My Current Learning Space
Two years ago, I walked into my brand new classroom. My school had just undergone 18 months of renovation in which every classroom was touched. Walls were moved, technology was added, and furniture was replaced. The science wing – where I teach – was one of the few areas that was completely new construction.
This week in CEP 811, I was asked to redesign my classroom based on my knowledge of learning theories and experience design. As I read and listened to several different designers this week, I was struck by how well my classroom was already designed. (I shouldn’t be too surprised as much research took place before beginning construction but it was still good to find out.) Spaces were opened up to allow students to move around, tables were brought in to allow collaboration and communication, windows were added wherever possible, and storage was built in everywhere. Below are a few images of my current space.
According to The Third Teacher (2010), classrooms should “let the sunshine in.” This is one of my favorite features of my room. A door to the outside is also include which allows us to easily extend our classroom outdoors.
My Redesigned Space
Tedde van Gelderen (2010) says that the way spaces are designed changes our experiences. This really hit home when he talked about how experiences can cause emotions. Despite all the good things about my classroom, I never really thought too much about how the design affected my students. Therefore, after learning about what design specialists have to say, I came up with several simple ways that that my room could become a better learning environment. While some of these ideas require money and minor construction, many of the ideas are about using the spaces differently. I created the images of my ideal classroom using SketchUp Make.
The first thing that I changed was the placement of my desk. The original idea for my classroom was that with projectors being displayed on several walls, there would no longer be a front or back of the room. However, when I put my desk along the east wall, my room developed a front. As soon as I projected anything, many of my students would swivel their chairs to face east even if they had been directly facing a different projector screen. My redesign places a simple (single) table in the middle of the room to be used as my “desk”. This simple change takes me out of the spot light. Rather than instructing from the front, I will now be facilitating from within. The Third Teacher (2010) agrees with this change as they suggest to “free the teacher from the traditional desk at the front of the classroom.” This desk change is more than just visual. I want my classroom to become a student-centered environment where creativity is encouraged as I help my students construct knowledge. As Bransford, Brown and Cocking (2000) state, “schools and classrooms must be learner centered” (p. 23). While I grouped the tables in pairs and lined them up neatly, this may not always be the best arrangement for students to learn. O’Donnell (2012) says, students should be involved “in the design of their own learning environment” (p. 73) and while my current tables can be moved around if necessary, they are very heavy and do not slide well. While purchasing all new tables would not be an option, putting them on casters would allow for much more flexibility. This would raise the table height a few inches but since my rolling swivel chairs (#22 on The Third Teacher’s list) are adjustable, height shouldn’t be a problem. If the tables are going to be moved around often, the power supplies need to be modified as well. Currently, a cord hangs from ceiling above each group of tables. However, if the table is moved, this cord (with a rather large base) is going to hit someone in the head. Therefore, the current cords should be replaced by retractable power cords. This will allow the cord to safely retract up to the ceiling until it is needed. Now, my classroom is “a learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime” (The Third Teacher, 2010).
A few of my design changes do not have a cost. Storage/cubby spaces are located behind the west whiteboard. They are easily accessed by sliding the three separate panels around. While I have used this as a storage space, it has not been available to my students. If my classroom is to be student-centered, my students need to have access to materials. I have already made glassware available in a floor-to-ceiling glass cabinet. Now, I will use this cubby space to organize lab materials and make them available for students so that they can have more flexibility on how they proceed with their learning. Our school is 1:1 and I have been using the individualized learning management system Edify for the past year. By scaffolding instruction and resources on Edify while making supplies and materials readily available I think I have a good start at an individualized and student-centered classroom.
Redesign Costs and Timeline
Since my classroom is only a few years old, there is not a significant cost for this redesign. My best estimate is that each casters would cost around $10-$12. With 13 tables (and 4 legs each) the total cost would be $500-$600. Depending on the type of casters purchased, additional hardware may be necessary. There would not be any installation costs as our maintenance people could handle this job. Retractable power cords range greatly in price but $300-$350 each is reasonable. This would include adding some additional support in the ceiling panel and installation. Due to electricity, an electrician would be brought in. The cost for six outlets would be $1800-$2100. Therefore, the total cost of my redesign would be less than $3000. While extra money is usually not just sitting around, I think I could come up with the amount needed through donations, fundraising, and the general budget. The time required to complete the installation is minimal. Casters could easily be attached in a few hours during an evening or weekend. The power supplies would require a bit of construction to add supports before an electrician completes the installation. With good planning, this shouldn’t take more than a day or two. Now, with this redesign in place, each student “would be able to learn ideas and materials in ways that are comfortable to them” (OWP/P Architects, 2010, p. 57).
If you are interested in seeing and hearing more about my ideal classroom, watch the video below. (If embedded content does not work, click here.)
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368
ChangSchool. (2010, February 9). Tedde van Gelderen on Experience Design [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB4VFKn7MA4
O’Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washgington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003.
OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Design to Transform Teaching & Learning (1st ed.). New York: Abrams Books. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf
The Third Teacher. (2010). TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved from https://danhoekstra.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/5187c-tttideasflashcards.pdf