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Learning design

Learning design: How the people-based design process works

Learning design is the practice of planning, sequencing, and managing learning activities, usually using ICT-based tools to support both design and delivery. Learning pedagogy and design-theory meet to define a people-based, flexible learning environment.

Steve Collis explains how the design process can connect with students to redefine the way we organise our learning environments. When thinking about learning environments, the design process starts with empathy for the people you are designing for. Once the goals have been defined and the vision shared, experimentation and innovation occurs as a successful learning design is developed.

"Our schools are full of students who want to engage, socialise, communicate, create, and collaborate in meaningful ways that reflect the world in which they live."

A model of learner centred design

Learning design process

Learning design process

Lynch, D. & Smith, R. (2006). The learning management design process, in R Smith & D Lynch (eds), The rise of the learning manager: changing teacher education. Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW, pp. 53-67.

"This construct of learning spaces allows teachers to adapt the learning to meet the needs of students - to personalise instruction and allow students to explore different modes of learning."

Ann Davis and Kim Kappler-Hewitt (2013)

Professor David Thornburg (2007)  has given us three very useful terms for thinking about the different kinds of spaces in which learning takes place: the campfire, the cave, and the watering hole.  

Campfires

The campfire has traditionally been a place of knowledge-sharing and story telling. This is where information is transferred, traditionally by an expert, to be built upon by others in the group. Thornburg reminds us that in today's schools, it is not just the teacher taking on the "expert role", but also students who are "empowered to tell stories and share their learning with peers". 

Campfires in e-learning

In an e-learning environment, it's the flipped classroom which provides the campfire experience. This is where students can access teaching material at home remotely, leaving time for the classroom to become a workshop space for discussion and collaboration.

Watering holes

The watering hole is a space for small group discussion and collaboration. 

Watering holes in e-learning

For students working online, web 2.0 platforms like Google Applications, Facebook, Edmodo, and other collaborative tools make up the watering hole. These are the places where students and teachers can share ideas and communicate freely.

Caves

"The cave is a private space where an individual can think, reflect, and transform learning from external knowledge to internal belief."

The cave is the quiet space where students and teachers can be alone with their reflections. The perfect place is the beenbag between the bookshelves, or the secluded patch in the garden; a place where content cements in the mind, goals are set, and metacognition occurs.

Caves and e-learning

Online, blogs are the places where students can inhabit the cave. A blog is a perfect place for solitary reflection and drawing together the knowledge that search-engines have placed at our fingertips.

Director of innovation, Steve Collis (Sydney Centre of Innovation in Learning) explains Professor David Thornburg's terms cave, campfire, and watering hole, and the different functions of these spaces in your learning environment. Steve describes how these functions can occur in a virtual space as well as a physical space.

Caves, campfires, and watering holes at Hingaia Peninsula School

Teachers and students describe the different spaces they have and how they use them.

Sydney Centre of Innovation and Learning – caves, campfires, and watering holes

In this timelapse video, Steve Collis illustrates how the cave, campfire, and watering hole look inside an innovative learning environment. The spaces are flexible and are defined by the action of the people in them.

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Key resources

David Thornburg (2007), Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century

This is Thornburg's seminal text on learning spaces and their implications for online learning.

Ann Davis and Kim Kappler-Hewitt (2013), Australia's campfire's, caves, and watering holes

This article details some real-world examples of Thornburg's learning spaces in practice in Australian schools.

Flexible learning design and a flexible learning environment

A flexible learning environment has been designed to remove as many constraints to learning as possible. These constraints could be:

  • physical (the physical space of the classroom, for example, its walls and desks)
  • virtual (barriers to technology)
  • and cultural (attitudes and beliefs that constrain learning). 

A flexible learning environment strives to be democratic by offering "more space for more people more of the time". At it's heart, a flexible learning design is inclusive by allowing for different learning styles and more experimentation. It allows students and teachers to move more seamlessly through different kinds of learning spaces, both physical and virtual, by ensuring that the environment remains flexible.

Steve Collis

Steve Collis (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning) answers the question, "What is a flexible learning environment?" He talks about the physical, virtual, and cultural layers that are involved and how they work together to create this environment.

Learning design – How the people-based design process works

Learning design – How the people-based design process works

Stephen Collis (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning) explains learning design must begin with the people that you are designing it for, a shared vision and values.

Learning spaces – Different spaces and their purposes

Learning spaces – Different spaces and their purposes

Stephen Collis (Sydney Centre of Innovation in Learning) explains Professor David Thornburg's cave, campfire and watering hole and how they can be utilised in both a physical and virtual learning environment.

What is a flexible learning environment?

What is a flexible learning environment?

Stephen Collis (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning) answers the question, "What is a flexible learning environment?" He talks about the physical, virtual, and cultural layers that are involved and how they work together to create this environment. 

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What is learning design?

A SlideShare presentation explaining the learning design process and how this works in the classroom. 

David Thornburg (2007), Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century

Thornburg's seminal text on learning spaces and their implications for online learning.

Australia's campfires, caves, and watering holes

Ann Davis and Kim Kappler-Hewitt (2013), Australia's campfire's, caves, and watering holes

This article details some real-world examples of Thornburg's learning spaces in practice in Australian schools.

Matching learning spaces to physical and online spaces

A blog post sharing teacher, Bianca Hewes classroom setup with campfire, cave, and watering hole.

Campfires, watering holes and caves: Learning environments for the 21st Century

A slideshare presentation illustrating campfires, watering holes, and caves by Nicoloa Maw from the National Tertiary Learning and Teaching Conference: Building futures, created in 2011.

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