“The courage and capability to follow their dreams” – who wouldn’t want to go to a school that works according to that adage? Skapaskolen south of Stockholm opened its doors in the autumn of 2013 with just this motto. The impetus for founder Christer Holger was to create a school that would be fully adapted to new conditions with modern technologies and communication tools at its core, combined with a focus on health and motion.
“The Internet has certainly revolutionised learning and as yet we have only glimpsed the beginning of this evolution. I don’t believe that we have fully comprehended the socially transformative power of the Internet or how it has fundamentally changed our entire way of communicating and learning,” says Christer Holger. “We are all connected and that’s fantastic!
As we prepare students for the future in a digitalised society, the greatest change is the access we now have to data and information. Previously schools had two primary information bearers; teachers and textbooks,” continues Holger.
Digitalisation is fundamental. Through digital media you can quickly exchange information between people, creating and producing in collaboration or alone, communicating with people who are experts in the field you wish to immerse yourself in. The Internet makes it possible for anyone with a dream and the drive to bring their ideas to fruition and it is the school’s task to create the conditions and instil the necessary courage and self-belief in its pupils. They must be given the space to explore and test new ideas and working methods. By being there to offer support when things don’t go as planned we can also show that failure is no disaster but merely a lesson along the way.
When both information and the creative energy to do something with it is placed directly in the hands of students, demands are placed on the design of the physical learning environment:
“The traditional classroom with 25 pupils in rows next to one another signals a helplessness which leaves the student dependent on someone else to decide the rules of the game. This is an environment that models a situation in which everyone learns in the same manner, quite contrary to the needs of the entrepreneur who is dependent upon having the opportunity to develop unique ideas powered by their own initiative.”
By changing the physical environment so that the student instead becomes the subject in their own learning situation, we encourage an entrepreneurial approach to learning. An environment that stimulates creative methods needs to offer a variety of learning areas. At Skapaskolen the traditional classrooms have been replaced by learning studios with space for 48 pupils. The space is twice the size of a traditional classroom allowing two or more teachers to work together. This provides an excellent foundation for collegial learning. In these learning studios it is possible to gather all of the children in one place, divide them into two classes or organise tasks in smaller groups. The entire facility breathes creativity and fantasy with its varied furnishings, while at the same time it offers ample opportunities for pupils to find a secluded corner for some peace and quiet. The environment is designed around architect Peter Lippman’s ideas about collaborative learning environments and is intended to provide the school with the necessary prerequisites for both learning and social interaction. According to Lippman it is important among other things for the environment to contain well-defined spaces and to offer clear pedagogic ideas about what should take place in each individual area.
“If I were to offer any advice along the way it would be to begin with a prototype learning environment to be tested and altered as required. The environment should both stimulate creativity and offer security. Our environments do not look the same now as when Skapaskolan was built but have been influenced by the teachers who work in them. Sometimes it is the students themselves who have created so-called ‘break-out zones’ that have become an integral part of the learning environment. It is all of us in unison who create the school,” concludes Holger.
Evidence-based design of elementary and secondary schools, a responsive approach to creating learning environments, Peter C Lippman