New Research Measures Impact of Space on Connected Learning

A Digital Atelier (DA) is an in-school, student-centered makerspace where learners can explore digital media under the guidance of artists and other professionals.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, Columbia College’s Convergence Design Lab conducted ethnographic observations of these spaces with a University of Illinois at Chicago School of Education research team, collecting evidence on the critical role that space, furniture, and designed environments can play in education. Based on this research, design lab Archeworks and Convergence partnered with Bretford Manufacturing to provide modular, flexible furniture for DAs in two high-need, traditionally low-performing Chicago public schools. Some of the key research findings include:

■ “Connected learning,” in which students are free to explore topics of interest in an informal setting, is important to academic and personal growth.

■ Flexible, comfortable spaces where students can choose their learning tools inspire them to create and explore.

■ Mentors trained in a connected mentorship model play a significant role in facilitating digital media use to support learning.

■ DAs motivate reluctant learners to attend school, resulting in improved academic performance.