Active Learning Zones

Launched September 2012:

A short reflection of my first experience in the new ‘Active Learning Zones’ at Technology Campus. On arrival approximately 8.15am I thought it would be useful to check out the range of physical resources available to staff. I started in the ALZ on floor 6 experimenting with the ‘standard’ furniture. I have to say that the first thing that struck me was that most of the furniture was square! – I prefer curves 🙂

This first thing i noticed was the white board room style table which would be great for discussion based activities or scenario based learning.


I then noticed the comfy stools which would be great for supporting a small group discussion possibly sheilded by the moveable dividers.





The white board wall has massive potential however i take Aysha’s point about them not been easy to clean. A short term solution would be to provide white board cleaner? Alternatively I have had reasonable success with the ‘Idea Paint’ approach to this. Either way simply pushing the red benches towards the wall would allow individuals to kneel on them whilst mind mapping, collaborating or using as a thinking canvas.



Next up was the AV / Projector. I think this resource has massive potential however at the moment it is dominated by the teacher. We have an opportunity to shift this to a more learner centred approach where individuals and groups can benefit from a range of; online resources, live streams/feeds, breaking news etc. In addition by raising the projector screen, any projections can be annotated directly on to the whiteboard. For example annotations on or around images, websites and resources.




Other opportunities for creative learning could extend to using magnetic resources on the radiators? (maybe). Window displays? or inspiration for the City? or use of the lecturn style bookcase?




The benches and tables provide the flexibility needed for independent research or study using a range of media and technology such as the IPADs. Simply covering these tables with flip chart can turn the surface in to a learner jotter. Mobile phones and IPADS can then be used to capture any notes or references made.





I made some staff aware of the potential for using the whiteboard tables are tools to support presentations. This was fantastic to see in action and the learners loved it. In addition post-it notes are a great was to enhance learning without technology.






The walls and doors are also a great creative learning space and activities using post-it notes and paper can transform these areas in to learning spaces. Please feel free to share/post any other ideas below.


A couple of snagging issues that where raised are similar to issues raised by colleagues. Signage, labels and instructions for simply things such as turning on the AV project would resolve many issues. Secuirty concerns around tablets going missing was a staff concern. The question is how do we reduce these anxieties. I reported a WiFi network connectivity problem with some of the IPAD devices and learners were unable to use their own devices without access to the WiFi password. Some staff raised concerns on the number of groups in the space, i think 3 would be optimum in the larger zones. It must be stressed that formal lecture style delivery may not be the most appropriate method of ‘teaching and learning’ in these areas – and a shift from this appoach may help reduce noise?? Many learners had difficulty accessing SkyDrive and App usage was limited to Notepad taking which I feel we need to further enhance.



8 responses to “Active Learning Zones”

  1. gordonbrindle says :

    Sounds like a positive experience which also highlights potential for other learning approaches. I agree with your square table comment but it does seem that in other ALZ somewhat arbitrary decisions had been made somewhere as to what furniture should be provided and these have resulted in the arrival of lots of small exam style desks and large rectangular tables. Other ideas relating to room layout, design and furniture have been largely ignored in the IT ALZ and these are stifling to creative approaches to teaching that we were hoping they would foster. I think we need to share ideas/experiences via a forum such as this so that tutors can learn from each other and can also experiment with new pedagogies. The use of these images is I think a powerful one.

    • jonnywathen says :

      I agree Gordon – blogs allow for reflection, demonstrations of effort, CPD, collaboration and sharing good practice… Should they be a component of the V4L strategy?

    • Keith Lloyd says :

      On the subject of Multimedia support Garry Cheesbrough is the MMAATT team member at Technology Campus. He can be found in the ALS staffroom on 1706. Garry will respond to the AV Footprints jobs on this site.
      Garry has been working hard to get the AV equipment up and running and fixing snags as he goes. One of the jobs which he will get round to is clearly labelling the controllers for projectors. Please bear with us. Thanks

      • jonnywathen says :

        Was great to meet your team today Keith. I’m sure Gary will do a fantastic job with the Tech staff…. i think the labelling issue will be a quick win that wont break the bank! Might also be worth liaising with Keith T? ITSS? Rob J?? about getting some posters displaying contact details of the range of services for the ALZ.

        Fingers crossed on the bid for planet e-stream, lots of potential i feel. Here is a link to the IRIS connect thing i mentioned today. I have met with a Head and Deputy from a school in Holland who use it to support the development of Teaching and Learning through video coaching. I know that Jane Taylor mentioned it the other week too. let me know what you think.

  2. clairethompsonlcc says :

    I agree Jonny “that formal lecture style delivery may not be the most appropriate method of ‘teaching and learning’ in these areas”. I think it’s important not to overlook the individual needs of the different teachers who will be working in the ALZs.

    A number of teachers are used to standing at the front of the class, so teaching in an ALZ will feel very threatening. They will need a lot of support in adopting new styles of delivery – too much focus on the tech details may overload. We need to reassure teachers that it’s ok to leave the tech details to the students to work out, or have someone on hand to support the students with the tech so the tutor does not get overwhelmed by too much new stuff to think about. Alongside all of this, the teachers also have to manage all the start of term induction, diagnostics, get to know all your learners frenzy as well. It’s a big ask!

    Love the whiteboard tables – didn’t know they flipped up. thanks for the photos Jonny.

    Gordon – agree there is a lot less flexibility in the IT ALZs. Different challenges here I think.

    • jonnywathen says :

      Definately Claire, staff need to be supported with the shift. In my opinion I would like to this we could ‘effectively’ utilise the resource in such a way that when staff need to take a lecture style approach they could:

      a) do this in a classroom/lecture theatre for a standard group size

      b) Utilise Cameras and Adobe Connect and deliver a ‘mass’ lecture style session to 3/4 groups who are viewing in the ALZ.

      What do you think?

      I also think WE as a College need to continue to develop a culture where we all work SMARTER, and feel confident to make suggestions and improve systems and processes to hopefully reduce bureaucracy.

  3. John Thornham says :

    This is great Jonny!!
    Especially for me being a little bit out on a lim at Keighley
    (No pun intended) I can see how the ALZ can be used and how it could be developed to suit any subject. I am hoping to try and develop an ALZ at Keighley and south Leeds sometime in the future. So this feedback is very useful.

  4. jonnywathen says :

    Cheers John – let me know how you get on with the ALZ developments at Keighley and South Leeds….. I hope I can do the same at Rothwell. Feel free to share the post/images with your colleagues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: