Page 31 - THE Journal, October 2017
P. 31

transform their learning spaces, encouraged ISTE 2017 attendees to develop a new mindset and lens through which to visualize the possibilities for today’s classrooms.
“We have neglected our learning spaces for a long time,” he said. “The first step in redesigning the classroom is to discard the notion that it has to be a classroom because that comes with baggage. What about imagining it as a studio instead?”
When redesigning learning spaces, let the type of learning experiences you want to foster be your guide, Jakes advised. “Focus on experiences, not things,” he said. “This is not about furniture; it’s about the learning. What experiences do I want to create for students? Then, what design would support that?”
The American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase “form follows function,” and this is true of classrooms as well. A classroom with rows of student desks facing the front of the room creates a teacher-centric space that implies students are expected to
sit and listen as the teacher talks. But a classroom with students sitting facing each other in small groups encourages a more active, student-centered style of learning, powered by teamwork
and collaboration.
It’s important to have a space that
can assume many different roles, Jakes said, depending on the kinds of learning going on. He used the word “agile” to describe the ideal classroom: a flexible and dynamic learning space where the furniture can be rearranged quickly
to support various activities. Several
classroom furniture makers, such as Paragon, Smith System and Steelcase, make desks and tables that easily can be arranged into creative groupings of multiple sizes.
Although Johnson’s classroom at Isenberg Elementary doesn’t contain such agile furniture, he said the configuration of his classroom changes based on the activities that students are working on.
“The kids love it,” he said. “They look forward to coming to class. It’s a more welcoming environment than the classrooms I grew up in — and they see me as a facilitator of their learning.”
Dennis Pierce is a freelance writer with 20 years of experience covering education and technology. He can be reached at
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