Teachers And Student Teachers Converge On Thurles For Major “Learning Spaces Conference”

“The School Around the Corner‘s Just the same? Hmm. Maybe. But for how long more? A perfect school is no longer the place with seats all in straight lines and with books aligned on shelves. That’s the interesting conclusion arising from a series of Saturday workshops, Monday evening virtual meetings, and school visits co-ordinated by the Limerick Institute of Technology recently.

“The School Around the Corner‘s Just the same? Hmm. Maybe. But for how long more? A perfect school is no longer the place with seats all in straight lines and with books aligned on shelves. That’s the interesting conclusion arising from a series of Saturday workshops, Monday evening virtual meetings, and school visits co-ordinated by the Limerick Institute of Technology recently.

A “Learning Spaces Conference “in LIT-Tipperary in Thurles was attended by teachers and student teachers from all over Ireland who heard about exciting new approaches to teaching in a classroom. If learning is to be constant, Space, Time, Technology, Pedagogy, Curriculum must be the variables, it was stated. An afternoon conversation was entitled” Imagining Contemporary and Future Learning Spaces-If Now, How?”

Ira Socol and Pam Moran, American educators who delivered keynote addresses during the “Learning Spaces” Conference in Thurles, see value in chaos.

“Not organised’ chaos,” they point out, but “focused chaos.” They turned a convention seating arrangement on its head for part of their presentation, encouraging teachers to write on tables in front of an amused audience. With that demonstration, many of the teachers in the audience realised how delighted school children could be to take notes and draw images on paper table coverings for part of their classwork.

The activity formed part of a hands-on development of the iridescent classroom, a concept championed by the keynote presenters at the LIT Education Conference.

“Most educational systems aren’t ready for that kind of approach,” says Pam Moran, superintendent of the Albemarle County Public School District in Virginia in the United States. “It was nice seeing Irish teachers jump right into the flow of things during the LIT Conference.”

The day-long conference and workshops involved educators with teaching responsibilities ranging in age from Senior Infants to Fourth Year University Students. “A lot of eclectic ideas flowed through the day,” said Socol, a self-styled “provocateur” and education consultant. You can measure the effectiveness of what happened in Thurles by the way the ideas flowed from everybody.”

“We’ve seen a strong ripple effect as Ira and Pam travelled from our Learning Spaces Conference into schools throughout Ireland,” said Pam O’Brien, the Conference Organiser of LIT-Tipperary, Thurles. “We know that if we want to promote innovation, we have to get out and show how to improve the way we teach.” This means actually practising “enlightened trial and error” and “failing your way to success”, two catchphrases of teachers who believe in iridescent classrooms.

“This is true learning,” says Socol. “We’ve seen it in the passion and the foresight of teachers whose schools we’ve visited during our two weeks in Ireland.”

Teachers, parents and students can continue to follow the conversation about learning spaces by searching for #edchatie on Twitter or by looking at LIT.ie/ictedu online.

The welcoming address at the conference was by LIT President, Dr Maria Hinfelaar. And Colin McLean, Head of LIT-Tipperary School, also spoke. Speakers also included Dr Conor Galvin, UCD, and Bernie Goldbach.

Subjects covered at the conference included, ”Science Education Through Game-Based Learning”, “The Iridescent Classroom.” “Social Media, Learning, Space and Time”,”Tablets In The Classroom”

LIT, Thurles, Staff present included Ciaran Lynch, Seamus Hoyne, Yvonne Doyle, Rita Clohessy, Jacqueline Humphries. The attendance included Eadaoin Ryan, Nenagh, Lorna Healy, Thurles Aoife Ryan, Thurles, Catherine O’ Keeffe, Clonmel, Noel Cleere and Jerry O’ Dwyer, Kilkenny.