Image Source: RYAN MCGUIRE at gratisography.com
More and more in the classroom I am trying to establish the connections between the subjects I teach and other subjects, or incorporate a real life application. But how can students apply what they learn when they are confined by the four walls of a classroom? Imagination and simulation works to an extent, but there are limitations.
In the article, The Classroom is Obsolete: It’s time for Something New, the author Prakash Nair gives the foundations on which classrooms of this generation should be built on. He calls for us to re frame the way that we think of classrooms, which have been stuck in the industrial revolution design. Nair claims that the structure has determined the function of the schools – when it really should be the other way around. We should be aware of our purpose, then design the spaces of learning accordingly.
This element of our environment determining our learning goes even deeper. Not only can it restrict the way that we learn, but it influences our emotions towards learning as well. The space is building habits in our students, and training them to think and behave in certain ways. I am sure that almost every teacher probably feels the same as their students, limited by the environment and aware of the habits students develop as a result. They want to find a way out.
For one week, I didn’t have chairs in my classroom. I used this opportunity to restructure how we used the space. It felt invigorating to have the space more open. We were able to use the walls differently, the windows, and the center of the room. Mainly, I didn’t feel the students were locked in their chairs and had to stay there. I believe that after growing up in the classroom, it isn’t easy as a teacher to imagine something different. I think that perhaps it is not just up to the developers, such as people like Nair who authored the article linked above; authority and responsibility should be given to the students as well as opportunities to design their own learning spaces. I think they would all raise their hands in agreement that they wouldn’t sit inside at desks, in their small boxes, all day. And they might also agree that this is not what constitutes learning.
Our environment in the classroom isolates us from the ability to collaborate and reach into other subject areas. From the idea of “my desk”, “my chair”, and so on probably even helps isolate us even more. As teachers we have “our room”, unless the space is shared with others. But it still becomes a room learning for that subject. Then how are the kids supposed to bring what they learned in the classroom out into their lives. They thing it belongs in that “room”. I would stress that learning online is going to change the game more than we imagine in the next ten years. Perhaps we will end up with disregarding the “classroom” all together. We should be proponents of “the world is your classroom”.
Explore more? I am interested in the science side that is exploring the idea that our environment can be embedded into our DNA – it’s called Epigenetics. I am learning more about it, starting HERE. Could it be that our environment can change our genes?
What do you think? Are your experiences the same?
If anyone has a successful experience with a redesign in their classroom, I would like to hear about it below.