Sunday, August 24, 2014

Changing Spaces

Last weekend I was in Singapore co-leading an IB Continuum workshop on flipped learning.  Since returning to school I've been thinking about the implications that flipped learning has on learning spaces.  If the whole idea behind flipping the classroom is to make it more student centred, then clearly the teacher is "off the stage" which means s/he doesn't need to be positioned at the front of the room presenting content.  I'm lucky in my job because I get to go into every single teacher's learning space and all of them are very different.  At ASB we talk about learning spaces because there are no classrooms as such as there are no real doors or walls.  Spaces are divided up by moveable furniture and glass or sliding panels.  This week, as I went to talk to our upper elementary students about the responsible use of technology, I took a look around to see if there were classrooms that still had a feeling of a "front", and I found that many of them did not.  There were often a number of different spaces that could be used for whole class teaching, for example an easel, a flipchart, a whiteboard, a TV and in some classes a rug on the floor that all the students could sit on.  There were groups of desks and some desks by themselves.  There were the regular chairs on wheels, some chairs not on wheels, some Hokki stools and some soft seating such as cushions and beanbags.  In a couple of classes I went into there were also "cave spaces" which children could sit alone.

This week I also dipped into the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  There is a section there on optimized learning spaces too.  They argue that while technology has changed (from the blackboard to a projector, screen or IWB) the basic teacher centredness of classrooms didn't change - in fact these new tools often just emphasized the role of the teacher as presenting content and the students as passively absorbing it.  However, of course when teachers are no longer presenting content in class to all the students at the same time, as with the flipped learning model, then teachers can consider how they want to change their spaces.

Bergmann and Sams suggest several ways that the traditional classroom spaces can be changed:
  1. Flipped learning is collaborative - so furniture needs to be arranged in ways that encourage collaboration
  2. In flipped learning, some students may be working individually, so they need a place where they can avoid distractions.  (On the face of it this request seems to be completely opposed to point number 1 above so teachers will need to think about how to create this space in a collaborative classroom)
  3. The focus should be on the students, so move/get rid of the teacher's desk from the front of the class.  In flipped learning the teacher can be anywhere in the class.
Are you a teacher who has flipped your classroom?  How has this impacted the way the physical space in your classroom is used?

Photo Credit: flickingerbrad via Compfight cc

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