This week my task was to redesign my learning space to better optimize student learning and incorporate the pedagogy of modern education design and learning. First, an introduction to my current space. I am fortunate to work in a space with some design elements of 21st century learning. My school’s hybrid learning workspace (heretofore referred to as the “lab”) does not reflect the usual classroom setup. In the main lab (which is the size of 2-3 traditional classrooms), instead of rows of desks there is an L-shaped arrangement of computers, two flanking low bookshelves, and several modular tables that can be rearranged along with a whiteboard and materials cabinet. This type of learning environment reflects the advantages of collaborative learning and connectivity (Thompson, 2014 p. 21) however, there are missed opportunities for building an even better learning environment.
I used SketchUp Make to image a reinvention of this blended learning space.
The first change is with the walls & lighting. Currently in our lab, all of the wall space is completely blank and there are just overhead fluorescent lights. The biggest change in my redesign is to add paint, the Alliance for Excellent Education relates “Classroom colors should be warm and calming; not overstimulating and distracting.” Right now our walls are sterile and generic white. The 2013 Barrett, Zhang, Moffat & Kobbacy study also shared that color and light (among other factors) had a statistically significant effect on student performance. I added a few lamps to add softer light since there is no way to add more natural light into the space. According to the ideas of The Third Teacher, learning spaces should also display student learning, both past and present in order to track progress. Right now the accomplishments are only celebrated in our virtual environment – viewed only by that student and no one else. My redesign adds these display opportunities.
The second change is with the tables and workspace. Instead of just using bland modular tables with sterile student chairs, I want to incorporate a combination of workspaces including whiteboard tables, higher tables with stools, and comfy chairs. As Michael Posner writes, “Simply put, the brain likes novelty, new things” (Persaud, 2014 p. 1).
Some of these tables are converted to whiteboard tables for increased collaboration. Having convertible seating and workspace will allow for students to arrange the workspace for their needs much like their personalized learning in our school. Echoes teacher and design consultant (as well Michigan Ed Voices fellow alongside me) Erin Klein, “flexible seating arrangements…allow for easy transitions will serve students today and in the future” (Thompson, 2014 p. 19).
The third change is with an essential part of our learning environment – our computers. Instead of utilizing desktops, my new design has bookshelves filled with different tech devices. Again, having portable tech tools would allow for greater personalization of the space. Plus the choices in tech tools and seating involve student decisions in the classroom’s functionality too.
For each change I need resources necessary to carry out my vision. First, with regards to painting & lighting, the cost would be thousands of dollars (particularly for the paint), but the cost would come down considerably if we organized the staff and student volunteers to do it all ourselves. I looked up whiteboard paint and a set of DIY instructions for how I could transform some of our modular tables into them. The paint is approximately $275/gallon. The new tech tools would not necessarily be purchased all at once, but phased in over time as devices age out. Currently we are needing to purchasing laptops or Chromebooks, after so getting different tech devices would line up with our existing technology budget. I just requested a new Chromebook through a grant that was approximately $300 dollars and we would need around 30-50 to fully supply our lab space which could approximately $9000.
The classrooms of the future are exciting, collaborative, and engaging places to learn from. I am excited to see if my school can continue to make good decisions to get to better space and design choices for student learning.
OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf
Persaud, Ramona. (2014). Why Learning Space Matters. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-learning-space-matters-ramona-persaud
Thompson, Greg. (2014). 4 Keys to Designing the Classroom of the Future. THE Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.realviewdigital.com/?i=SEPTEMBER%202014#folio=21