I need to start this blog post by saying I love my classroom. I am one of the lucky ones whose classroom has enough space to contain 36 students in multiple arrangements. I have a SmartBoard, three white boards, 5 bulletin boards and ample wall space. So this week’s challenge to design my room, required some thought. For inspiration I watched two videos by David Kelley that talk about redesigning.
I had some more ideas about redesigning a space but still no clear ideas as to what I would do in my classroom that I already love so much. So I started playing with a new program to me called Sketchup Make. I want to say that this new program while challenging and more frustrating than I hoped, was much less frustrating than my foray into using Popcorn Maker. Due to the fact that the walls are integral parts of my room, I have made the room larger than it really is to be able to navigate through it. I originally started with the room to scale and spent all the time in the walls making everything more difficult. I started again and made the room larger but kept the room proportions and shape the same. I can say that not all of the elements I desired are in my mockups because I have not yet mastered all the skills required to use the program effectively. The tool I found the most difficult, was the rotate feature. It always was a surprise when I managed to rotate something into the correct position.
Still unclear as to what I would do to my classroom, I watched a trailer entitled Remake Your Classroom (Edutopia, 2013). This video inspired me more than the work of David Kelly because it helped me to see what change could look like.
After watching this video I dived into the list of 79 ways to use design to transform teaching and learning (The Third Teacher, 2010). I looked at the list and immediately thought, “okay where do I start?” I felt a bit overwhelmed. I then moved on to a different version (The Third Teacher, n.d.) that described what these ways were and I started to relax. I didn’t need to change everything, just find a few things that I could change to make a difference in my classroom. So then I sat down and decided that I was going to pick 7 from the list and make those changes in my room. The changes I decided on were, #8 sound-absorbing materials, #19 Bring the outside in, #27 Naturalize play spaces, #54 Think Hands-on, #23 Make classroom agile, #77 Bridge the digital divide, and #12 Support Great Teachers. All of the pictures you will see below are screenshots of the model I make in Sketchup Make.
#8 Sound-Absorbing Materials
My classroom only shares a wall with one other classroom, which is extremely lucky. However, I do not think there is any sound barrier between them as there is always the noise from that classroom creating background noise in my classroom, and when they watch anything with audio on the SmartBoard you can hear the audio with no difficulty in my room. As I have talked about in a blog post for CEP812, I have had for the past two years and will have in the coming year students with hearing difficulties. The need for less background noise is extremely important for these students and may even help students who are English Language Learners, students with ADHD and students with other learning difficulties (Millette, 2008). What I propose is sound baffling on the ceiling, sound insulation between the two classrooms and to change the floor from tile to a soundproof spongy material.
#19 Bring the Outside In and #27 Naturalize the Play Spaces
Since I teach mostly grade seven students, they are in transition from elementary school where they have recess and junior high where they do not. The only time they get outside during the day is during lunch, Physical Education, or other options like Outdoor Education. I am lucky that my room has large windows on three walls and for the majority of the day I can run my classroom with no artificial light. However, sometimes even I feel a bit cooped up inside and I think having a picture of Moraine lake here in Alberta, and the Northern Lights provide the sense of wonder that only things larger than ourselves can bring. The green wall along the back would be a living wall full of plants, and perhaps a fountain or mini waterfall. Not only would the water be peaceful and perhaps those students who need to relax a bit, but the plants will be able to purify the air in the classroom making it seem less recycled than the present system.
#54 Think Hands-On
My classroom is more hands on activities and game based learning than activities that are of the traditional variety. However, due to storage restraints students only have access to the manipulative and games when I have decided to use them as I have to go and retrieve them. I would, therefore, like a storage shelf where all of the manipulatives could be housed. With all the manipulative accessible students would have the freedom to use the manipulatives that they feel would work best for them. You never know what new conclusions they could come up with , due to the exposure to a new manipulative or way of looking at something.
#23 Make Classroom Agile
Right now in my classroom, I have large trapezoid tables set up in groups of two to make a hexagon. I love the fact that this allows me to have my students work in groups, however the tables are large and awkward to move. Thus, rearranging of the classroom takes a full class period so it happens very infrequently. I would like smaller tables that still have enough room for four students to sit at comfortably. I would also like the tables to have wheels on the bottom that could lock to allow the tables to be stationary when needed but move quickly when needed. With having square or rectangular tables it allows the grouping of the tables to change from four to six to larger as the need arises. Right now the trapezoid tables have a lot of wasted space that takes away from the floor space. Setting up the tables to allow for me to walk through the classroom in any pattern has become a long and strategic planning session. Moving table group even a little can make certain areas impassible.
#77 Bridge the Digital Divide
The digital divide refers to the “disparities between those people who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills” (Dictionary.com, n.d.). According to the FCC fifty percent of all jobs presently available require technology skills, and they expect this number to
soar to seventy-seven percent within the next decade (FCC, 2012). Over eighty percent of the Fortune 500 companies, such as Wal-Mart and Target, are moving their job application
process online (FCC, 2012), leaving those without digital skills less capable of securing gainful employment. The cupboards under the counter that presently runs around two walls of my room would be used to serve two purposes. One they provide individual work spaces that students could access when they need. Two they could be wired to become recharging stations for laptops and IPads in the classroom. This would allow may of my students who would otherwise have no access to technology a chance to integrate the technology as they need it. Presently, the technology requires prebooking of a cart that is stored elsewhere in the building, or prebooking the computer lab. This means that students are not using the technology as they need it, but when it is available.
#12 Support Great Teachers
This counter area and cupboards, becomes my teacher desk, It allows me to organize what I need that is not in the way for student learning but it removes the teacher desk from the room. This means I am more free to wander and work with students as they are working, instead of them having to come to me and lose the momentum they have occurred in their learning.
I have not looked into the cost of the changes to my room but I know they are presently out of my budget. It would be possible to stage some of the changes, but some would have to be done all at once. However, all the changes would need to be approved by my principal, then passed up the chain to be approved. I know our computer lab has taken two years from initial idea to actual implementation so I do not imagine the change would be a quick one. Realistically, perhaps a shelf for manipulatives, permission to paint, or new tables if I was supper lucky would be all I would get. The plant wall, extra storage, and recharge stations for my own computers are all very long term possibilities , if they are approved at all. Dreaming is wonderful as it allows us to look at what could be, though what is possible now is a challenge all on its own.
Dictionary.com. (n.d.). digital divide. Retrieved from Dictionary.com Unabridged: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/digital+divide
Edutopia (2013, March 14) Remake Your Class (Trailer) [Video file] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXjEcnaYAmc
FCC. (2012, July 16). Fact Sheet, American Job Centers Announcement Event. Retrieved from Federal Communications Commission: http://www.fcc.gov/document/fact-sheet-american-job-centers-announcement-event
Johnson, Karl S.(2012, July 28) Moraine Lake in Banff National Park [Image file]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/karlsjohnson/8236012202/sizes/z/in/photostream/
Kelley, David (2002, February) David Kelley: Human-centered design [TED Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_on_human_centered_design.html?embed=true
Kelley, David (2002, March) David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence [TED Video file] Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence.html?embed=true
Millette, P (2008) Sound Field Amplification Research Summary. York University Retrieved from http://gofrontrow.com/files/documents/research/sound-field-amplification-research-summary.pdf
Moussette, Philippe (2004, July) Northern Lights at Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada [Image file]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2249104485/in/photolist-4qKfpx-5kmPaH-5kmZwe-5krpsm-5kQsY5-5WdLyb/
The Third Teacher (2010) 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching + Learning. Retrieved from http://static.squarespace.com/static/509c0d15e4b058edb8f35a86/t/50ec7ca4e4b01d8c697c0b6c/1357675684568/79%20Ideas%20Overall%20List.pdf
The Third Teacher (n.d.) TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved from http://static.squarespace.com/static/509c0d15e4b058edb8f35a86/t/50ec7590e4b0a0ad0261576c/1357673872861/TTTIdeasFlashCards.pdf