Designing Schools to Engage and Drive Learning

Last month I was fortunate to attend a training session on the new Chromebook at Google's New York City offices. The Chromebook itself turned about to be an intriguing device that clearly has an upside as an educational tool in schools. It boots up in 8 seconds, has a sleek user interface, is very light, and allows you to pick up right where you left off when you log onto another device. While engaging in professional development throughout the day I was amazed by the Google office and workspace structure as we had an opportunity to explore a little bit as me moved between sessions and lunch. I have heard many rumors about life at Google and was extremely surprised to see that most of them were true. Here is a quick snapshot:

• Use of scooters as a means of transportation. There were even racks throughout each floor
for Google employees to park their scooter.
• Lego wall in a lounge area. The wall was lined with bins of different sized and colored
Lego's. It was clear that employees are encouraged to unleash their creativity when it suites
them. The Angry Birds and super-sized Ferris wheel designs were extremely impressive.
• Specialized areas/rooms: A few that I noticed were the gaming and massage rooms.
• Mini-kitchens galore. It was obvious that appetite contentment is a priority at Google. Some
of these kitchens were decorated in particular themes. One of the most elaborate mini-
kitchens I saw was decorated as a jungle complete with hammock-like chairs, small
waterfalls, decorated trees, and live frogs. It was so relaxing that I could easily see myself
napping in there from time to time. Equally impressive were the massive espresso,
cappuccino, and coffee machines in each kitchen as well as the overwhelming selection of
food and beverages.
• Google-themed artwork throughout the building. Company pride was apparent everywhere.
• Clever reminders not to do certain things. One sign throughout the building was a picture of
an alligator with its tail propping the door open. Each picture was accompanied with this
reminder, "Beware the Tailgator!" Obviously Google didn't want some doors propped open for
security reasons.
• Office spaces where entire walls were whiteboards, perfect for brainstorming and outlining
creative ideas. These offices had a large table that could seat approximately 12-16 people.
• Open spaces with collaborative and comfortable furniture (leather couches, plush lounge
chairs, etc.) not to mention more coffee stations.
• Bistro dinning area that provided employees with an unparalleled lunch. This place was not
even normal. Lunch was truly a dining experience here and I was in awe of the immense
selection of choices. I couldn't believe that fresh sushi was available. The chef preparing a
special of the day was a nice touch as well.

The atmosphere described above along with Google's 80/20 Innovation Model really inspires and motivates employees to perform at a consistently high level. Who wouldn't want to work here in this type of environment? Now imagine if schools adopted a similar thought process and designed learning as well as common spaces using several of the principles described above? It gives me chills thinking about the potential this could have on increasing achievement, motivation, and developing a passion for the learning process. School would become a place where students couldn't wait to get to and at the end of the day would be reluctant to leave. School re-design needs to become part of the education reform conversation. Is my thinking that far-fetched? What would your perfect school environment include?