User Manuals for School Facility Design
Gen Z learners know that learning can, and does, happen anywhere. They understand it doesn’t have to be restricted to a 900 SF box filled with rows of connected desks and chairs. Yet, teachers aren’t from Gen Z. The majority fall into three categories: Baby Boomers who haven’t reached retirement age; Gen Xers; and up-and-coming Millennials. They may need a little help in knowing how to use new collaborative, flexible, diverse learning spaces to their fullest capabilities.
When we turn over the keys of a newly constructed or renovated school our solution is in-person training. We literally walk teachers and administrators through their new learning places to show them first-hand the advantages we’ve created. I’m not talking about just the space itself, I’m referencing how educators can use that space to their teaching advantage and enhance student learning. After all, a school has millions of pieces and parts and, therefore, many ways it can be used.
However, what happens the second, third or ninth year that school is in operation? I’m advocating a user manual or guide that says, ‘If you want to create effective learning places, consider the teaching/learning intent and use these diverse environments as they have been created.’
I envision these manuals as pictograms detailing all the ways each space could be used. With this easy-to-use resource, teachers can flip through a brief document, look at an image and say, “Oh, that’s what I was thinking about,” rather than reading a lengthy how-to handbook where the answer is buried in text on page 356.
Schools are designed and built to last 50 to 100 years, and new educators enter a school for the first time each year. An easy-to-use manual will maintain the integrity of our design and enhance the learning experience for both students and educators.