In What’s in your Space? co-authors Dwight Carter, Gary Sebach, and Mark White passionately argue for the re-evaluation (and physical renewal) of learning environments in K-12 schooling, predominantly at the secondary level. Aimed at teachers and school leaders in the field, the book begins with the many reasons why traditional spaces of learning are not conducive to today’s digital-embedded “Generation Z” students, or to the teaching of 21st century global skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, creation, communication, creativity, and innovation. The authors cite the building of Clark Hall (an addition to the Gahanna Lincoln High School) in Gahanna, Ohio as evidence of the critical teaching and learning possibilities inherent in re-envisioned spaces, both for students and their teachers.
The five sections that follow – referred to as Steps – each combine research, first-hand testimonials, images, and resources for further professional development (by individuals or groups) to guide educators through a process of rethinking, envisioning and implementing a space redesign. Step 1 entreats teachers to “Understand Generation Z,” especially its entrenchment in social media, gaming, and digital learning. Step 2 is to “Start Asking Questions” as way to understand the relationship between learning and school spaces. Progressing forward, Steps 3 and 4 (“Shift to a 21st Century Mindset” and “Teach Global Skills”) prompt teachers to reflect on their own practice and their allegiances to oftentimes anachronistic philosophies of teaching, relative to new approaches to learning that focus on global skills for a new world. Lastly, Step 5 urges teachers and schools to “Let Students Use Technology.” Each step offers robust suggestions, guidelines, and resources for teachers, school leaders, and their schools to begin to think about the spaces and places they inhabit.
The book serves as a good introduction to some of these complex issues. Having said that, it is important for all school practitioners to thoughtfully critique such terms as 21st century learning and global skills, and to be cautious about speaking of students in the broad brushstrokes of generational groupings. Students, similar to their teachers, are unique individuals whose diverse learning needs may be ascertained by speaking with them, not simply assumed as part of a generational profile.
First published in Education Canada, September 2016