February 10, 2017

The classroom of the future

The Physical Space
The days of classrooms where a teacher desk sits at the front of the classroom and students’ desks are neatly aligned in rows are over. Learning technologies, and changing pedagogical methods, are not only changing the way we teach but also the physical environments we teach in. The role physical environments play in our learning is just beginning to be studied and understood. Akinsanmi (2011) asserts that “there is little research on the role the physical environment plays in the learning process” but more and more educations theorist and psychologists are beginning to offer perspectives “from which designers can conceptualize the creation of an optimal learning environment” (The Optimal Learning). One thing that is clear from the research of the physical spaces which make up learning environments is that current classrooms seldom facilitate 21st century learning.
A study done by the Herman Miller Company (2011) on adaptable spaces and their impact on learning identified four key constructs that affect student learning; Basic Human Need, Teaching, Learning, and Engagement. Herman Miller assert that there is a “pedagogical value of a comfortable chair” and that by “recognizing the impact that physical comfort has is support of pedagogy, and designing flexible, comfortable learning spaces enhances the experience of both faculty and students.” When classroom furniture is easily moved to allow for comfort and practicality students’ learning experience was heightened with increased seating comfort (32%), being able to clearly understand the professor (14%), and view materials (17%). Besides students being better serviced by redesigned and malleable classrooms educators also reported the benefits of increased lighting, better access to internet connections, improved ability to hear students and having more whiteboard space (p. 3,5).

The research summary also highlighted the fact that with regard to teaching “emerging discoveries about how people learn, rapid advancements in technology, and heightened awareness of student expectations” were what caused the most pedagogical changes and in order for teachers to take advantage of these changes teaching spaces must be able to utilize new technologies and have classroom “flexible enough to accommodate different teaching styles”. Adaptable learning spaces also better facilitate learning especially since the “meaning of knowing has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find it use it and contextualize it.” Marc Prensky describes how students no longer prefer large lecture halls and instead desire learning spaces that “allow them to get to know one another, engage in dialogue, work independently or in groups on projects…get or provide private feedback [and] seek a collaborative environment that fosters understanding and learning” (Herman Miller Company, 2011, p. 5-6). Prensky’s quote perfectly illustrates why classroom spaces should no longer be static but should be easily adaptable to fit whatever activity or pedagogical method the teacher chooses to deliver that day’s lesson in.

Source: Classroom of the future

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