I jumped right in, went straight to the things that caught my attention and in so doing I left you wondering where I was and why tone, intonation and the ability to be heard were important.
Unlike my childhood idol, Jane Goodall, my field was not a jungle, nor was it an archaeological dig nor the type of hangout you would have been likely to find Erving Goffman in. It was a living, breathing learning space. The Zone, home to 180 year five and six students, a team of seven teachers and, for a while – an ethnographer. In its previous incarnation the space had been the primary school library and a number of small boxy classrooms.
This large, bright open plan environment consists of two parallel rectangular sections spread over two levels, joined by a series of wide carpeted stairs. The stairs act not only to connect one section with the other, but as a destination in and of themselves; a place to work independently, to collaborate as a team, or to gather as a class, year group or extended community. The upper section with its vaulted ceiling and banks of windows houses a wet area, a central carpeted space which is often used to gather all 180 students and two smaller but still open teaching spaces. The lower section offers a more intimate space and whilst it is equipped with two sets of folding glass walls they are not used all that often. Rather, the external folding glass doors are opened and students, with or without their desks spill out onto the partially covered walkway.
Whilst technology in the form of a school wide Wi-Fi network, a bring-your-own device program and a series of school portals and pages is not immediately obvious to the casual observer; together they act as a catalyst for the forging of new relationships between people, places and tools. Other, less complex technologies – like idea paint on all the walls, a plentiful supply of small A5 white boards and furniture more akin to the type you would find in the sitting room, than in the classroom; add interest, choice and mobility that serves to interpenetrate time and space in ways that have yet to be fully appreciated.