Gymnasiums as “Learning Theaters”?

| December 12, 2014

If you had a high school gymnasium, how would you turn it into a technology-friendly space for teaching, learning, and research?

As part of the Gottesman Libraries team, I’m currently involved in developing the concept of a “learning theater” — both programmatically and architecturally. Pulling this concept out of primordial soup of imagination (if such a space already exists as we imagine it, we do not know of it), our team embarked on a very broad inquiry:

  • What could a learning theater be?
  • What could it be within a library (in our case, it is)?
  • What is it within the context of Teachers College (with its legacy of innovation)?

We’ve already come a long way. Last winter, library staff hosted a series of design events with the TC community (summary videos can be viewed on Vialogues). This fall we’ve been working with a design team from Shepley Bulfinch to develop the concept and arrive at a schematic design. Our goal:

Renovate the 10,000 sq. ft. fourth floor of Russell Hall as a space for ambitious learning and research activities.

One aspect of our design progress that I’m very excited about is the ability for other educational institutions to use what we’re learning (and inevitably going to learn later on, after we move into our facility).

Don’t all schools need innovative teaching and learning spaces? These will be spaces that must accommodate richer and richer densities of learning tools – physical, digital, and any/every combination thereof. Being able to conduct research about teaching and learning in these spaces, therefore, seems to be increasingly important as well.

Retrofitting libraries and high school gymnasiums as new learning spaces could be only the beginning…