Considering the principles of experience design this week, my task involved reinventing a learning space to accommodate 21st century students. It only made sense, then, that the learning space I’d be reconfiguring would be my own classroom. I am fortunate to have a large classroom, but I also have a large class- usually about 30 students. Having always believed in the power of an environment that supports collaboration, my primary student furniture has been arranged in groups. Additionally, the constraints of my classroom -including a bathroom, only three outlets, and fully three additional doors- limit the degree to which things can be restructured However, challenged by David Kelley’s persuasion that people should have space to “let their ideas fly” (2012), and Scott McLeod’s reminder of Vygotsky’s suggestion that “teachers use cooperative learning exercises” (2012) my primary area of focus became creating more shared learning space.
I wanted to make this goal affordable and attainable. It is fun to dream big -and if I was looking to make major changes, SketchUp would be a helpful visualization tool- but, constantly challenging myself to connect course material to my own teaching experience, I designed changes that would be practical but also pack a punch. The redesign would be impactful for the stakeholders -students first, but also administrators, coaches, co-teachers, and myself- while still being attainable.
Since early elementary students rely heavily on routine, I would prefer that this redesign be fully executed before a new school year. My students become unsettled when we swap core subject times; I can only imagine the chaos that total remodeling would provoke! Painting, especially, would need to be completed without student presence. It would be possible, however, to complete the project over a natural restart, such as Christmas vacation. Having done some research with Ikea and Home Depot I learned that paint costs would total approximate $130. Purchasing 30 stools would be about $150. Investigating the cost of cushions reminded me why I made my first set; the expense is absurd! Instead of purchasing commercial cushions for $35+ each, I could catch regular pillows on a $5 sale and sew the cases for about $1. That adds a cost of about another $150. Additional lamps considered, this redesign could realize for about $500: two years’ worth of my PTO budget.
I have created a classroom “developed around the concept of collaboration–between student and teacher and among the students themselves” (McCrea, 2012). One specific facet includes the ability to easily restructure the space for different types of learning, a process The Third Teacher calls “shuffl[ing] the deck” (2010). It would be a challenge to implement on a management level, but as William Rottschaefer observed, Albert Bandura “characterized human agency as emergent and interactive,” (1991), so trusting that agency and choice lead to higher engagement, I created the spaces to be mobile and versatile: “A learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime,” (The Third Teacher, 2010). I hope that in this space, my students “surprise themselves with just how innovative they and their teams really are” (Kelley, 2012). Below are images detailing specific areas of the classroom and my vision behind them.
The reading corner: cozy and safe, painted a cool and relaxing blue, students who prefer a more nestled environment for their reading will thrive here. Cushions and rugs are also available to move about the classroom.
This image highlights the large windows in my classroom, now-open and released from any barriers, since, as The Third Teacher notes, “Increasing the daylight in classrooms has been shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores” (2010). What an easy yet worthwhile change!
Here is an overhead view of three collaborative spaces. The traditional trapezoid tables push together or pull apart to form large and small groups. The rug and pillows provide a brainstorming space for students, complete with a white board on the wall to track ideas. The small round table and accompanying carpet squares, partitioned off by a shelf of art supplies -or easily moved to a new location- comprise an additional collaborative space.
In this image, a large bulletin board is available for “posting student work, both current and past” (The Third Teacher, 2010). The table and squares, while portable, can also stay here, providing easy access to my teaching partner’s room next door. After all, as Bridget McCrea suggests, “Who says the 21st Century classroom has to be a single room?” (2012).
Even our whole-group space is structured to be flexible. Students can sit on cushions in view of the SMART Board, or in view of me in my tall chair. Albeit much less often, I can also move easily to my desk -stationed here due to outlets- to integrate the ELMO and computer technology from there.
Kelley, D. (2012, May 16). “How to build your creative confidence.” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from
McCrea, B. (2012, January 18). THE Journal. Designing the 21st Century K-12 Classroom. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/01/18/designing-the-21st-century-k12-classroom.aspx
McLeod, S. (2012, January 1). Zone of Proximal Development – Scaffolding. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html
Rottschaefer, W. A. (1991). Some philosophical implications of bandura’s social cognitive theory of human agency. American Psychologist, 46(2), 153-155. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.46.2.153
The Third Teacher. (2010). TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved from http://static.squarespace.com/static/509c0d15e4b058edb8f35a86/t/50ec7590e4b0a0ad0261576c/1357673872861/TTTIdeasFlashCards.