I came across two articles last week entitled “What universities are doing to keep the next Mark Zuckerberg from dropping out” and “Designing learning spaces for innovation”. The gist of these articles was around how US universities are finding ways to retain their brightest and most innovative undergraduates, those like Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg; Microsoft founder, Bill Gates; past and deceased Apple CEO, Steve Job, to stay and finish their tertiary studies. These universities are the Ivy League universities in USA, such as Harvard University, Stanford University and University of California Berkeley, who lose their brightest students to lucrative start-up businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities.
In order to combat this phenomenon, the universities are now refining their learning spaces to ensure that such students have the space to trial their ideas, as well as collaborate with their classmates or friends, so that the universities are incubators for great innovative ideas and their spaces facilitate the students learning and working on their respective personal project ideas. These universities endeavour to create spaces to support collaboration, creative problem-solving and innovation.
The University of Southern California created the Garage space to create a program “that promotes new kinds of learning through cross-disciplinary and hands-on discovery in a fully immersive and collaborative learning space”. The Garage has facilities such as high-powered computers with cutting-edge software, teleconferencing and remote instruction rooms, fabrication areas with 3D printers, power and hand tools to encourage their students to tinker and transform their ideas into prototypes.
Several years ago, Harvard University physics professor, Melissa Franklin was looking for a space where students could actually make anything. She found some unused spaces and created the SciBox in 2013. The SciBox is a flexible, agile space which functions as a workshop, laboratory and classroom with flexible and easily re-arranged furniture to accommodate a range of learning and thinking activities. The space is used by students of different disciplines such as physics, drama and mathematics.
I visited Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University and the University of Queensland last year and they have all moved from large lecture halls to flexible learning spaces to encourage 21st century learning and work skills – collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Trinity has started the journey of change, moving from our current learning environment, unchanged since the 19th century industrial model of rows of tables and chairs facing front, to the flexible, agile and innovative learning spaces of the 21st century. Our Prep, Year 5 and two Year 7 will be the early adopters with Year 1 to 4 coming online in early 2017. Year 6, remaining 7, 8 and 9 will come online in 2018. It is anticipated that our senior students will enjoy a similar innovative learning environment soon after when the current middle school students master the 21st century learning approaches.
The college senior staff will conduct a series of workshop sessions to explain and showcase this innovative approach to teaching and learning to prepare our students for their tertiary studies, work and life of the 21st century.
Mrs Tsae Wong