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Creative learning environments

What makes a positive or negative learning environment? Rik Cross, Code Club leader and Raspberry Pi Curriculum Manager, shares his advice on creative learning spaces.

At a recent Code Club meet-up, I was chatting to a volunteer who asked for tips on running a Code Club. They felt that some aspects of their club were, in their words, ‘chaos’. This got me thinking. In some ways, my club can be chaos too — and I think that’s a good thing! Obviously there is a need for rules and structure within a club, but children also need an environment in which they feel free to experiment and share ideas. Here are a few examples of chaos in my Code Club:

Students work on different projects

They are personalising their learning, working at their own pace on a project that interests them. I’ve known children to skip projects that don’t appeal to them, or spend weeks on a project that captures their imagination. Some students may, after completing a handful of projects, decide that they have enough knowledge and skill to build something of their own.

Makerspace environment 1

Students move around a lot

They look around at what others are making, getting ideas and inspiration. They often invite others to try out or play (i.e. test) their finished projects, and then make improvements based on feedback they receive. Students get a lot of motivation from seeing others huddled around their computer, playing and enjoying a project they have made. This prompts children to make sure that their project is of high quality before allowing others to play with it.

It can sometimes get loud

Students ask each other questions and move around the room to help each other out. They test each other’s projects, giving verbal feedback, sharing ideas, or even just having fun with the things they’ve created. When children are motivated to create things that interest them, I think it’s important that they have time to enjoy what they’ve made.

Students play games

My club members use Scratch online, and so, as well as playing each other’s games, they get time to play other Scratch projects online. Obviously it’s important that this doesn’t dominate a club, but I think this helps students to learn lots about what’s possible with Scratch, especially when moving past the basics. Posting their own creations online is also a great opportunity for students to get real feedback from the wider Scratch community.

Makerspace Kids 1

What some volunteers call ‘chaos’ is in fact part of the fun, and part of the learning experience. It is how students show the excitement and enthusiasm they feel when making things with computers. All this differentiates a Code Club from regular computing classes, so I always advise volunteers to embrace it!

This article was featured in Hello World, the free computing and digital making magazine for educators. You can try out some of these approaches in a free Code Club — find out more at codeclubworld.org.

Exercise

As you’ve heard, embracing chaos can often be a good thing. Based on Rik’s experience, how will you work to create an open learning environment in your makerspace? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

Build a Makerspace for Young People

Raspberry Pi Foundation

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