as a learner, and change is hard as an educator, but I enjoy the change. When I was self-employed as an editor I didn’t sit as a desk, and I worked where I felt comfortable. I think it’s great that schools are keeping up with the working world,” Bilyeu said.

  Dr. Bilyeu is also in favor of classes being taught more like a college course, echoing some of the desires to have a more student-run curriculum than  previous years.

  “I think college courses are more interested in learning outcomes and not whether students comply with every little step that leads to the learning outcome. Like if a student aces the tests while doing none of the homework, but still gets an A in the class,” Bilyeu said.

  Bilyeu has long been calling for students having computers or technological devices to enhance the learning process.

  “I’ve been wanting computer access for students since the 90’s. If I find a cool poem or an interesting news item, my students now have access to it instead of having to photocopy it for everyone,” Bilyeu explained.

  Some aspects of the new devices that Bilyeu enjoys the most is the wealth of resources it gives the students for them to conduct research.

  “When my class does research, the students find articles I’ve never even read. Before, I was photocopying the same articles for all of them to read. So, I like the flexibility it gives the students because they are finding things on their own, which is more like the real world,” Bilyeu said.

  Moving away from a traditional classroom setting and adding flexibility into the everyday schedule is the goal administration  seems to be trying to achieve. With all the changes expected to take place in the near future, a typical school day could look very different a year from now.

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