So much has changed in the classroom since I was a young student. When I first heard of constructivism and student-centred learning in my B.Ed. program, I was baffled. What happened to the "good ol' days" of teachers lecturing and the students frantically scribbling notes down?? Were these really effective learning opportunities? While some "old school" adults hold the belief that "we learned that way and we turned out fine", others recognize the fact that this method of teaching is no the be all and end all of pedagogy. Throughout my B.Ed. courses and my teaching practices, I have strived to be an effective teacher by differentiating instruction and adjusting my teaching style to incorporate different learning styles and multiple intelligences.
An “Ideal” Classroom Design
In order to aid this major paradigm shift in teaching and learning, we must support it via the physical environment in which we teach. No longer is the ideal classroom one in which all the desks are in rows, facing forward while the students quietly focus on the teacher as the "sage on the stage". The ideal classroom, in terms of physical space has evolved into a very different concept. While, I have not had an opportunity to teach or to set up my own ideal classroom, I researched many different ideas on what the ideal classroom should include, some of which are listed below (courtesy of www.educause.edu/ero/article/future-learning-space-breaking-out-box)
• “Writeable surfaces—everywhere in the classroom—that capture and store everything written on them (see, for example,
• Real-time blogging in the classroom—students building collaborative notes on the course site or a wiki
• Classroom chat rooms—for example, with a teaching assistant (TA) monitoring students’ meta-conversation, including a TA-moderated Instant Messaging "back channel"
• Dynamically available bandwidth provisioned to and within a room, allowing students to safely access and download rich media objects without choking the local network segment
• Ubiquitous access to videoconferencing, so simple and intuitive that multisite conversations are "natural" extensions of classroom discussion
• Video/data-enhanced real-time capture and asynchronous discussion and annotation tools”
The above points focus on embedding technology in the classroom, however I believe that there is more to it than just technology. Some ideas of my own include:
- comfortable seating areas including desks, chairs, sofas and carpet that promote collaborative learning and group work
- access to outdoor spaces for outdoor learning opportunities
- natural lighting and visually appealing posters/artwork
- open space for kinaesthetic learning
- access to art supplies for visual learners and creative expression
- access to different technology including LiveScribe Pens, netbooks/laptops/tablets, document camera, SmartBoard etc.
- overall safe, supportive and incusive environment
While there are many more ideas (the list can be endless) we need to focus on what exactly we can implement in our immediate classroom environments. This may be as simple as rearranging student desks into groups and setting up different learning stations that reflect different learning styles. By accommodating our students' different learning styles through our pedagogy and physical space, we are demonstrating our commitment to our students and to their learning. As well, we are demonstrating our ongoing professional practice and professional knowledge when we research the latest technologies and explore their use in our classrooms.