20 Classroom Setups That Promote Thinking 20 Classroom Setups That Promote Thinking by TeachThought Staff This is part 1 in our #iteachthought campaign. This is our equivalent to “back to school,” and is intended to help you focus in the 2015-2016 school year on taking a thoughtful approach to your craft as a teacher. Among these shifts we’ll talk about is turning our focus from content and teaching to thinkers and thinking. This is a student-centered approach to pedagogy (and heautagogy), and will consist of three parts:
Brain Labs: A Place to Enliven Learning Although emotion and cognition originate in different parts of the brain, they interact and play a powerful role in learning and memory. According to neuroscientists like Eric Jensen, priming the brain for particular states of engagement -- such as curiosity, intrigue, surprise, suspense, a bit of confusion, skepticism, and the feeling of safety -- prepares the mind to learn. Furthermore, incorporating emotion into our instruction and content supports long-term memory. This might not be news to teachers, but not enough students know how to optimize their brain for learning.
Reasons and Research – Why Schools Need Collaborative Learning Spaces Creative Commons license image source We’ve converted a few classrooms to more collaborative spaces over the last few years at The College of Westchester, and faculty reaction has generally been quite positive. These initial room changes have revolved around modifying the layout of a few classrooms from the row-by-row footprint of the traditional lecture room to a more interactive, group-oriented layout of round tables. We are now looking to move towards the next iteration of this evolution by creating a technologically enabled space for collaborative learning. I had the good fortune of sitting through several sessions at the recent UB Tech conference focused on successful implementations of flexible learning spaces. As a next step, I searched out and reviewed some of the many articles and resources available on the Web that focus on this topic.
Future Ready - Internet of Things to Reshape the Workplace The Internet of Things (IoT) has made its way into the workplace, and is changing the way we do business. There’s a growing use of beacons, sensors, and ‘smart’ devices that collect data to automate manufacturing, streamline operations, and improve customer experiences. But that’s not enough. New Teachers: Designing Learning Environments The Importance of Classroom Design Why does the physical design of classrooms matter? Mark Phillips discusses this question in "A Place for Learning: The Physical Environment of Classrooms" and offers examples of and resources for turning impersonal spaces into student-friendly havens of learning. For further inspiration, VideoAmy has compiled some videos to help you begin to conceptualize your classroom vision in "Five-Minute Film Festival: Classroom Makeovers."
A Place for Learning: The Physical Environment of Classrooms I was supervising a teacher who was enrolled in our program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst that focused on developing student self-knowledge, ego strength, trust and community in classrooms. We had created a manual with over 50 classroom lessons. She was teaching at a high school in an economically depressed district in northern Appalachia. She called me in a state of frustration. "I've used dozens of the exercises you guys developed, and they're not the least bit interested. There's no sense of community, and the trust level is non-existent. Classroom Design Matters As a classroom teacher, one of the most exciting aspects of starting a new school year was organising the classroom learning spaces. Where would the desks go? Can everyone see the board properly? Can everyone move around the room easily? While I took a great deal of time thinking about the physical objects, I didn’t spend as much time thinking of the use of display areas in my classroom – how students would learn best using the materials selected for display.
PYP Classroom Set-Up: How much should we be doing without students? – Making Good Humans Every year many teachers spend hours upon hours setting up their classroom to ensure it is picture perfect before the students arrive. But I wonder, by doing so, are we taking away some great learning opportunities for students? In PYP classrooms, we start the year with blank walls to ensure there is lots of space to display students’ questions and students’ thinking, but what other classroom set-up jobs should we be sharing with students? Involving students in classroom set-up is not only a great way to build a sense of community and send the message that it is our classroom, not my classroom, but their are also some great opportunities for math, literacy and transdisciplinary skills… if you’re looking for them! Here is a list of some typical classroom set-up jobs that involve literacy, math and TD skills that could be shared with students:
Does Your Classroom Tell a Story? Do you have mystery objects that attract the curiosity of students, leading them to ask questions that foster meaningful conversations? Is your classroom visually stimulating for the students? Does it cultivate creativity, and more importantly, is it filled with objects, images, and even props that help your students learn -- even when they think they're not learning? Like most teachers, I decorate my classroom with posters and objects that help promote learning, but that also lend a little pizzazz to an otherwise humdrum learning environment. It is typical, for example, for science teachers to have full skeletons and periodic tables in the classrooms, or for history teachers to have maps and portraits of famous historical figures pinned to the walls.
Collab Lab: An Experiment in Leadership and Growth Editor's Note: Michael Podraza, Principal at East Greenwich (Rhode Island) High School, is on a mission to share and implement new ideas in education that will engage and empower students, educators, and school communities. This video looks at the planning and practice of a month-long experiment to model collaboration and risk taking by the school’s leadership team. The 2014-2015 school year was East Greenwich High School's first year of 1:1 Chromebooks. Even with two years of planning and professional development for teachers and administrators, we still anticipated plenty of nervousness and fear of failure in the coming school year. It was with this in mind that I tried to support my faculty and encourage risk taking by labeling (and living) SY 14-15 as our "Year in Beta".
Redesign the Classroom to Enhance Learning Image is courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Wolfram Burner Stemming originally from ancient China, feng shui is a practice that was once used to align buildings and design city layouts based on metaphoric energies called qi. While the science of feng shui is unproven, it is clear that the organization of our physical environments affects our attitudes, actions, and emotions. You’ll know this if you had to spend a summer in college working in the dark, cramped basement of an administrative office as opposed to, say, the top floor of a high rise with minimal furniture and wide open views. Some companies over the years have dabbled in changing the space in offices to improve productivity, but most decisions were and still are based on available budget. In recent years, startup companies that have changed the landscape of business have also changed the way businesses think about employee happiness.
Transforming learning with physical spaces Physical environments have a large impact on student learning, research says School leaders implement new technology initiatives and update teaching and learning goals regularly, but sometimes, the actual physical learning spaces in districts are overlooked. Today, more and more research points to the increased student achievement and engagement resulting from redesigning learning spaces to be more flexible and collaborative. Redesigning physical learning spaces can contribute to “brain-friendly learning,” said A.J. Juliani, education and technology innovation specialist in Pennsylvania’s Upper Perkiomen School District, during an Alliance for Excellent Education webinar on learning space design.