Future Learning Spaces in Schools: Concepts and Designs
from the Learning Sciences
Yo t a m H o d
#Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2017
Abstract As institutions invest time and money into con-
structing or redesigning spaces to meet educational goals of
the innovation age, it is prudent for designers to be guided by
lessons learned from research. Based on a synthesis of four
leading future learning spaces, a novel conceptualization is
offered here to advance both scholarship and practice of future
learning spaces. Specifically, this synthesis distinguishes be-
tween two types of spaces: content-flexible and content-spe-
cific. Content-flexible spaces are dedicated for instruction or
open learning, while content-specific spaces are used as a
stage for learning or as sources of content. In addition to this
conceptualization, eight principles about the process of estab-
lishing future learning spaces and about specific features of
their designs are provided based on interviews of lead de-
signers of the four exemplars considered for this paper. The
analysis of these principles shows that developmental princi-
ples are relatively fixed, while design principles have a wider
range of diversity. These conclusions provide formative
knowledge for designers of future learning spaces.
Keywords Future learning spaces .Educational
technologies .Innovation age .Learning sciences
The redesign or construction of learning spaces is a major
contemporary challenge for educational institutions (Adams
Becker et al. 2016; Sutherland and Fischer 2014). This has to
do with (a) the innovation age, where what is required from
the current and future workforce involves increasingly com-
plex thinking (Scardamalia and Bereiter 2014); (b) new theo-
ries, conceptions, and knowledge of learning—converging in
the interdisciplinary field called the ‘learning sciences’over
the past three decades—that has opened the door to many
innovative ways to think about and design educational settings
(Sawyer 2014a); and (c) rapidly advancing networked tech-
nologies such as web communities, mobile devices, and the
internet-of-things that radically change the spaces where
learning occurs (Collins and Halverson 2009; Leander et al.
2010). Putting these ideas together, the concept of future
learning spaces (FLSs) has emerged in recent years as an
exciting line of research in education (e.g., Hod et al. 2016;
Moher et al. 2015).
Researching about FLSs is not just a theoretical challenge.
The timeliness of this conversation is critical given the current
state of educational reforms around the globe whereby large
and expensive infrastructure decisions are being made to build
or renovate schools and classrooms. History has shown that
these reforms often fail to impact learning because they are
based on Bmore of the same^instructionist pedagogies (Cuban
2001; Scardamalia and Bereiter 2014) or fanciful futurist vi-
sions of learning environments that are not connected to any
specific learning principle. In popular media reports about
new educational architectures, such ideas are often described
with a great deal of hype, without giving deep consideration to
theories of learning, the use of educational technologies, and
subject matter that all must be integrated within the space
(Ellis and Goodyear 2016). Coherent frameworks that are de-
rived from successful examples and based on research are
needed to guide the construction and redesign of spaces so
they provide a beneficial return on the investment (Sawyer
2014b; Peters and Slotta 2010).
*Yota m Hod
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
J Form Des Learn
This article first elaborates upon the notion of FLSs to show
why it is an important and timely construct. Later, a novel
conceptualization of FLSs is synthesized from four cutting-
edge examples that continue to be the subject of empirical
research. Finally, based on literature and interviews from lead-
ing researchers in these settings, eight principles for the suc-
cessful development and design of FLSs are presented and
analyzed vis-à-vis the exemplary FLSs.
The BFuture Learning Space^Concept
The consideration of space in the learning process is ubiqui-
tous. Discourse around learning spaces can be found in public
media such as newspapers and magazines (see Rotello 2013),
popular educational discourse (e.g., learning environment and
flipped classroom), and large-scale reforms (e.g., the small
school movement). Reports on educational innovation say that
redesigning learning spaces is a long-term trend in both K-12
and higher education (Adams Becker et al. 2016; Johnson
et al. 2016), and there has been recent interest taken within
various academic disciplines such as architecture, human
computer interaction, and the learning sciences (Temple
2007,2008; Ellis and Goodyear 2016). Moreover, pedagogi-
cal ideas that involve the physical and locational aspects of the
classroom, such as informally shaped groups of active learn-
ing classrooms (Beichner 2014) and cooperative learning
methods (Johnson and Johnson 2005), have become main-
stream in educational practice. So, what do we gain by adding
Bfuture^to the idea of Blearning spaces^?WhatdoesBfuture
learning spaces^really mean, anyway? And, what do we still
need to know?
Why Add Future to Learning Spaces?
The accelerating rate of societal change along with technolog-
ical innovations has expanded the notion of learning spaces,
expressed in new ideas such as BNext Generation Learning
Spaces,^BNew Generation Learning Spaces,^and
BEmerging Learning Spaces^(Fraser 2014). The need to con-
sider these forward-looking ideas in the context of learning
spaces has to do with the second educational revolution that
we are currently undergoing. The first revolution occurred
when brick and mortar schools arose in the industrial age;
the second as society transitions to the age of technology
(Collins and Halverson 2009). Specifically, societal changes
rising from the mobilities between material and virtual spaces,
the way people interact and use these spaces, and other tech-
nological advances have forced education to grapple with
perplexing challenges while providing exciting opportunities.
Today, and likely even more in the future, society is chal-
lenged with changing demands from the workforce, an explo-
sion of information that requires a great deal of sophistication
to navigate, and increasingly complex thinking to make ev-
eryday decisions. The Pew Research Center reports that to-
day’s workforce is changing at an astonishing rate, with lower-
skilled jobs continually being threatened and people needing
to prepare for jobs that may not yet exist (Smith and Anderson
2014). The abundance of information, which can be accessed
and spread easily, requires people to be able to evaluate the
reliability of sources and the motivations that stand behind
them in a Bpost-truth world^(Barzilai and Zohar 2016). To
make informed decisions in a way that is promoted by demo-
cratic ideals, citizens need to engage in complex thinking,
often in collaboration with others, that requires scientific liter-
acies (Lead States, NGSS 2013).
The same changes that lead to societal challenges are also
educational opportunities. New spaces that are being built or
redesigned today, like Makerspaces, allow people to engage in
creative production of artifacts, both material and digital
(Halverson and Sheridan 2014). Cyberspaces, which have be-
come ubiquitous aspects of modern day life, provide ways for
people to collaboratively build knowledge (e.g., Wikipedia) or
explore a wide range of phenomena in virtual worlds like
Minecraft (Cress et al. 2016). While alone these spaces pro-
vide exciting opportunities to learn, the mobilities between
them change the space-time relation of learning altogether
(Leander et al. 2010). As a simple example, it is a now com-
mon practice for people to Tweet images of presentation slides
(Ellis and Goodyear 2016). At a more abstract level, the way
people live between these spaces shapes their identities and
cultural evolution in ways that are barely understood (Savin-
Baden 2007). The near instant access to knowledge and con-
tinual re-appropriation of that knowledge means that humans
are interacting and learning in new and different ways
(Schejter and Tirosh 2015).
While calls to reform schooling have existed for at least a
century (see Dewey 1916), new challenges and opportunities
brought about by technological advances have changed the
calculus. They have altered society so dramatically that new
educational spaces must be based upon recognition of the
large societal changes taking place and the ways schools need
to address these issues, as well as the exciting opportunities
that exist. In this age of rapid change, FLSs are a call-to-ac-
tion—a need to have a forward orientation and consider how
to create learning spaces that prepare students for a Bfuture that
is already here^(Isaacson 2011).
What Does FLS Really Mean?
While looking towards the future is vital to conceptualize and
design learning spaces, the drivers of educational innovation
must be grounded in what we know about human learning
(Sawyer 2014b). Over the past several decades, interdisciplin-
ary research in the learning sciences has provided new insights
on the way people learn. One of the cornerstones of the
J Form Des Learn
learning sciences is its commitment to impacting practice by
researching learning as it happens within the field, instead of
within a laboratory (Brown 1992). Research over the past
several decades has provided unequivocal evidence that
instructionist pedagogies are inferior to those where students
are active, collaborative, reflective, and work within a sup-
portive learning community (Bransford et al. 2000). Thus,
constructing or re-designing a space must rely on principles of
learning derived from the learning sciences. Failing to do so
when building a space is likely to repeat the same mistake that
has plagued school implementation of educational technolo-
gies, which have been oversold and underused when they have
The learning sciences offers a vital body of knowledge that
should serve as the foundation for any FLS and also providesa
theoretical perspective that brings together the ideas of Bfu-
ture^and Blearning^with Bspaces.^Specifically, a main thrust
of the learning sciences has been an approach that emphasizes
everyday, culture-dependent social interactions and their role
in learning (Lave and Wenger 1991). From this sociocultural
perspective, learning is seen as a process of becoming a full
member within a community. If we want students to be pre-
pared for the authentic types of collaborative, complex, and
creative activities that professionals in the innovation age en-
gage in, then students must participate in school learning ac-
tivities that give access to these authentic professional prac-
tices (Edelson and Reiser 2006;HodandSagy2017;
Radinsky et al. 2001). Traditional schooling has developed
its own culture, with practices such as standardized tests and
homogenous grouping, which are founded upon strong but
unsubstantiated assumptions of learning. As a result, students
often learn knowledge and practices that are useful to succeed
in schools, but have little relevance to what they do in the
professional world (Brown et al. 1989). Socioculturally based
educational designs, such as collaborative learning or learning
communities, have the purpose of bringing the innovation age
into the classroom and therefore guide the design of FLSs.
One of the key aspects of the sociocultural perspective is
the recognition that learning is mediated by artifacts and tools.
This idea is expressed within Vygotsky’sZone of Proximal
Development, which explains that human learning is
scaffolded by the external world (Reiser and Tabak 2014).
For teachers, this translates to a pedagogical view that is much
broader than knowledge transmission and acquisition, be-
cause learning is defined by this interaction between the
intra- and inter-mental planes (Wertsch 2007). In other words,
cognition does not reside only in a person’s head but is distrib-
uted (Salomon 1993), and knowledge is not just an object that
can be acquired, but is situated in cultural activity (Sfard 1998).
For FLSs, the sociocultural perspective is important be-
cause space is viewed as one mediator of learning among
others. The complex integration of space along with the other
mediators is the central challenge for designing FLSs. This
view is well established in the learning sciences, whether it
has been expressed in the changing role of the teacher from
instructor to scripter and orchestrator (Slotta et al. 2013), or in
more explicit ways:
Ubiquitous mediating structures that both organize and
constrain activity include not only designed objects such
as tools, control instruments, and symbolic representa-
tions like graphs, diagrams, texts, plans, and pictures,
but people in social relations, as well as features and
landmarks in the physical environment (Pea 1993,p
Based on the theoretical perspective that space must be
integrated with other mediators of learning, it is possible to
see where building or redesigning school spaces often goes
astray. Designers building esthetic learning spaces may think
that a comfortable and pleasant space will meaningfully im-
pact learning. Without diminishing the possibility that space
may have on important psychological factors like mood, this
is a limited perspective because it does not sufficiently con-
sider the complex relationship between space and other medi-
ators of learning.
What Do We Know About FLSs?
While a sophisticated understanding of learning is required to
recognize the importance of the sociocultural perspective, this
is a starting point. One of the big challenges of FLS research
requires advancements on this understanding to detail the re-
lationships between space and the other mediators of learning
(Kali et al. 2015; Slotta 2010). That is, space needs to be
evaluated based on the way it supports or scaffolds students’
participation in authentic practices (Roth et al. 1999).
Research on learning spaces has increased in recent years,
but still faces many challenges. In a review of research,
Tem pl e (2007,2008) shows that a large majority of studies
on learning spaces are either unsupported or anecdotal about
the way spaces may benefit learning. Oblinger and
Lippincott’s case studies of learning spaces (Oblinger and
Lippincott 2006) highlight various space dimensions and their
relation with what is known about learning. Savin-Baden
(2007) offers an interesting analysis of the forms and functions
of spaces, such as those that are reflective or dialogical. Ellis
and Goodyear (2016), in perhaps the most extensive and up-
to-date review of learning space research, created a classifica-
tion emphasizing the interaction between context (formal/in-
formal and who provides the resources) with technology and
space dimensions (physical/virtual). These reviews are signif-
icant steps towards bringing together a field that has been
highly fragmented and dispersed.
A further advance to FLS research that could be useful for
the formative design of learning environments is to include the
J Form Des Learn
interaction of these previously examined mediational factors
with pedagogies and content areas. Stated differently, analyses
of learning spaces could benefit from knowing how they relate
to different content areas as well as pedagogies suited to foster
learning. In the next section, four current examples of FLSs
are carefully examined as a way to highlight some of these
Examining Contemporary Future Learning Spaces
To further advance knowledge about how FLSs are designed,
this section describes the results of an analysis of four different
types of contemporary learning spaces, which I discuss fol-
lowing this introduction. In analyzing these FLSs, particular
attention was paid to (a) the way the designs integrated key
pedagogical principles, (b) the use of technology, (c) the way
space served the students’learning, and (d) the subject mate-
rial being taught. Carrying out this analysis required
interviewing the lead researchers and carefully reviewing pub-
lished literature that described each of the four exemplary
FLSs. Each of these learning spaces were selected because
they had a forward orientation, grappling with innovative
ways to create learning experiences for students that prepared
them for contemporary and future societal demands; built on a
solid foundation of design principles of learning derived from
the learning sciences; and put space as a serious consideration
among the many mediators of learning. While such an analy-
sis is not comprehensive of all learning spaces, in-depth com-
parative analyses contribute important information and vital
insights to a field’s knowledge base (Merriam 1998). The
sections below provide contextual descriptions that focus,
where appropriate, on the interaction between the four key
Analyzing Four Exemplary Lines of Contemporary FLSs
Knowledge Building Communities (KBCs) KBCs have
been around since the early 1990s and are one of the landmark
learning community approaches that have global reach
(Bielaczyc and Collins 1999). KBCs have been implemented
in multiple settings, with different age groups, and in various
content areas. One of the large innovations of KBCs is the
knowledge forum, an online collaborative platform used for
students within a community to build their collective knowl-
edge. Within KBCs, students work in corresponding on- and
off-line spaces. For example, groups of ideas that develop in
the online space are often worked on by students in certain
areas of the physical space (Zhang et al. 2009). In recent years,
new tools such as the Idea Thread Mapper (Fig. 1)havebeen
introduced, allowing students to reflect upon their online dis-
course as they review their unfolding idea threads (Zhang
et al. 2015). This tool has also been used to develop sustained
knowledge building both within and between distant commu-
nities (e.g., Albany, Toronto, Singapore, etc.).
Krause Innovation Studio The Krause Innovation Studio
(Rook et al. 2015)isanFLSsetwithintheCollegeof
Education at The Pennsylvania State University. The Studio
is separated into the Main Studio Space and the Learn Lab
(Fig. 2). The Main Studio Space is intended for all students
within the College of Education to drop in and study on their
own time. The space features a diverse set of learning areas,
including semi-private collaborative pods, working bar for
Fig. 1 The Idea Thread Mapper
allows students to reflect upon
their and other communities’
collective knowledge advances
J Form Des Learn
individual seating, and private rooms. The main feature of
these collaborative spaces is the use of display technology.
Students, who bring their own devices, can easily connect to
large screens. Small handheld switches allow them to quickly
exchange whose screen is shared. The Learn Lab, which sits
adjacent to the Main Studio Space, is designed to encourage
open, collaborative, and interactive forms of collaborative-
learning pedagogies within a teacher-led setting in different
content areas. The space is purposefully decentralized, so
there is no front of the room. Students work in groups around
tables and large displays, allowing them to easily switch be-
tween who is showing their screen publicly.
Active Learning Classroom Charles and Whittaker (2015)
have developed an FLS that brings together several peda-
gogies which require students to be active in the learning
process, such as project-based learning and peer instruction.
Their Active Learning Classrooms (Fig. 3) are set in the con-
text of grades 12 and 13 within the Quebec CEGEP pre-
university college system. They were originally designed for
student to study physics over the course of a semester but have
since spread to 12 different content areas. The main configu-
ration is an arrangement of group learning, with
approximately six students collaborating around cone-
shaped tabletops and a large multi-touch, interactive white-
board standing a short distance from the wide-edge of each
table. This arrangement encourages students to stand up and
collaborate on the whiteboard as they use specialized software
to experiment with various digital objects in accordance with
the content they are learning.
Knowledge Community and Inquiry (KCI) Spaces KCI is
a pedagogical theory and model developed by Slotta (2010),
which serves as the basis of several FLSs in science content
areas. The general approach of KCI involves scripting collab-
orative knowledge construction. Students typically circulate
around the room at different stations as they work with mobile
technologies, such as tablets, contributing their knowledge to
the community for later whole-group discussions and
decision-making (Fig. 4, left). Enactment of KCI relies on
an advanced technological infrastructure that facilitates either
automated or teacher-driven orchestration of the community
members’activities (Slotta et al. 2013). The flow of inquiry
activities is orchestrated based on the content of student inter-
actions around display screens, ambient feedback displays
which show student progress, and aggregate knowledge
Fig. 2 Two main spaces within
the Krause Innovation Studio
Fig. 3 Active Learning
J Form Des Learn
representations for reflective discussions (Acosta and Slotta
2013). Several specific learning programs, typically for ele-
mentary through high school students, have been developed
within the KCI framework. These include Evoroom,
Roomquake, Foraging, and Wallcology (Moher et al. 2008;
Moher et al. 2015). As an example, Evoroom is an immersive
simulation of rainforests over millions of years. Students are
surrounded by large digital displays showing that these
rainforests evolve over time (Fig. 4, right). Their task is to
be field researchers of these rainforest simulations, looking
for relationships between species as the environment changes
to learn about evolution. Using the KCI technology, their con-
tributions are collected in a database which tracks these rela-
tionships and allows the students to reflect upon their aggre-
gated representation of knowledge at the front of the room
(Lui and Slotta 2014).
The analysis of the different configurations of space, technol-
ogy, content-area, and pedagogy reveals a useful way to dis-
tinguish between FLSs. Specifically, a defining characteristic
of these four FLSs is whether or not they were designed to
allow for diverse subjectsto be studied (content-flexible), or in
relation to specific subject matter (content-specific). Within
these two categories, there are further divisions based on the
integration of space, technology, and pedagogy. This concep-
tualization is described below then summarized in Table 1.
Content-Flexible FLSs The essential characteristic of the
content-flexible category is that the FLSs were developed to
support a wide range of subject matter. The technology and
space are integrated to allow a broad range of learning activ-
ities. The technologies are relatively low-tech, emphasizing
public displays so that students can share whatever they are
working on with each other. The space and furniture include
configurations that can be flexible and/or diverse. Flexibility
means that furniture can be moved around to support different
types of activities; diversity means that there are many types
of seating or learning arrangements built into the spaces to
support a range of activities without moving around furniture.
The Krause Innovation Studio is a good example where
two types of content-flexible FLSs are located adjacent to
one another. The Learn Lab supports instructors to design a
range of learning activities for their students in any subject
matter that they choose, making it an open instructional space.
In contrast, the Main Studio Space features a diverse set of
learning areas so that students, on their own time, can drop in
and study. Therefore, open learning spaces support users to
learn in any way they want to (e.g., individual, collaborative)
outside of the framework of formal instruction.
Content-Specific FLSs The essential characteristics of
content-specific FLSs are that they were designed for instruc-
tion of a particular content area, such as physics, animal for-
aging behavior, evolution, or seismology. In comparison to the
content-flexible FLSs, this category involves much more
Fig. 4 Generalized setup of KCI space (left); Evoroom (right)
Tabl e 1 Conceptualization of
FLS categories and types FLS category FLS type Examples
Content-flexible Open instructional space Krause Learn Lab
Knowledge Building Communities (KBC)
Open learning space Krause Main Studio Space
Content-specific Space as a stage Active Learning Classroom (ALC)
Space as content Foraging (KCI)
J Form Des Learn
custom-tailored technologies, pedagogies, and spaces to sup-
port students’learning of the specific subject matter. Thus,
while display technology may be used for some activities,
these spaces also include technology or furniture that was
designed to support a very specific set of activities. While
the spaces may allow for flexible or diverse configurations,
the activities within these configurations are designed to reach
the particular content goals.
The Active Learning Classroom is an example of a
space-as-a-stage FLS. Specifically, the FLS was origi-
nally developed so that students can engage in collabo-
rative construction of knowledge as they study physics.
The interactive whiteboards and software were chosen
specifically to allow students to manipulate digital ob-
jects, like forces and vectors, as they discuss solutions
to different problems collaboratively. The space itself
has some diversity (e.g., students can sit with their
group at a table or stand up by the large interactive
boards), but very little flexibility in that the space or
furniture was not designed to be moved as part of the
activities. When the space is a stage for learning, stu-
dents use a custom-designed space in a way to support
the study of specific content.
In the second type of content-specific FLS, space-as-
content, the space itself is the object of study. These examples
include phenomena embedded into the space because the lo-
cation of the people and objects matter (Moher et al. 2015).
For example, in Roomquake, earthquakes are simulated with-
in the classroom walls, as the floor literally becomes a two-
dimensional surface which students measure to learn seismol-
ogy. Or, in Evoroom, large immersive screens simulate
rainforests which students must investigate to study natural
selection. Across all FLSs of this type, the space is not only
used by the students, but is part of what is investigated.
Principles for the Development and Design of Future
Considering the categories and types of FLSs through
an analysis of four exemplary cases provided an oppor-
tunity to elicit cross-cutting principles for how to trans-
late formative designs into practice. The synthesis across
the examples resulted in eight principles organized into
two categories. The first category focuses upon princi-
ples for developing FLSs; the second category focuses
on principles of FLS designs. Following the description
of the categories and of the way the exemplary FLSs
applied them, Table 2summarizes and provides fine-
level details about the different ways these were forma-
tive in their designs.
Tabl e 2 Analysis of the development and design principles in the four exemplary FLSs
Principle KBC Krause ALC KCI
FLS Development Principles
1. Knowledge building Situated learning Active learning Knowledge integration and
2. Classroom and school
support of learning
Wide range of stakeholders involved Collegial support of the lead
Classroom and school
support of learning
3. Learning experts initiated
and involved in all
Studio director (learning expert) involved
in all phases
Learning experts initiated and
involved in all phases
Learning experts initiated
and involved in all phases
4. Iterative implementation
upgrading the designs
One time implementation Iterative implementation
upgrading the designs
upgrading the designs
5. International research
Local university community Regional collegial
University and school
community (Encore Lab)
FLS Design Principles
6. Simple online
dedicated designed physical space
Dedicated designed physical
space and software
architecture that can be
easily implemented in
various physical spaces
7. Highly flexible and
emergent online space
based on a simple set of
Diversity of configurations (in studio)
and some flexibility (in learn lab)
Moderately flexible within a
dedicated fixed physical
Highly scripted and
orchestrated to support
8. Dynamic flow between
physical and online
spaces driven by ideas
Physical space supports online collaboration (in
studio) and orchestrated (teacher-led) flow
mutually supporting learning in physical and
online spaces (in learn lab)
flow mutually supporting
learning in physical and
flow integrating physical
and online spaces
J Form Des Learn
FLS Development Principles
1. Develop a clear purpose—stakeholders involved in the
construction or redesign of educational spaces should
clearly articulate the purpose of their FLS. The specific
categories and types of FLSs (presented above) can be
helpful when developing an FLS vision. Moreover, the
purpose should be informed by learning principles and
particularly sociocultural theories of learning, which sug-
gest that the FLS must support authentic learning activi-
ties so that instruction is relevant for the innovation age.
The four exemplar FLSs are all informed by different
variations of sociocultural theories of learning.
2. Get buy-in from multiple stakeholders—make sure that
all participants involved in the process, including admin-
istrators and users (i.e., teachers, students), work together
towards a common goal. Administration should support
the users in their implementation. User buy-in means that
they want thespace and they have a clear purpose for it,so
the FLS is not underused after it is built. The four exem-
plar FLSs all had buy-in from the relevant stakeholders.
3. Involve learning experts—too often, spaces involve a
number of stakeholders such as architects and local public
figures, but the experts on learning are left out (Rook et al.
2015). Such situations often lead to an esthetically pleas-
ing design that does not support meaningful learning
within the space. Partnering with experts on learning, of-
tentimes from universities, is important to articulate the
theoretical ideas underlying the pedagogical and techno-
logical use of the space, as well as to provide professional
development for the practitioners who will use it. The four
exemplar FLSs were all driven by learning experts.
4. Take an iterative approach to implementation—as much
as possible, avoid large implementations in multiple class-
rooms. Instead, try to take approaches that include cycles
of implementation, reflection upon what does and does
not work, and further implementation. Ideally, you want
to be able to Bgrow into^the spaces by finding local so-
lutions to problems as they arise. This requires taking a
long-term view as the user’s needs and the space are pro-
gressively developed. Three of the four exemplar FLSs
were implemented iteratively; one went through an inten-
sive iterative design process leading to a single
5. Build a learning community around the space—the users
or stakeholders should constantly work together to sup-
port the use of the FLS. There must be opportunities to
develop collective knowledge around the space, particu-
larly as the users of the space expand or change. The
learning community around the FLS should be encour-
aged to try new pedagogies, sharing both successes and
failures that can be learned from and to model learning
practices for the students using the FLS. The four exem-
plar FLSs built learning communities that included re-
searchers and users at different scales.
FLS Design Principles
6. Choose lightweight infrastructure solutions whenever
possible—technology becomes obsolete very quickly, so
relying on technology that is expensive to replace forces
large future investments that may not be available.
Wherever possible and appropriate, opt for inexpensive
solutions, even if they are low-tech. Some examples in-
clude bring-your-own-device (BYOD), cloud computing,
and free software like Skype instead of expensive tele-
conferencing platforms. Many low-tech solutions have
very similar functionality as expensive versions at a frac-
tion of the cost. The four exemplar FLSs ranged in the
physical and online infrastructure customization needed,
dependent upon their specific goals.
7. Allow for dynamic usage—FLSs should be sensitive to
the emergent needs of the learners. Flexibility is one way
to achieve such dynamic usage. Projectors and large dis-
plays can play an important role in many different de-
signs, but if they are fixed into walls, it is quite difficult
to make adjustments when new needs emerge. Thus, you
want to have the opportunity to move the projection
space, chairs, and tables. As another alternative to flexi-
bility, spaces can also have a diversity of configurations to
give people different ways to work. Both of these con-
cepts should be implemented into most spaces, with con-
sideration to the purpose of the space itself and in relation
to the technological and physical limitations. The usage
within the four exemplar FLSs were dynamic, but driven
by different agents.
8. Integrate the spaces across activities, ideas, and people—
even within one educational setting, like a classroom,
there are typically multiple spaces. This is particularly
amplified as cyberspace has become a mainstay in educa-
tional designs. As such, integration of multiple learning
spaces, both physical and online, must be done to support
dynamic flow between the different learning activities.
For this integration to be productive, there must be a co-
herent connection developed between the different spaces
so the ideas produced in one space can be expressed and
advanced in another. The four exemplar FLSs all consid-
ered the relations between online and physical spaces.
J Form Des Learn
Discussion and Conclusions
This paper shows why FLSs require further scholarship, and
how it can inform designers as they construct or re-design
spaces for learning. First, the notion of FLSs was explored
to show why bringing the seemingly unrelated terms of future,
learning, and space together is a relevant and timely concept.
Second, four active and exemplary FLSs were examined and
analyzed, leading to a new conceptualization of FLSs that can
advance designers’understandings of the purposes and func-
tions of FLSs. Finally, the four exemplary cases were synthe-
sized, leading to eight cross-cutting principles that can inform
how to develop and design FLSs.
Past conceptualizations of learning spaces focused on ped-
agogy, space, and technological dimensions (Ellis and
Goodyear 2016), without paying too much attention to the
way these are related to the content areas being taught. The
conceptualization that resulted from the analysis in this paper
is particularly helpful because it highlights the role of content
areas among these other mediating factors. The result of this
analysis sheds light on this additional variable within the com-
plex equation involved in thinking about FLSs.
Considering the content as another co-constituting FLS
mediator opens new pathways to think about and design
FLSs. In addition to establishing clear categories and types
of FLSs that can inform designers, this conceptualization also
leads to fine-grained insights. In this paper, the original inten-
tion of the FLSs was analyzed, even though in some cases,
their use evolved over time. For example, the Active Learning
Classroom was originally designed for physics instruction.
The large touch screens adjacent to irregularly shaped tables
aimed to allow students to touch and manipulate vectors and
other physics-related objects so they can collaboratively deep-
en their understanding of concepts in physics. Later on, the
community around the space realized that the same pedagog-
ical principles and space could support instruction in other
disciplines, too. Despite the fact that various content areas
were ultimately taught in this FLS, it is still useful to consider
it as a separate category from the content-flexible FLSs be-
cause the design was derived based on a different set of con-
siderations. Taking a content-flexible or content-specific di-
rection leads to divergent designs, which is a helpful insight
that expands the possible thinking pathways to creating inno-
vative learning spaces in the future.
An additional formative aspect that can contribute to the de-
velopment and design of FLSs has to do with the eight principles
that were analyzed and summarized in Table 2. For the most part,
there were large similarities in the processes by which the exem-
plary FLSs were developed. The sociocultural basis of these
designs (principle 1) and involvement of learning experts
throughout the iterative design process (principles 3 and 4) are
common to them all. Likewise, including multiple stakeholders
(principle 2) and building a community around the users after the
FLS was created (principle 5) may have had slight differences
but were all essentially the same. These process-oriented princi-
ples appear to be vital in the complex endeavors of building
FLSs, which (even if they use lightweight technologies) require
relatively large capital investments.
A wider range of diversity was found across the three de-
sign principles, suggesting that FLSs can take a variety of
forms—such as the categories and types seen in Table 1—
and do not need to be Bcopy and pasted^from existing models.
Although having lightweight infrastructure and dynamic us-
age may always be a goal (principles 6 and 7), ultimately the
specific needs of an FLS dictate those final decisions. For
example, KCI has minimal requirements on the physical space
with a highly customized digital infrastructure, while Krause
had a highly customized physical space with minimal require-
ments on the digital infrastructure. Similarly, the integration of
various spaces across activities (principle 8) may be driven by
highly different factors, such as the learners themselves (e.g.,
in KBC) or an automated orchestration design (e.g., in KCI).
A useful future research direction that stems from this study
could be to examine the design principles within each catego-
ry and type by examining a large sample of FLSs.
Using This Study for the Formative Designs of FLSs
The accumulated knowledge collected and advanced as part of
this research can guide schools that are seeking to design and
develop their own FLSs. The following recommendations draw
on the three main parts of this study—(1) the conception of FLSs,
(2) types of FLSs, and (3) principles for the design and develop-
ment of FLSs—to help practitioners translate this research into
actionable, formative knowledge. While each of the three items
on this checklist draws mainly on a particular part of this study,
they deliberately include ideas from the others to show that they
are interrelated and mutually supportive of one another.
(1) The conception of FLSs—assembleateamofstake-
holders for your school that includes school administration,
a learning expert (e.g., lead teacher, researcher), students,
and other relevant community participants (e.g., parents,
school board, etc.). With your team, discuss the notions
related to FLSs, as discussed in the background of this
paper. Make sure to agree positively to the following three
questions: (a) are your goals for students to engage in au-
thentic forms of inquiry? (b) Are you aware of societal
changes in the networked society, and are you trying to
address these? (c) Do you understand that a space does
not learn, the people in the space learn? Thus, do you agree
that all infrastructure investments must correspond with
human investments, such as professional development of
teachers on appropriate pedagogies? For FLSs to be effec-
tive, they must avoid hype and instead focus on research-
based learning practices.
J Form Des Learn
(2) Typ es of F LS s—once your team understands the nature of
the change you are trying to make, ask yourselves what
type of FLS do you want to design and develop? Refer to
Tab le 1in this paper. Specifically, do you envision an FLS
for learning of one specific content area (content-specific),
or would you like it to be flexible for all content areas
(content-flexible)? If you would like a content-flexible
space, would you like a space that is instructed by a teacher
(open instructional space), or a space where students can
come by to learn based on their own self-direction (open
learning space)? If you would like to focus on one specific
content area, would you like a space that uses specially
designed software and technological tools for the student
to learn this content (space-as-content), or a space that fos-
ters collaborative learning specifically suited for the content
area (space-as-a-stage)? It is vital to be clear on the purpose
and goals of the FLS you seek to create.
(3) Principles for the design and development of FLSs—
once the first two points are well established, include an
architect (or interior designer) in your plans and, based on
your purpose, identify a suitable location and specific de-
sign features. Investigate FLSs that already exist. Reference
the design principles in Table 2to get some ideas about the
infrastructure needed, usage, and ways that spaces can be
integrated with other features of your learning community.
Throughout the process of designing and developing your
FLS, work iteratively with a growing community to raise
questions, get input, and refine your plans. If you build a
community around the FLS when it is still being conceived,
it is more likely that it will eventually be used at capacity.
Furthermore, a vibrant community around an FLS will be
able to continually, and creatively, shape the many un-
known and innovative uses that you built the space to con-
tain in the first place.
Although there is no single type of FLS, these recommen-
dations can beuniversally applied to the formation of them all.
As this paper shows, FLSs can differ wildly on many dimen-
sions, but also maintain certain key principles that play an
important role in making them successful. These cover theo-
retical, design, and implementation issues involved in this
complex endeavor of creating FLSs.
conceptualize the effort to create classrooms for the fu-
ture. Because FLS has been used with increasing frequen-
cy in recent years (Sutherland and Fischer 2014)andwith
the emergence of new technologies, it is necessary to con-
tinually advance FLS conceptualizations. Overall, FLS is
a concept that is both theoretical and practice-oriented. By
touching upon the main themes of the idea, categories and
types, and principles for their development and design,
this paper advances scholarship on FLSs, contributing to
a growing conversation about spaces for learning within
the educational sciences while providing formative guide-
lines for future designers.
Acknowledgements This work was supported by the I-CORE Program
of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science
Foundation grant [1716/12], as specifically the LINKS Research
Center. Special thanks goes to the designers of the exemplary FLSs ana-
lyzed in this paper, who include Elizabeth Charles, Scott McDonald, Tom
Moher, Michael Rook, Jim Slotta, Chris Whittaker, and Jianwei Zhang, as
well as to the LINKS FLS partners: Dani Ben-Zvi, Ornit Sagy, Yael Kali,
and Tamar Weiss.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of
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