Ever since I embraced the Flipped Classroom the need for student desks in perfect rows seemed unimportant. I used to like have desks in my class because it made giving daily quizzes and tests easier so I did not have to be concerned with cheating. Over my short 5 year career I have played with grouping desks in pairs and groups but always found it a pain when I needed to give my students summative assessments…..things have changed!
I no longer give students typical tests and quizzes like I used to. I use Moodle to conduct my formative assessment quizzes and my summative assessment tests. I let students write quizzes when and where they want. They can write them alone, in pairs, at home, at school, wherever they have an internet connection. The quizzes are only so students have an idea of what they know and don’t know, formative assessment. When the class writes their Unit tests they also use Moodle. I pull in the reigns a little bit here….Students have to write their test alone at school. They cannot ask for assistance, similar to most tests. In addition, each one of my Moodle tests are different. I have created a large database of questions that are controlled by difficulty and learning outcome. As a result I can give a class a set of tests that a very similar in difficulty but are different for each student.
Long story short, desks aren’t nearly as important anymore……So, now what?
Last June I attended the Flipped Classroom conference hosted by the great Aaron Sams (@chemicalsams) and Jonathan Bergmann (@jonbergmann). I learned a great deal and have embraced the Flipped Classroom full heartedly. During the conference they mentioned (tongue and cheek) that one of the most important things to successfully running a Flipped Classroom was to have a couch! We all laughed, but the Flipped Classroom does change the way the classroom physically needs to be.
Students no longer need to be in rows for assessments and also no longer need to face the front of the class for lengthy lectures….So I asked myself what would be the best configuration of a classroom and what type of furniture would you need….?
I had a student the other day tell me that she loved my class. She said she struggled a great deal with math but felt more comfortable here than in any other class and enjoyed it. Kind of Strange…… I took this as a compliment, but why? My good looks and personality? The fact I have a number of lightsabers in the room? No, she said that I allowed students to work where they wanted in the class, with who they wanted, and that I gave them flexibility they didn’t get in other classes at our school. She also liked the layout of the class. This year I added a couch (free!) and a coffee table. I also put all the desks in groups of 4 or 5, not too radical here. This got me thinking why stop here……….
So, since then I have added two more couches (both free) and that got me really thinking. What is the point of having desks at all? I want a classroom that is comfortable, conducive to learning, and fun…….I want students to not feel the need to run for the hills as soon as the bell rings….So here is my long term plan
- Get rid of the desks and replace with tables, better for collaboration and group work
- Create computer stations in one part of the classroom where students can watch videos and complete quizzes via Moodle, although they are welcome to use the computers wherever
- Add a couple more couches, perhaps a rocking chair, bean bag chairs……too much…who knows!?!?!?
- I love whiteboarding, see @kellyoshea if you interested. I am considering painting some tables in whiteboard paint( http://www.ideapaint.com/), perhaps even some rectangles on the floor where students could work
- I would like a couple high tables where you stand at to work or have stools
- As for the walls, they are covered with cheesy math jokes and Blue Jays stuff, this isn’t changing!
I never knew I would get this pumped about interior design, let alone interior design of a classroom. I tried scouring the internet looking for information on classroom design and was surprised to see very little.
My question for those of you who made it to the end of this would be…. what do you think? What have you done with your class? Any suggestions for me?