Hillbrook iLab

Hillbrook iLab

Hillbrook School, an independent, coeducational JK-8 day school in the heart of Silicon Valley, is leaping straight into the fray of mobile learning.

In 2010, Hillbrook brought iPads into the classroom — and then let them go right out of the classroom as part of its 1:1 take home pilot iPad program. Quickly, and almost organically, with the introduction of these instant-on, ever-ready, almost-transparent devices, the flow of the classroom began to shift. Teachers can now easily transition from introducing content to enabling individual or collaborative work. Students, conversely, aren’t confined to the desk to take notes or at the board to share. Teaching, and learning, has suddenly become more flexible.

It’s a significant breakthrough. One now being followed by an even greater “aha” moment: if iPads altered — and improved — the ways students and teachers learned and taught, than other change factors needed to be considered, too. A natural place to start was the learning environment.

So, in partnership with Bretford® and HERO, Inc, (Human Environmental Research Organization) a research and consulting firm, Hillbrook looked to redesign its traditional computer lab and develop an agile, experimental learning space, called iLab.

They emptied out the original room and repopulated it with Bretford® mobile flip top tables, mobile whiteboards, and soft seating chairs. This gave everyone ‘room to move’, and enabled iLab users to build a custom workspace for class, group, or individual work. Students have flowed from class to the iLab as necessary, and the iLab itself has taken on many new configurations.

The iLab has become a perfect environment for collaboration. The initial impact seems to be an increase in creative energy of students — no small feat. And the staff is energized, too. The foundational idea of the iLab project is that, along with books, teachers and environment, the learning space is also an education tool. And like any tool, when used appropriately, it supports and delivers enormous benefits. Hillbrook is witnessing first hand that environment does matter, and that technology has an impact on how and where learning happens. “It has an untethering effect, which allows us, if we dare, to rethink what schools and classrooms look like,” they report. Hillbrook is leading the way in building a new paradigm for educational spaces, laying the groundwork so other schools might follow.

The next phase? During the Summer break of 2012, Bretford® EDU 2.0 furniture will be installed and the iLab space will see complimentary upgrades in flooring and wall colors. Over the Fall/Winter semester of 2012, plans have been developed to conduct identical activities and projects in traditional learning spaces and in the iLab. Student outcomes, teacher evaluations and anecdotal and ethnographic evidence will be collected to understand the agility and adaptability of learning spaces, and how spaces can support learning and teaching.

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