Thinking About Classroom Design
It's that time of year where we are thinking about our classrooms and incoming students. It can be exciting to design our classroom arrangement. For me, I try to make my classroom homey and attempt to use Feng Shui in the design. It may sound silly, but incorporating lamps, curtains, and throw rugs does add an element of comfort. Not to mention that there is something to be said about certain parts of the room fostering particular attitudes. The friendship section of the room always seems to be the chattiest!
I worked with a colleague thinking about the design and we'd contemplated bringing in more chairs and comfortable furniture as well as updating the curtains. Whether or not we follow through on that remains to be seen, but in the meantime came up with a design that utilizes the current furniture in the classroom. As we were working, it occurred to me that we were recycling the same arrangements that we've used over the last six years. I stretched myself to think of something else.
As luck would have it, we were at the vet and I was zoning out (as I tend to do) and I visualized a couple of different variations. Upon getting home I began to play around and settled on the following two. They are fairly similar, but visually one looks like an emoticon and the other like a clown face (to me anyways). Still not able to decide which to use, I pulled together a twtpoll and posted it to Twitter and Facebook to get some outside help to make this difficult decision.
I received a few questions from friends and cyber colleagues, but I found one particularly difficult to answer in 140 characters. I was asked why I did not have the rug in front of the SMARTBoard to foster collaboration. I can explain here, but you may want to prepare yourself to be shocked.
In designing my classroom this year I had to reflect on what I value for my students as an educator. I value the four C's of 21st Century Skills: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Computers (I like to say there are five C's that include communication). These are in no particular order of preference, but for me ... the most important C is Collaboration. Collaboration is key to making the others work fluidly. The foundation of collaboration are the skills necessary to interact socially. It is through social interaction that academic growth (the other C's) occurs.
Looking at these room designs it is evident that the focus is on collaboration. The rug is in a place that is open for us to gather, without distractions. I have tables in my room and they alone foster collaboration, but in looking at the photos you can see that they are grouped in such a way that demonstrates that collaboration is important. As fantastic as Interactive White Boards can be, they just don't foster collaboration. If anything, they breed a regression of the self. Only one person at a time can interact with the board. Unless of course you have clickers, but then again that is still a solitary exercise. I understand that it's all in how you use it and you can make anything collaborative, but it's just not what they were designed for. Anyone walking into this classroom will see that collaboration is key to our learning.