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  1. #1

    Default Modern learning environments (at public schools)

    Do you all have these in the US? Any experience or opinions on them?

    If you don't know what they are, they are essentially open plan schools where you don't have traditional single classrooms or desks. There are rooms that open off a central large area, but they are all glass and sliding doors into the central area, and everything is pretty much all open and everyone goes where they want. You can see videos of some at this link under School Perspectives.

    From my understanding of the learning, they get given a list of what they need to get done, and then get to choose how, when, and where they do it within the space. On the face of it, that does not seem that different to what we already do at home with our routine and checklists and using various rooms. But I just don't see how it would actually work with so many kids, and so little potential one on one time with a guiding teacher.

    To me it sounds like a noisy and disruptive nightmare. My only experience is at one of my oldest's schools, where they had just started converting from traditional to a modern learning environment, and I was taking a once a week parent-led elective class. We were in the central large area and a number of other groups were doing work in there too. It was so loud, and the kids were so distracted looking around at what other people were doing.

    Youngest DD has started saying she would like to try school for a little bit. I think she just wants to see what it is like, and is rather enamored with the idea of eating lunch outside (I said she can just do this at home if she wants). Out of the options we have for schools within walking distance, the only one I would potentially send her to is a modern learning environment with about 450 children. (the other ones are either religious or I would not send her for other reasons).

    Then beyond those schools it would involve driving to get her to and from school. The driving options are not that great either. One I thought would be good but they do religious education. NZ public school teaching has to be secular but they can opt to shut during school time to allow an outside religious group to come in and do teaching. It is all run by a Christian group, and they only teach their views. It is also opt-out, so everyone is automatically in it and you have to opt out if you don't want to do it. Then your child is sent to another room to do something (which at many schools is not much). And this is all during school learning time. Its all a bit backwards and nuts but so far the religious groups have managed to maintain this part in the law that allows schools to do this.

    I am semi-tempted to send her to the close modern learning one, since she really just wants to see what it is like and would probably decide not to stay, and it would be much easier to go to something within walking distance. But what if she liked it and then did want to stay, it would drive me nuts.

    Or just wait it out and see if she moves on from wanting to see what it is like. But I had told her if she ever wanted to try, I would take her, and it is easier to take her now and then take her out again while she is still not legally required to be there (we have until she turns 6 mid-next year).
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  2. T4L In Forum Oct19
  3. #2

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    There are private schools like this. They generally are called free/Sudbury schools. They are like unschooling where kids can choose what they want to do.

    I have heard of a different style, more of what you are talking about in one of the Nordic countries. They have been experimenting with more open floor plans too. Is it Finland. I might only be thinking of them because they are in the news all the time as the model for education.
    A mama who teaches college writing, as well as help her 11-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.

  4. #3

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    I don't think they get to choose what they learn so much. They still have to do the NZ curriculum and what learning tasks the teachers give them. They are just given the choice as to where in the building they go to do their learning, and what they use to do it.

    Our learning outcomes are no where near like those in Finland. Math are literacy results are getting worse over time.

    I think the government mainly did this modern learning thing as a way to get more kids into a school without having to build more classrooms.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  5. #4

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    Yeah, this is totally different from Sudbury school model. This is more about physical organization of the space as much as anything else.

    I did observe at a school like this once. They had added walls. Seriously.

    I don't think these are much in vogue in the US anymore. This was a trend in the... 70's? The early 80's maybe? here in the states. My understanding is that it was mostly a big failure. I'm surprised to hear they're apparently a bit of a thing abroad.

    There are a lot of individual open plan classrooms now here though. And tons of classrooms without desks.
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  6. #5

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    Yes I think it was in here in the 70s/80s as well, although I don't recall it at my primary school in the 80s, and apparently a big fail here then too. I think they have only brought it back in for financial reasons (cheaper to make spaces that fit more kids and have more kids per teacher). There are four schools within walking distance of us. Two have converted to modern learning environments, one is a religious school and the other has issues and big classes (like 70 kids with 2 teachers).

    I know I would find an open plan learning environment so distracting, and I know my oldest would get very stressed out. However, I think my youngest would potentially love it because she is a lover of all that is loud, chaotic, and a bit crazy. She spends most her time when we are doing "school" rolling around on or doing jumps over a swiss ball. But I don't think she would actually learn anything in that sort of environment because of the distraction. And they seem to have free access to devices. Which are the reasons why I am hesitant to send her because I think her train of thoughts would just go "running round and doing whatever I want at school versus a bit of routine and structure at home...yes please to school!".
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  7. #6

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    I think it can work really well in an individual classroom. 25 kids, a big open space, a teacher and an aide most of the time, different stations... I know many teachers run classrooms like that which work really well. It's when you're dealing with a hundred kids in a giant space... ugh.
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  8. #7

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    Oh yes, I could see it working with 25 kids a teacher + aide (that sounds a great ratio).

    This school has a roll of around 420 kids. They are all in the one open plan, two story building with all rooms opening to the interior shared space.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  9. #8

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    420 kids in one space is insane. That's just... oy. When these schools were conceived, my understanding is that they were intended for much smaller groups. Are you saying there are rooms, but no doors? Like, there are spaces that are separated but not fully? I still think the noise factor is going to be difficult. You can't coordinate everyone to be quiet for quiet tasks all at once. Without walls, noise bleeds through big time.
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  10. #9

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    The rooms have all glass and doors on the interior "wall" and can open right up. They spend large portions of the day with them opened right up to the inner area. I am not sure how they schedule it with working in their "room" or in the shared space, that is, if they can all go out into the shared space at the same time or if they have certain times for only juniors, middle, seniors (which would be about a third of the 420 at a time). I don't know how much quiet time they have. From what I have seen of it in action, it just looks like chaos.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  11. #10

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    My high school was built along those lines, at that time when that idea was considered "cutting edge" and you know what? They built in walls, and the "open areas" were eventually segregated with awkward built-in walls except one, which was kept as an auditorium-like lecture hall with huge chalkboard and swivel seats along continuous desk surface, as in a college lecture hall.

    Apparently the "open classroom" never worked.
    Middle-aged mom of 4 kids spanning a 10-year age range, homeschooling since 2009, and a public school mom also, since 2017.

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Modern learning environments (at public schools)