surfaces: paint, light and learning

paint for lightness, lighting for colour, surfaces for writing

lately Stephen has been working with Dulux supporting their excellent Smarter Spaces initiative - there are many useful links emerging from that project. For example their toolkit in support of funding initiatives, or their project plannigng pages with a few links to more research, or lots of examples on their blog.


Back in the last millennium there was a lot of talk about the direct impact of colour on school behaviour. Some teaching colleges had little sections on it in their curriculum. The orthodoxy embraced claims such as that eau de nil was calming, whereas orange would cause disruptive behaviours. No it isn't / doesn't, but the truth is, as ever with learning, complex.

One thing impacts on another: in the 1930s some classroom furniture was painted light blue (below) to discourage insects (!) from distracting the children, but in the 1930s a lot of open windows and inside / outside learning spaces were created so that insects were, perhaps, more of a challenge.

blue desk to discourage insects

(photo from VS furniture's museum of educational settings)

Colour carries multiple functions. Some examples: it can carry social symbolism - red stop lights; colour can be functional - yellow has the widest peripheral vision - so thus propellor blade tips for safety; or it might be political - many countries have a Green Party in their politics; colour can be biological - blushing red, or patterns on snakes.

The combination of all this makes the impact of colour within learning complex. Dulux have a good checklist on their Smart Spaces website which is a good starting point. Everyday evidence: the red sofas on the BBC Breakfast set - because red allegedly catches your attention, especially in the morning; or the French abandoning yellow headlights because they didn't deliver on safety - is all around us. And a quick search of research journal databases reveals any number of research papers about red lipstick, green cars, blue morpho butterflies and the like - but not much of this is practically applicable to your learning space.

Even white and light colours can vary in their usefulness. There are probably 50 shades of white! We have become great fans of the Lumitec technology in Dulux Light and Space paint with its light-reflective particles to reflect up to twice as much light back into your room from its surface. Thus seemingly identical colours can impact very differently in the classroom - see also writeable surfaces for different and useful paint functionality

In this example below, from UCJC in Madrid, the walls are painted with white emulsion - some cheap, some with two coats and (on the left hand wall) with two coats (as recommended) of a LumiTec paint. With a very even light in the room the LumiTec wall is obviously lighter - and the measured Lux levels confirmed that. (see also LIGHT below)

50 shades of white

In the UK Dulux manufacter their LumiTec product as Light and Space - it is sold in most DIY stores, or through trade outlets. As an aside, in my home I have used it on the stairwell and attic playroom to dramatically improve light levels.

LIGHT (see also page on Lighting)

Light levels are enormously important in learning spaces. Our little Internet of Things device, the Learnometer, has been measuring light levels and much more in learning spaces and has shocked us as we have seen how poor the light levels are in so many learning spaces. With often more than 10,000 lux outside, retaining the minimum for good learning of >500 lux shouldn't be too much of a challenge - but we have found very many learning spaces - and examination rooms - way below that level - damagingly so where learning is concerned.

A good school project is to ask students to explore the "best" spaces for learning within the school - before working on a plan to improve the worst or most important areas. They can use smart phones as data capture tools and they may well have a hypothesis about the best places - but these are rarely confirmed by the data:

sound plus light survey by kids kids hypothesis


Typically, light is damaged by walls that are too dark or densely coloured, ceiling tiles that have faded and yellowed over the years, paper stuck all over the windows, a too dark floor surface and desks (in old style spaces where there are still a lot of desk surfaces) that don't reflect light upwards. Poor lights - often with many turned off to save energy - can be transformed by a direct exchange of bulbs or tube for LED ones - not cheap but they last forever. If you do buy LED lights, go for the pure white ones, not the "soft cream" or "blue tinge" ones.


mood lighting LED strips


And remember that most of this works in corporate and home learning spaces - perhaps espeically teenage homework spaces - too. Enjoy.


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page created by Stephen Heppell - Sunday, May 06, 2016 1:57 PM - and last updated Thursday, March 28, 2019 9:28 AM