Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Does McDonald's Have A Better Learning Space Than Your Classroom?

As I write my dissertation I often seek out places to write which are free of distraction.  If I try to write or read at home or in my classroom there are usually things that keep me from working on the task at hand. I don't need much - a place to sit, ample table room to spread out some items, free wifi and a power outlet.  Public libraries are great and I like coffee shops - Caribou Coffee is probably my favorite.  Sometimes I buy a drink or get a snack.  

There is a McDonald's close to my house and over the past couple of months I have frequented it to work several times.  Last week as I stopped in after school to work and sat down I noticed just how many people were in the same place using the wifi.  Everyone there was using a device on the wifi - cell phones, tablets and laptops.  This perhaps isn't surprising but then I also noticed the design of the space itself.  It was inviting, pleasant, comfortable.  This McDonald's is a great, do I dare say it - a great learning space.

Then two days ago my friend William Chamberlain @wmchamberlain tweeted a picture of a McDonald's with the following text "McDonalds has better learning spaces than most schools :(" and included Ira Socol @irasocol  I retweeded it and added "Truth".

Tonight when I finished working on my paper I took some pictures of the McDonald's.  They really did a great job of creating a learning space.  I won't mind having some of this furniture in my classroom.

Our district has been having lots of discussions about learning spaces and where students learn in our schools.  We need to be more efficient and are discussing creating learning environments in space which it underutilized right now - including commons areas and hallways.  I have also been thinking about my own classroom.  Right now I have 31 classic student desks in my room but would like to eventually move to tables, movable chairs, etc.  

Ira Socol added some additional tweets about how teachers can change their learning spaces and included some videos of learning spaces which are better than McDonald's. There are solutions and we need so start having more discussions about making our classrooms open, inviting spaces for our students to learn instead of a factory.

So, what does your learning space look like?

What can we do to make our learning spaces better learning spaced?

Do you have a classroom redesign story to tell?

Please add your comments to this blog post.  We would love to hear your thoughts and create some solutions.  Thanks.


  1. I love this post and connect to your ideas! This has pushed me to integrate a broader perspective with a team of teachers at LHS who are researching what we can do in our internal structure to redesign learning spaces.

    We currently have created some repurposed spaces in our cafeteria by integrating hightop tables and learning ledges which are wired. The multileveled seating capability is one of the more popular seating areas for our teens.

    This generation has grown up in coffee houses with booths and hightables. Infusing these structures into our high school has truly changed the atmosphere. Noise levels are lower, student use capacity is up, and pride in environment is noticeable.

    Students are using spaces differently throughout the school day. The cafeteria which was a space used for lunch now has branched out to a space used throughout the school day during blended classes, student directed study halls, online learning collaboration areas, and flexible spaces for alternative teaching.

  2. Thanks April. I will do a more extensive follow up post later but this week I asked if there was anything I could do to exchange my 32 student desks for a collection of tables. Fortunately after checking with several people we were able to secure tables and chairs for my classroom. It is a small step but one that I am excited to try out in my own learning space.


  3. This is a very interesting post. I don't think people realize the importance of having an inviting classroom setting. McDonalds does havw a really nice place.