Our #Educon Session

Last year I met Andrew Campbell on twitter and since then we have been collaborating and discussing everything in education from how people learn to the spaces we learn in. Andrew is a grade 4/5 teacher and has been teaching for 20 years, we come from extremely different perspectives and experiences which I think fuels the ways we influence one another. In the summer, Andrew shared a story with me about going to Rome and visiting church after church after church just to soak in the beauty and awe of the buildings and he began to question why don’t we travel the world to see schools? In conjunction with my passion for breaking down school walls, we launched into a journey to find where are the beautiful learning spaces? The conversations moved from twitter to a blog of Beautiful Learning Spaces where we collect inspiration for what schools could be.

We were privileged to be able to share our project at EduCon 2.5 on January 25-27, 2013 in Philadelphia at the Science Leadership Academy.

Our session was on Sunday afternoon, right after lunch. We were a little nervous. We planned as much as we could to both speak about where we were coming from and to facilitate a conversation about beautiful learning spaces. We were so pleased with the group that turned out and got fully engaged into a conversation about space, school and learning 🙂 We created this google doc to record some of the conversation.

My biggest insight/take away from the session was how interested people were in co-working spaces and being able to choose where you work on what day depending on what you need.


My #Educon Adventures

I was in Philadelphia for the weekend of January 25-27 to present “Where are the Beautiful Learning Spaces?” with Andrew Campbell. The conference, #EduCon 2.5 was hosted at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) which is a public school that was developed in partnership between the public school board and the Franklin Institute, the science centre. The Franklin Institute, as the founding partner, launched SLA to promote science and leadership in education, the project is highly successful and an inspiring example of putting good ideas to action.

educon legos

Together, SLA and the Franklin Institute is bringing museum education, inquiry-driven, project based curriculum to life and sharing all the way, as demonstrated by #EduCon.

For me, #EduCon demonstrated to me how schools can be entrepreneurial, thought leaders, provocative and participate in bringing together some amazing people together. While the conference is highly supported online via Google hangouts and the massive twitter feed (actually went trending several times and then we started getting spammed…) there is nothing that can beat being there in person and getting to connect with people.

I got a chance to meet many people who I have talked to online and I feel like those in-person moments will solidify the existing relationships. Here are a few honourable mentions; Christian Long, educator of The Third Teacher, Dan Callahan, EdCamp; Alex Gillam, Public Workshop; Greg Bamford, Leading is Learning. Each of these people are making things happen in education, they are inspiring my work and I was ecstatic to meet them. I also met a slew of new people to add to my inspiration list; Christina Jenkins, designer of Quark Cards; Karen Blumberg, TedxYouth@School EdCampNYC & RoboExpo; Mary Cantwell, Deep Design Thinking and the most important people of all, the ones that come to our session! (More to come on that in another post)

me and Christian Long

I was surprised and loved the fact that a lot of the sessions were around design thinking. It meant that people spoke my language. Educators and designers who were using design thinking in the classroom, in education consulting and in thinking about the education system. It was simply marvellous!

Like all conferences, at some point we go back to our day jobs and all you can do is try and hold on to the memories to see what it may spark. I can say that there was more then a few ideas that were sparked and propelled by my weekend in Philly. Thanks Educon for inspiration, the cool peeps and the chance to eat a Philly cheese steak IN Philadelphia.

See you again,


And an extra special thank you to Patti Walker, President of Marathon Learning Materials Ltd. I couldn’t have done it without you. Your unconditional support is unbelievable!



Where are the beautiful learning spaces?

Imagine a classroom. What do you see? Is it the classroom of yesterday or of tomorrow?

In the fall of 2011, I went for a visit to a school and wrote a blog about breaking down school walls. I was struck by how the physical space of schools were not duplicating the vision of community engagement, creativity and innovation the way that so many are yearning for. I question the culture of learning that schools are promoting when the design leaves little to imagination. Historically schools are designed by institutional architects who also build hospital and jails. Now, I am not saying that none of these buildings have ever been beautiful, but it is not the norm. There are far more beige cylinder block classrooms and rows of desks attached to chairs than there should be.

I think we are ready to start seeing schools as places where we look up to, where we travel to, where we aspire to be more, where schools are beautiful learning spaces.

The role of schools is to keep children safe, to educate them for tomorrow, to learn the ABC’s of life and to pursue the next level. But where?

Last year, Andrew Campbell and I started a blog called Beautiful Learning Spaces, it is a collection of buildings that we find to be lovely and replicate the design principles that we think promote creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking that 21st century skills and respecting the space as the third teacher. We are inspired by the writings of Reggio Emilia and The Third Teacher which both understand the importance of the environment.

Between the two of us, we have been filling the blog with images of high schools, universities, classrooms, offices, libraries, museums and all sorts of beautiful spaces. What works well is that we don’t see beautiful learning spaces as coming from one specific sector but rather taking bits and pieces from spaces we have been or spaces we can only dream of visiting.

Andrew says “I want to find them and hold them up as inspiring models. To show what’s possible in a learning space and encourage educators to think more creatively about the spaces we create for learning. I want to use them as we go forward and remake our learning spaces to better meet the changing needs of our students.”

I want to find beautiful learning spaces and elevate the conversation of what space and environment does for learning behaviour, community culture and collective inspiration. I want to see what happens when beautiful learning spaces are everywhere and we as students and educators are co-designing those spaces. How we we become involved in the conversation of what beautiful learning spaces look like? Understand how they affect us and how we use them?