Redesigning the Learning Atmosphere with Experience Design

16 Jun

The create activity this week was a long anticipated one in the sense that, for the first time I would have complete control over my learning space. Teaching off of a cart and going from classroom to classroom, I have my hands tied behind my back, so to speak, when it comes to something as simple as a seating arrangement. Maximizing my twenty-minute classes, I arrive to what I am given and flow from there. This time I have the opportunity to be in charge of how to create a 21st century learning space that will enable my students to learn more effectively.

Upon my arrival, all classrooms that I visit are set up according to how the regular classroom teacher envisions it best. Sometimes this works well for me, and other times it does not. Now that I have control over a single room (assuming the over 200 students I teach will be coming to me!) I have a reimagined space I believe will bode well for all of my different aged learners. One positive aspect the building structure I currently work in has is its natural lighting. An entire wall contains large windows that run from about three feet above the ground all the way to the ceiling. This allows for a tremendous amount of natural light to come in, a huge bonus for student learning. Needless to say, the “wall of windows” was something I felt necessary to keep for my redesign.

My Remade Classroom4

Teaching from Kindergarten through 5th grade, visual stimuli is very important for these learners, specifically colors. According to Barrett, Zhang, Moffat and Kobbacy, cooler colors lend themselves better to the younger learners, but the warmer colors are more suitable for older learners. In my redesigned classroom I have entire walls painted in vibrant cool colors, but also accommodate the older learners with warm colored beanbag chairs.

My Remade Classroom3

Another important detail Barret et al. suggested was a quiet environment. Although the chairs in my redesign do not emulate exactly what I had envisioned, they do slide across the floor and do not bang like four-legged chairs do. Some teachers counter this with tennis balls, I’d rather have tiny rubber swivel tires fitted to mine! There is little clanging noise to be made when small tires strike the floor, or, for that matter, bean bags (2013).

My Remade Classroom

From the aerial view (2nd photo above) the student whiteboard covered tables (not desks!) are situated so that students are able to collaborate with one another. As Tedde Van Gelderen puts it, “they will mostly interact with other people during the experience” (2010). Yes there will be websites, products to use, and the beautiful colorful environment to take in, but it is the participation in sharing the experience that impacts learning the most. Similar to the video Remake Your Class, there is no true “front of the room” as a large whiteboard rests above the bean bag chairs, a SMART Board with projector facing the “window wall” (no glare) and a “genius bar” in the opposite corner of the teacher’s “DJ Dashboard” area.  This open concept not only increases the “flow” of the experience for the students, but also accommodates their unique learning styles (2013). The last feature of the redesigned classroom is the ample space for a class of twenty-four students. The teacher does not have to be “center stage” as in many traditional classrooms and can roam about facilitating student learning and not demanding it.

A redesign like this, in my opinion, would have to be done all at once. The earlier students can learn in a more favorable environment, the better. However, material cost does become an issue. Through various avenues, like sourcing community members (or staff!) for painting and other odd jobs (retro-fitting tires to chairs), costs can come down. For the machines themselves, laptops for the genius bar, projector, and SMART Board, either create a line-item in the budget or seek grants from within the community as well. Another great asset my school brings to the table is the support of the parents. Parents are more than willing to lend a hand when a need becomes clear, especially in the ever-changing scene of 21st century learning.

References:

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment. 59. 678-689. Retrieved June 15, from http://dx.doi.org/j.buildenv.2012.9.016

ChangSchool. (2010, February 9). Tedde van Gelderen on Experience Design. Retrieved June 15, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB4VFKn7MA4

Edutopia. (2013, August 6). Remake your Class. Retrieved June 15, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_837707945&feature=iv&src_vid=lxHVX7gbk6s&v=Ml17ynz8FG4

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