Digital learning is not in itself about tools and equipment, but about how technology will support the successful delivery of education.
Architecture and Design Scotland has been working with Newbattle Community High School in Midlothian to explore how their new school building can help them become a Digital Centre of Excellence. We worked with the school and local authority to develop a range of strategies of how to deliver this. In this short article we outline some of the key areas of consideration in the briefing process.
Setting out the Ambition for Digital Learning
In becoming a Digital Centre of Excellence, Newbattle is looking to harness technology, be a showcase for digital technology, and engage with employers and the local community to maximise learning opportunities.
Newbattle Community High School aims to provide skills which will benefit pupils throughout their lives, through the use of appropriate resources and tools and delivered through quality teaching and learning. They want the school to be a welcome place in the community for advice, learning and leisure, and to provide informal workspace for self-employed, start-ups and small businesses.
Consider the Potential in Every Space
To create a digital learning landscape it is important to consider the potential of every space in the school. How they can be used to share, display, communicate, collaborate and encourage cohesion? It is useful to consider the following;
- What is the purpose of a given space (i.e. doing, collaboration, discussion, reflecting)?
- What are the range of activities they support?
- What is the appropriate technology for the space?
Opportunities and Risks
Technology can be used to enhance and strengthen the learning opportunities on offer, but it does not provide the solution on its own. There needs to be a clear vision of how it will work, an opportunity to test ideas and trial new approaches. It is also important to capture the learning from the project. As might be expected, the risks are often the flip side of the opportunities. These include not having a clear well articulated vision, spaces with no clear purpose, poor change management plan, and no clear post occupancy evaluation.
By planning for a project beyond its completion, you can take into account early issues with the building and technology so that they can be understood and addressed. Having an evaluation plan in place keeps the focus on how the technology is performing, and what impact it is having. It ought to be seen as an on-going process, which can evolve and change over time.
Staff and students need to become confident users of their ICT, and this capacity needs developed at all levels. One suggestion is to have ‘digital leaders’, who can play a key role in achieving the vision of the school.
Furthermore, it may be useful to have a ‘test space’ set up to allow staff, students and the wider community to experience what the new spaces will be like.