The Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy is a co-educational school and sixth form in Dorset. It has created a unique space to support learning which has been designed by its students on a modest budget.
The project was initiated by the Academy’s Director of Change and Innovation, Gary Spracklen. ‘Let’s be clear,’ he says, ‘this is not about asking children what they want, or what they think. It is asking them to be action researchers, to find out what has been effective elsewhere; to reimagine that in their own school context; and to be in a constant cycle of doing this iteratively. We are not just doing this once and then ossify - the constant here is not some new model of learning that emerges, it is the continued questioning of how good learning might be’.
As part of their research, students visited institutions who embrace new approaches to design. This included Google HQ and Mind Candy in London as well as numerous Skype and Google Hangout calls to Australia, Sweden, Australia and the United States. Throughout the project, students were encouraged to continually reflect on the question, ‘what can make my learning better?’
The spaces created include the New York and Sydney offices which provide a global context to the students’ learning. There are also larger learning spaces with flexible furniture, write-on surfaces and a Twitter-booth to create inspiring spaces to learn.
While it is only early days for the sixth form, teachers and students are already reporting that their new environment is making them feel happier, more engaged and highly motivated to learn.