Monday, August 18, 2014

Learning Space Design: Final Output for Leaders of Learning Course (Harvard X)

Excuse my ugly drawing. I wasn't much of a drafting person when I was in high school :P

Mode of Learning Focus:  Cross of Hierarchical Collective and Distributed Individual Modes

People learn best when they are able to determine what is important for them to learn and is internally motivated to succeed in learning. People’s success is determined not simply by the achievement of personal goals, but also if the learner is able to contribute to the community. This is ultimately my belief regarding learning – a mixture of the hierarchical collective and distributed modes of learning. This is also the basis of the design of then learning space that I have come up with. 

Rationalization of Chosen Modes of Learning

The country which I come from, the Philippines, is a third world nation plagued with poverty, unemployment, and mediocre education. About 25% of the 100 million population live below the poverty line[1], unemployment rate is at 7.3%[2], and as a student of both public school (in high school and private school (in college) I have observed how severely lacking our schools are, especially in developing a social consciousness. Apart from the very best schools, like the University of the Philippines, most halls of learning in my country are ivory towers; students learn their lessons, but not how these lessons apply to the real world and how these lessons can be used to solve real world problems. The lack of social consciousness may very well be a contributing factor to the third world status of the country. Another thing that is lacking is quality facilities for public school students.

My proposed learning space design incorporates both hierarchical collective and distributed individual mode of learning for three main goals: (1) provision of quality learning space;  (2) creation of a learning environment for students to not only foster proficiencies in maths, sciences, and languages (English and Filipino) but also allow them to engaged in the community and become socially-aware young people; and (3) provision of  learning opportunities for adult members of the community that will allow them to seek employment and thus lessen the burden of poverty. 

Rationalization of Design Elements in Relation with Institutional Goals

The proposed site of the learning space shall be in lower middle class community, which is prevalent in the Philippines. This can be in a rural or urban setting. Bringing the facility to the community would answer the problem of accessibility, both for young and adult students. Also, it would allow the structure be integrated into the community.

The learning space follows the typical design of a hierarchical individual learning space with some additions. There will be classrooms or lecture halls, offices, and other structures relevant to a school. The building itself is made of strong materials in order to withstand the typhoons that regularly ravage the country. One particular design difference will be the presence of window in rooms and sky-lights in hall ways in order to ensure that the learning space is well lighted and ventilated.

Additional structures function to further incorporate the modes of learning and its subsequent goals to the design. 

The first addition is the Common Room, a vast hall with tables and chairs designed for group work. Group work, focus group discussions, and group projects have already been incorporated to a typical Filipino public school curriculum, but typical public schools do not have places to facilitate this. Most students would work in classrooms, in hallways, or in a fellow student’s house. Having a space where students can comfortably do their group work, discuss lessons, and create their projects. It can be used during class hours, free time, and after school hours. It is also furnished with shelves and cabinets where students can store projects that they have yet to finish. The Common Room is conveniently linked to the Library and Resource Center so students can make use of the materials there. Having the Common Room facilitates group learning and collaboration. 

Another addition is the Computer Lab/Adult Learning Center. The room has two functions: a computer laboratory for young students to learn during regular class hours, and a digital platform for adult learners who wish to study. Adult learners can take modular courses online that can enhance their skills and knowledge and thus their employability or even gain a college degree. These online classes may be developed by partner learning institutions such as the University of the Philippines who have started offering online classes.  The adult Learning Center also connected to the Library and Resource Center, so the students have access to more learning materials. Apart from this structure, the rest of the school’s facilities for vocational training and academic classes that can be offered to adult learners. The Adult Learning Center itself supports individual learning highlighted in the distributed individual quadrant. 

There are also Student Hubs, which are small rooms which teachers and a small group of students use for very small class discussions, group consultations, or group activities that need a bit more privacy. Club Hubs are also present, which serve as headquarters of the organizations in the learning center. These structures would further emphasize group learning and cooperation. 

The Community Extension Service Office is the fourth addition, and although, structurally, it is only an office, its function is what makes it unique. The purpose of this office is to connect the students to the community so that the school can contribute to the community beyond educating its members. 

In connection with the Community Extension Service Office, a vast  vegetable garden will also be built in school premises. In this garden  , both young and adult students will be asked to cultivate crops that can be eaten or sold by the members of the community – including the students themselves and their families. This is one of the many ways that the students can contribute significantly to the community and develop social awareness, in some parts of the country, the poverty is so deep that people starve. Having a school project that directly addresses a social issue that affects the students themselves will not only help raise social awareness, it will also empower them as people, which is, in my opinion, really what schooling and learning should be about.

[1] World Bank:
[2] National Statistics office:

UPDATE: I am happy to say that I received a 9/9 from my peers in this homework. Below are the comments I received regarding this project: 

"I can see that this was well thought about and well laid out based on your choice of structure and real world experience. I agree with having both a Hierarchical and Distributed environment, as it allows more choice and less bias. This design addresses real issues in the learning environment."

"What stood out is that the structure clearly took into account the issues that the learning community are already facing and also catering to the adult. It would do well addressing these needs of educational structure in struggling communities. It could improve by factoring in people from all other walks of life."

"I noticed that this response was very thorough; you have incorporated both the psychical aspects of the optimal school building, including classrooms, windows and building materials suitable for the theories AND location, and a strong link to the rest of the community. I think your response is convincing and show signs of a deep understanding of the theories you are basing your design on (HC and DI). Well done!"

Thank you, classmates! ^_^