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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog about EdTechTalk - Conversations Show #91 2/6/2011

The topic of discussion was with Trung-Le, Designer with Cannon which has operations of designers around the world.  The discussion revolved around the physical space of the classroom.  The physical setup of classroom was established by the ideas of what a classroom should be in the 1940's when most of the schools were built after WWII.  The structure of most classes is the usual teacher in front, students in orderly rows facing the teacher.  The discussion revolved around how to change the room layout to engage students. 

One point that was mentioned is the setup of a kindergarten class makes more sense because it encourages collaborative learning and has less structure.  In kindergarten, subjects are generally taught together and subjects are not separated.  With first grade, etc. subjects are broken out and more structure and rigidness is applied to the curriculum.  The conversation revolved around making spaces that would enable students to utilize the space more efficiently.  With the use of space more efficiently, Le suggested that the hallway is a significant waste of space.  It is only used for a short time of the day and remains empty a majority of the day.  This space could be used for students to reflect on assignments for example and the teacher would be able to see them.  I thought that was a great idea.  One of the teachers mentioned that if is a hallway, the fire department requires that the hall be left clear.  Le suggested not designating the space as a hallway (just changing the name), but also working with your fire department and discussing the classroom needs.  Also, the term "learning studio" replaced the term "classroom" as it was limited to the preconceived notion of the generic square/rectangle.

The teachers that were participating in this broadcast mentioned what they were going to do to change their classroom.  They could not wait for Monday morning.  One teacher mentioned the desire to build a loft and I had a flashback because my own kindergarten teacher build a loft (with her husband's help) for our class and it was wonderful.  To get started, Le suggested asking the students what their needs are and building upon the student suggestions.  Each participant had some great ideas and the general discussion revolved around getting away from the generic format of the classroom setup.  Another point Le mentioned, which I thought an excellent topic, was ten ways to change your classroom but doing it safely.  Since a majority of the schools were built in the 1940's, the maintenance they need requires harmful chemicals which is bad for the environment, i.e., the floor cleaner for the vinyl floors.  Another suggestion was just interchanging the type of floor or wall with a product that does not require these harmful chemicals so they will not end up in the water or inhaled by the students and faculty. 

Again, as we strive with all technology and change, why not look at something as basic as a physical space.  If the future is going to requirement more collaborative working environments, why not begin to establish this now.  Again, some of these ideas were not that costly, something as simple as moving the furniture in a different direction.  More or less, teachers being more reflectively on their learning environment and how they can maximize its potential for their students.

This was definitely worth the listen.

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