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Hacking the School Building: An innovator's guide to
future ready learning environments

Sam Johnson, AIA, REFP, LEED AP

Dr. Dan Cox

Ryan Raymiller, teacher

Amanda Rahmiller, teacher

BLDD Architects, Inc.; Charles City School District 

Domains: Process,  Learning, Toolbox

Course Level: Intermediate

Learning Units: 1.5 LU

Room: A704


Sunday, October 29, 2017 @ 8:30 am


Why aren't they using it the way we designed it? It's the question we are too embarrassed to ask. Research tells us that students learn differently. Educational leaders from across the globe teach us that learning must be made relevant, active, and engaging. Teachers tell us learning activities and strategies are changing. Architects are taught from day one that form follows function.....and we know if function is changing, so should design solutions. So we explore new solutions, we develop new concepts. We come to the Association for Learning Environments conference to see all of the wonderful things happening across the world, and get fired up to create similar learning environments. So when we are puzzled by things we see in brand new buildings, we ask: why is the collaboration commons closed? Why has the science teacher moved all of his storage in front of the movable glass wall? Why aren't they using it the way it was designed? Could it be that the traditional design process has the wrong people driving the school DESIGN bus? Shouldn't teachers and students be the real drivers? Is it possible that architects are old fashioned.....holding on to an antiquated process because we like being the leader? When architects lead and advocate for space and how they should be used, aren't we implying that teachers should be doing things differently, and in the process, marginalizing everything that teachers know to be good about how they do what they do? That's the lesson suggested by the Charles City Iowa Middle School project. The district wanted to be a pioneering school district, leading the discussion on national best practices for educational programs and facilities. The design process followed a different path. This process hacked the school building by prototyping learning environments that were then tested by teachers and students. The process wasn't perfect, but the results suggest it's the right approach for the future. The pioneering Superintendent and two teachers join the architect and discuss life in a Middle school without classrooms in rural America, how it came to be, changes in student outcomes, and how a smarter process of invention is key to sustainable, functional, future ready learning environments.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Attendees will learn how to use the hacking or prototyping process to invent innovative learning environments
  2. Attendees will gain a greater understanding of the educator's perspective going through the design process
  3. Attendees will learn procedures that move teachers from passive approver to active designer of learning environment solutions
  4. Attendees will learn a framework for measuring the effectiveness of a proposed design concept