I won't go into too much detail, but here are a few photos that kind of summarise what we experienced:
Notice the open doors linking classrooms to the shared space in the middle?
This school had a policy - No closing the doors!
This group are collaborating on their writing in their own little space. Love the tent idea!
Not a teacher in sight but they were on task and happy to share their learning with me:
Different spaces for different purposes.
Meeting one of the classroom inhabitants!
You'll notice the range of layouts, furniture and learning spaces available to the children. Our current schools were designed 100 years ago to cater for the technologies and teaching/learning styles from 100 years ago. Time has moved on, apparently! Now, with cellphones, laptops, ipods, tablets and ipads, kids don't necessarily need a desk each. Spaces have been designed for kids to curl up with their ipads, to gather around computer stations, to collaborate in groups, or to meet together for whole class discussion.
These were often schools with plenty of money to throw around and many of the buildings were purpose-built. Rather than being composed of closed, individual classrooms, these buildings were completely open, with classes linked by large, shared spaces and free-ranging kids working in spaces that best suited their purpose. Systems were designed to encourage and foster self-directed learning and kids who seemed to be drifting and unsupervised, when questioned, were actually surprisingly driven and quietly working towards achieving their own personalised goals.