I wish I could physically welcome you into my teaching space. This year, my “home base” is unlike anything I’ve had in years past. For one period of the day, another teacher uses this room but, for the remainder of the day, it is very much a multi-purpose space in which I teach my classes, work one-on-one with students who need coaching, and do my own writing. If you asked me to identify the theme of what goes on in here, I would answer “we experience.” Most of those experiences are, of course, based upon music. On the outside, those experiences are pure…we just make music. For those of us who use this room, our experiences are more complex than that. While we do make music, we recall our history…we learn about the value of collaborating with others (even if we choose not to eat lunch together)…we experience the artistry of cultures that differ from our own…we replicate the work of the masters and mistresses who came before us…we venture out past their work while daring to create our own…we experience trust, fear, vulnerability, joys, disappointments, and beauty. So yes, life in my teaching space can be described as complex and very, very rich.
If you look through the photos I’ve shared in this post, you’ll notice a few points. First, you can probably guess that I still depend upon visual prompts to support the delivery of content and help with classroom management (I am also a Potterhead). Another point is the traditional desks set up in rows (neither is my choice). One of the most significant points in this teaching space is the limited amount of technology. The only technology that you’re able to find in this room are two laptops (one is mine and the other is school-issued), an overhead projector (yes, I still use transparencies), and a desk phone. My APMuTh students are expected to bring their own personal devices to each class. Our school is a 1:1 environment.
Let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the 2018 Horizon Report’s report on trends expected to influence higher education environments. As I reviewed them, I was able to recognize more than a few that were already impacting work in K-12 school communities. Regardless of whether our schools are public or private, our goals include providing our students with superior educations while providing them with the tools (especially technological) needed to succeed in their future endeavors. Here’s the challenge: How do we accomplish this when faced with less-than-flexible instructional spaces? As I delved more deeply into the 18 trends listed in the report, the one that resonated with me most strongly was redesigning learning spaces. The other 17 trends were presented well, but the idea of actually redesigning the learning space in my classroom totally rang a bell for me. BTW, as a way of explaining why that bell rang as loudly as it did, I’m sharing photos of our space in this post.
Question 1 for this week: What technological trends do I absolutely want to include in my classroom space? That’s “easy” to answer. I want whatever will allow my students to Create, Perform, Respond, and Connect. Since my curricula are built upon these four standards, I will use them to guide my decisions on tech trends.
Teachers and learners in our space need to be able… To create: Give us devices with age/grade level software. We’re 1:1, so that’s an easy one to check off. To perform: Give us digital keyboard and playback capabilities (No, I’m not giving up my acoustic piano). To respond: Give us the ability to freely share creations with fellow classmates and, possibly, collaborative partners off-campus with the purpose of analyzing/critiquing. How about data storage and don’t forget connectivity! To connect: Connectivity, yet again, especially since we need to be able to research similar creative projects from different historic periods/cultures AND space in which we can discuss our work with one another (not all learning takes place in desks).
Question 2 for this week: What adjustments to this space need to be made to accommodate these trends? Researching the concept of providing an Active Learning Classroom (ACL) helped me to consider this question with an eye towards what my students actually need to promote their learning experiences. Why would any teacher prefer passive over active learning in their classroom? Shouldn’t I want my students to use my classroom to become more fully engaged…freely ask questions…want to continue asking questions about our topics even after leaving at the end of class? Just when I thought Bloom had the taxonomy market cornered, enter Andrew Churches and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy! If I am going to infuse technology into our classroom, I absolutely want to make its results to be as effective and meaningful as possible. This updated taxonomy allows us to connect the dots between the original, well-known levels and what technology in an ACL has to offer.
I have to admit that prior to writing this post, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a makerspace. What I discovered was enough to help me realize that my students would benefit from having one as a part of our learning space, and also gave me a better picture of the implications of developing a makerspace. The University of Minnesota’s provides a clear inventory of the plusses and minuses of developing and using an ACL. If I use these to develop my own makerspace, the implications include… * Seating – Desks, as we know them, are no longer useful. We need tables that will permit us to spread out our work while having a safe/stable place for personal devices (including keyboards, of course). Will my students have enough room to work in collaborative groupings? What about the students who require fewer distractions? *Student responsibility – How will my students react to having more independence in our classroom? What is the best way to hold them accountable for time on task? *Focal point flexibility – My students will be dispersed around the room at different workstations. Where is the best place for me to stand? Will everyone be able to see me, especially if I’m demonstrating something? * Teacher-Individual Student interactions – What will my strategies be for times when one-on-one conversations between a student and myself absolutely need to take place?
The bottom line for me is complex. Even though I am still connected to my overhead projector and acoustic piano, I get the fact that technology is changing how my learning space and others like it should be put together. I can imagine writing a post on this same topic in 5 years (maybe sooner) and discovering that technology has turned another corner. This corner will likely lead me to visualize my learning space in an entirely different configuration…perhaps with Virtual Reality playing a major role. In the meantime, I will continue to adjust our space while keeping my students and what they will need to learn in ways that suit them as individuals and will serve their needs in the future. I know the advances that are available to us. I also understand the implications that accompany them.