Reimagining Classroom Design

Ever since I was 5 years old, I can distinctly remember each of the different classrooms I have had throughout the years of my K-12 career, then my undergraduate career which was spent mostly either in large lecture halls or smaller classrooms that had 1:1 computers in them for all of the students.

For the first couple years as an educator, I was on a cart and I honestly had no say in how the classrooms I roamed to and from were going to be situated.

Finally, my 5th year of teaching I got my own classroom and initially, I just thought about how I’ve always experienced a high school classroom and setup my room exactly in that fashion — the desks were put in rows that faced one way toward the white board and television placed at the front of the classroom.  I believe this type of classroom doesn’t allow students to be creative, nor does it really give the impression that students have a voice in the classroom.

As Colleen Lee stated in the article, “What Your Classroom Setup May Be Saying To Students,” she explains that the focus of the classroom that this type of classroom…”with my students in rows, facing the front, [it] was clearly a ‘teacher as the driving force’ kind of space,” (Lee, 2014).

As I’ve developed my teaching over the past 8 years, I’ve tried my best to move away from a teacher-centric classroom to a student-centric classroom where my students are working together and doing more project-based learning activities. In fact, last year my charter school told all the teachers that we could not put our desks in rows. On top of that, they placed me in what used to be the old band room which has different levels (or steps) and I decided to place my students into groups of 4 (with 1 group of 5 and a singular desk set aside for a student who may need to sit alone at times).

This is what my current seating chart looks like:

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And looks like this on a normal day in my largest class of 30 students:

Panoramic view:

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The one thing you can’t really see in the above photo is that I do have an iPad cart in the classroom, but it only has 22 iPads and it’s a lot of work to bring the iPads out constantly and then put them up at the end of the day to charge in the cart.  I’d love to have a classroom setup where there are MacBook Airs available in the classroom for each of the students, and a couple HD projectors (with speakers) affixed to the ceiling pointing at each of the 4 walls in the classroom.  That way, students can’t complain that they can’t see the board or what we are showing.

I really enjoyed watching the TEDTalks with David Kelley. It inspired me to think more of what type of technologies I would like in my classroom that can help me with being less of the center of focus and allow my students to control their own course of learning in my classroom.

As I started this week’s assignment for  CEP 811, I did a little further research online because I was curious to know more about high school classroom design.  Many of the videos that I’ve watched that discuss instructional classroom design show off what elementary and middle school classrooms look like — and although having squishy ball-shaped chairs is fun, I’m not sure it’s age-appropriate for my students.  In my research, I found this great website called K-12 Blueprint and they had this .PDF that talked about some different setups which gave me some inspiration to create my own 3D model of a classroom in SketchUp.

Specifically, I liked the design of this project studio classroom from the K-12 Blueprint, but definitely on a smaller scale. I’d love to have different types of tables in the classroom setup for different forms of learning.

 

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Now I’ve never used SketchUp before, and at first when I was approaching it and understanding that it is a 3-D program, I immediately got nervous.  I don’t consider myself to be artistic and when I think of 3-D graphics or even some form of interior design, I honestly didn’t feel confident in that I could actually accomplish this goal.  The one thing I can say about this CEP 811 class is that it’s forcing me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to fail and then re-look at my ideas in a different light so that I can try a new perspective on the task(s) at hand.

I watched the SketchUp tutorials and it became easier to understand how to go about this assignment, however, I really struggled with placement when it came to the 3-D design. From one angle it would look like it was placed properly and then as I moved the camera around, the furniture would be floating in the air.

Here’s what my classroom would look like if I had the necessary equipment, support and funds to:

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Normally, my high school classes sizes run around 30 students, which is fine, but I just want to have a larger space so that my students can move around.  Imagine 30 adults packed into a small classroom into small desks? Not fun.  So with my classroom, I created it in a room that was large, with different options for seating — formal tables with roller chairs, couches and some project tables if students ever have to work in groups for project-based learning activities.

Also, as stated before I’d probably have some form of MacBook Air cart (1:1 – so 30 total computers) for students to use.  I’d also have 4 screens placed throughout the room so that students can always see what I am showing on the screen as well.

References:

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Lee, C. (2014, March 17). What your classroom setup may be saying to students. Retrieved June 19, 2015 from http://www.schoolleadership20.com/forum/topics/what-your-classroom-setup-may-be-saying-to-students-by-colleen-le

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

Steelcase Education Insights. (2016). Formal Learning Spaces: Classroom. Retrieved from: https://www.k12blueprint.com/sites/default/files/formal_learning_spaces_classroom_0.pdf

 

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