Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pushing the boundaries: What might be possible?

Take a look at these: They are images of a Rosan Bosch design for the ‘School without Walls’ in Stockholm.

It’s an extraordinary looking school with beautiful design, custom built furniture, an iceberg that features a cinema, a relaxation room, and multiple spaces for different types of learning. It’s more like a building at Google, Nike or Lego, than it is a school - perhaps reminiscent of any number of the creative business spaces Kursty Groves features in I wish I worked there! There are certainly a lot of similarities.

What is important about seeing designs and schools like this, in my mind, is that it challenges us to consider what might be possible. Of course it may well be out of our financial reality or perhaps not aligned with our own pedagogical vision and belief but it does at the very least expose us to some new and different thinking. It's an example of what one school building does look like, although is very removed from my own experience and until now, what I have stage heard about. 

John Holt’s (1971), and still relevant today, model of Four Worlds reminds us about what we do and what we don’t know.

Julia Atkin (1999) sums it up really well:
“He says that each of us has four such worlds. The first world is the world inside our skin. The second world is the world the individual knows about from direct experience. The third world is the world the individual knows about, but has not experienced in any direct way through the senses. The fourth world is the infinite world of possibilities which the individual has not as yet heard of or even envisaged” (p. 14)

Google images of ‘classroom’ and what you end up with is a pretty standard, industrial notion of what a common learning environment looks like. Generally there are rows of desks facing the front and generally, the teacher's at the front. These are familiar images - for many of us the world we are familiar with from direct experience. 

Try ‘learning space’ instead and you find things that are looking a bit more interesting- there are different shapes and sizes of furniture, different learning settings, more obvious technology and a generally more open feel to the spaces - this for many teachers is the world that we have heard about but as yet haven’t got personal experience of.

But as teachers and educators as well as designers, how do we know what we don’t know, in terms of what schools and classrooms might look like? It's the same working with children on imagining future learning spaces too. What comes next? How can we start looking into that fourth world of infinite possibilities? 

Beautiful Learning Spaces is definitely a great place to start. There are some stunning school designs featured here that will push our thinking in terms of what might be possible. Many are featured on architects and educational websites but here they have been collected together in one place. There are also videos being added too. It's a quickly growing resource, being curated by @acampbell99 and @Jennzia  I really look forward to seeing this site grow and the world of infinite possibilites explored further. 


Atkin, J. (1999, August). Values for a learning community: Learning to know. Paper presented at the meeting of the Victorian Principals' Conference, Melbourne. Retrieved from
Groves, K. (2010). I Wish I worked There! Chichester, UK: Wiley.
Holt, J. (1971). What do I do Monday? London: Pitman.

Image of ‘School without Walls’ from
Image of John Holt's four worlds from Atkin, J. (1999, August). Values for a learning community: Learning to know.

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