Two great comments on the last post about what goes into a classroom. The first was from Peter Ingle:
One of things we learned about from k-12 is that the classroom setup does make some difference (how much is obviously up for grabs). But this has largely to do with how a teacher organizes the room. One of the things that we did in the SOE was to have dedicated rooms specifically for education classes. These classrooms have places to store materials, post things on the wall, and a sense of ownership for what is in there. Perhaps we are missing the boat a little when we wonder about the technology in the classroom and not about permanence. Where can I put up posters, art, excellent work, student projects, etc??? These are all good ways to help students know they are excelling and to provide a more 'inviting' classroom. I know.... that is for elementary school. I don't think so.
The second is from Bryce Bunting:
I don't have a story yet, but I am in a design course this semester where I think the classroom will make a difference. But, I think it has less to do with what is in the classroom (technology, etc.) and more with Peter's idea of permanence. The course is intended to be a studio where we create, share, and critique instructional materials that we each produce. The instructor found a room in the basement of the McKay Bldg at BYU that isn't being used by any other group or course this semester. That means that we can post things on the walls, store materials, and have our own permanent space. My sense so far (I've only been to class once) is that being able to leave and post things without worrying about them being taken down will make a difference in our learning. For example, we'll be creating a wall of shame/fame illustrating good and bad designs (our own and others that we have collected). On the wall will be instructional artifacts as well as our comments relating to why they are good or bad. My hope is that it will create an ongoing conversation of sorts across the semester about design. My guess is that if someone were to come in at the end of the semester they might also see a decent record of our group learning.So, the jury is still out, but I think that this particular classroom and the way it is used will make a difference. To answer your last question (what would classrooms be like if our campuses were about learning), I think that one difference we would see is that individual instructors would work much more closely with campus schedulers to find rooms that facilitate the type of learning they want to go on. In most cases I think those classroom assignments have more to do with capacity than anything. Additionally, on a true learning campus those that design physical space would spend a lot more time talking with the important stakeholders (faculty & students). I would be surprised if that happens very often at most institutions.
There is some really interesting overlap in these two responses. Both Peter and Bryce are technologically savvy guys. And both are leaders in helping their campuses and colleagues think about learning. But most interestingly, they both point to "ownership" of the classroom as a key force for learning.
This may seems strange to higher ed folks, but outside of education, the connection between "ownership" (or at least deep personal responsibility for a place) and that place's meaning is unquestioned. For example, a gravesite is a sacred place for people with a deep connection to the deceased. "Home field advantage" is unquestioned in sports. People return again and again to "sacred spaces" for solace and learning.
In education, though, the further you go through the system the less personal connection a student has to a space for learning. Why is this? Did someone once think it was a good idea for learning? Or is it at best a way to maximize the efficiency of space on campus?