Learning Spaces 2.0
By: Kevin Ryan
Our school recognized several years ago that significant changes needed to be made to our classrooms, and better technology needed to be acquired, in order to help our students develop the skills mandated by today’s educational standards including effective communication and collaboration.
To that end, we turned our attention to redesigning our classrooms to fit the learning needs of our students well into the 21st century.
We started by asking ourselves an essential question: What DOES 21st century learning in a classroom look and sound like in a school committed to high levels of learning for ALL students?
We knew we had obstacles to overcome: heavy furniture, the inability to collaborate with technology tools like interactive projectors, and students in rows led from the front of the classroom. Even more compelling, there was an obvious lack of what we called a differentiated learning atmosphere.
Once we acknowledged our obstacles, we really stepped into high gear. We took teachers, administrators and school board members to other schools for learning walks. We formed a committee of these stakeholders as well as community members to evaluate our needs. We met with our technology team to plan and design multimedia infrastructure as well as expected best practices.
And, here’s what else we learned.
1. Phase in….don’t rush in.
When we began phasing in a 1:1 iPad program, we noticed that traditional classrooms really didn’t provide the environment and flexibility needed for success with integrating 1:1 technology. Whether we set desks up in traditional rows or arranged them in mini-pods, it was difficult for kids to maneuver, share information, and collaborate with each other.
So, in an effort to create a freer environment, we phased in reconfigured classrooms.During one school year, 10 classrooms were redesigned – the following summer, we completed renovations on 22 more classrooms.
2. Know the company you keep…from resellers to technology partners.
We had previously worked with Fathom Media, a reseller whose specialty is serving as audiovisual integrator and partner. Drawing on its vast industry network and expertise, they presented Boxlight’s MimioProjector touch projectors as the best option for what the school was trying to accomplish. That’s what partnering is about: bringing about optimal execution of goals!
We replaced our interactive projectors with the touch projectors, which turn conventional dry erase boards into touch boards. Teachers and students can use their hands on those touch boards, instead of depending on styli, and you can have up to 10 touches at once.
3. What goes around comes around.
In our newly configured classrooms, there is 270-degree visual surround, with two walls bearing 65-inch televisions, in addition to Boxlight’s MimioProjector touch projector on a third wall. Each of these devices is connected to an Apple TV.
The classrooms are set up so that there is really no front-of-the-classroom. If a smaller group is working on a project collaboratively, they can move their workspace around because the tables are on wheels.
4. Results matter.
Yes, there is increased student engagement in the new classrooms. Plus, teachers can now differentiate at a greater level with students, and they’re better able to meet each and every student’s needs with the technology.
5. Change is the one constant.
We continue to refine our redesign efforts. We swapped out mobile projector carts for ceiling-mounted models capable of up to 10 simultaneous users. We added more lift capable tables, while eliminating smaller desks that seat just two students.
And as we move forward, we’ll stay focused on figuring out what will fit our students’ learning needs. In the end, it’s all about student learning.
Kevin Ryan is a former 21st Century Learning Director in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. For more information about Boxlight, visit www.boxlight.com.