Classrooms More Like Gymnasiums?
There’s a lot of talk about what a modern classroom should look like, and re-inventing the learning space. In this learning and working anywhere world, it has me thinking more about the space itself. Is it something to fill, or should it be treated more like a gymnasium? Should it be an empty space, with better acoustics, of course, where the first think we add are the students? After an initial look at the space, and some discussion with the students about the work to be done, wouldn’t it be interesting for teachers and students to then decide what to bring in to the learning space? While this shouldn’t be the final word on things needed in the learning environment, teachers and students could bring in the tools they feel would best do the teaching and learning job. This would take the open space ideas of the 80s and 90s, and possibly skyrocket them using today’s technology and learning innovations.
The great space
A gymnasium is a great space that adapts rather nicely to almost any physical education situations. Educators bring in the tools, or apparatus necessary for students to do a multitude of athletic challenges. It might be time that we look at this model for changing the rows in line most classrooms still use today. I’m not saying that seats in a row are holding back change in teaching and student learning, but the environment was never set up for the tools of today and the flexibility and collaboration needed and required. What would it look like if all the traditional desks and chairs were removed? Sliding back the desks and chairs in a classroom to reveal the true learning space would give you an idea. Instead of the individual space at a student’s desk, his/her learning space could be the entire classroom. Shouldn’t it be?
Learning in the best places
Of course, students would find their comfortable places, we are after all creatures of habit, and cozy workspaces are just that. But having the freedom to take into a learning space the tools you feel will help do the tasks at hand, and then having the ability to move to wherever collaboration moves you—that would be an amazing experience for teachers and students. If learning anywhere is a goal, then learning in the best possible environments at school—or at work—should be a goal as well.
Aren’t we looking for different?
What would you bring into such an empty space? That might be an interesting question for administrators, teachers, students, and the community. This exercise would certainly present a few problems as well. Each room might look different due to the make up of the teachers and students in it. And the tools, apps, and solutions might be different as well. Even the organization and procedures within could be different, too.
But wait; is that a problem, or is it something we’ve been looking for—after all? Could this be the true test of BYOD, and the true test for personalized learning, and group and classroom collaboration? Traditional chairs and desks have nothing to do with learning—do they? What if we got rid of them? Replacing them with furnishings that fit the learning individual and group better. Imagine providing a space, where students are free to learn, using all the tools necessary and needed, and where the educator as motivator sees students untethered, engaged and active in their own learning, and in their own learning spaces. Shouldn’t the classroom space look more like a gymnasium?
About the Author
Ken Royal is a former educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience. He has written at many of the major education publications, including District Administration, TechLearning, and Scholastic Administrator. Presently, Ken is a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.