Tag Archives: engage students

Classroom Design: A Different Theory and Approach

Learning Space

Learning Space

Again, during another session of browsing, I came across something interesting and intriguing. Throughout our course, we have been exposed to particular theories of classroom design and what works. I’m sure that everyone doing our course would agree totally (or mostly) that what we have seen and read is very practical and logical and would be something that we would love to have in our own classrooms given the budget to redesign. This article, however, takes us through the classroom of a teacher who has been inspired by the Reggio Emilia theories of classroom design which, while not being radically different from our own learning, opens up some questions for classroom designs of the future.

Reggio Emilia discourages bright colours and replaces them with more neutral, natural tones. Are these colour palettes more, or less inspiring to the minds of children? The design also removes as much plastic as possible from the learning environment, replacing it with natural products wherever this can be done. The above picture is typical of a Reggio Emilia learning space. Many of the features we would identify with being a good learning space are visible. I would love to see more curves in their designs myself, as I believe that more curves would better compliment the organic feel of the learning spaces.

On a personal level, I love the effort to reduce the usage of plastics in the learning environment, as I believe that we can all do with more natural substances around us. However, to my way of thinking, the colour scheme is just too bland to be inspiring. Is this because I have a preconceived notion of what a classroom should be like, or am I just trying to cater to my own personal needs through a subconscious application of the 8 Ways of Learning?

I think that as teachers we must avail ourselves to all relevant theories of learning spaces and pick and choose the elements that work best for our students. I believe it’s not so much about the theories and the names behind them, but rather the students who will develop and be inspired within these spaces now and into the future.

I have to admit that some elements of the classroom design are impressive and a lot of time and effort has gone into their construction and organisation. I like the inclusion of the children’s work in the spaces as well. The usage of natural lighting and refractive crystals is also a nice touch, something that I always like to have in my own classroom.

This is a space for 2 and 3 year olds, not primary age students, so it is intended to be a busy space for children with shorter (and developing) attention spans. The staff have taken an educational design theory and used it to suit the needs of their students, which is what we, as students )and as teachers) have been encouraged (required) to do as well. I’m a bit intrigued by the Fairy Dust Teaching. Do I have an inner Tinkerbell waiting to be released?

The inner Tinkerbell

The inner Tinkerbell

 

I would love to know your thoughts on the Reggio Emilia learning space design. Please leave a comment.

 

References:

http://8ways.wikispaces.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach

http://fairydustteaching.com/

http://imgarcade.com/1/original-tinkerbell-flying/ (image)

http://teaching2and3yearolds.com/preschool-classroom-design-ideas/

http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2010/05/beautiful-learning-spaces-in-reggio.html (image)

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Filed under Arts and crafts, Course Work, EDFD459, Maths, Phonics, Reading, Technology, Young Learners

100 Years of Public Education – Bonshaw Public School

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 9.16.45 PM
Bonshaw Public School, taken 1972.

Over this past weekend I attended my old Primary school’s centenary celebrations. I’ve been lucky, in a way, in that I have managed to maintain some contact with my old school through ongoing relationships due to having family in the village. Once the last of our family left the area though, this changed and I lost contact.
I attended the school from 1972 to 1978 as a student, and then returned as a teacher in 1989. Honestly, within that time frame there had been little change to the school physically, or even culturally. The school was still a multi-cultural school with students from a variety of backgrounds in attendance, just as it had been when I first enrolled. The only difference was that the school had shrunk from a two teacher to a one-teacher school, due to changes in farming and the loss of the lucrative tobacco market.
This, of course, was the Centenary of Public Education at Bonshaw School. Prior to 1914, since 1882 at least, school in one form or another had been available to the local residents. One of those original schools is now the front building, where my father went to school. The second building was added in 1962. It was extended with an extra classroom for classes in 1972.

IMG_7567
Bonshaw Public School taken 2014

On Saturday, I was amazed when I entered the classroom. I had first been to the library, where physically, little had changed. It was rearranged slightly, but no real difference was evident. Entering the classroom was different. When I had started school in 1972, we sat in rows by our grade and no one was allowed to sit elsewhere. There was a chalkboard at the front of the room for the teacher, and small chalkboards at the rear for students, as well as a small wet area for cleaning up after painting. The floor was wooden. An old box type radio hung on the wall and we used it for our weekly session of “Let’s Join In” singing. We had a sand tray table, and the room was marginally decorated with displays, mostly of the teacher’s own work, designed to stimulate. I always loved the painted windows.
Now, there is a huge change. The primary classroom is now a kind of AV room, with an interactive whiteboard, photocopier, sound system and other such items. There is also a range of other equipment, readily on hand for lessons.
The main classroom blew me away. Here was an actual classroom, putting into place almost everything we had been learning about in our classwork for EDLA459. It was as if the teacher had been a student of this course in the past.
Apart from displays in circular patterns, everything was laid out almost straight from the “textbook”!
I was astonishing to see that so much attention to detail had been applied by one person in pursuit of the best possible learning space within a given physical area.
Group learning spaces have been catered to, as have comfort areas for various individual learning styles and activities. There is a bank of computers along one wall as well as there being an Interactive White Board at the front of the room (it was the rear when I was there) with a large conventional white board and a wall mounted tv.
Wall spaces were well organised with lots of informative posters and select pieces of children’s work, but there was no evidence of the children having created any of the displays.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the classroom from when I was a student or teacher there, but I do have an external picture illustrating some change.

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5 Reasons Technology in the Classroom Engages Students

cartoon...outdated_technology

I was browsing around something today, looking for information and came across this interesting article. Have a read. I think it fits beautifully with where I want to be as a teacher.

http://www.securedgenetworks.com/secure-edge-networks-blog/bid/51752/5-Reasons-Technology-in-the-Classroom-Engages-Students

Image by Randy Glasbergen, 2007. http://www.glasbergen.com

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Pedagogy and Community of Practice

working together_jpg

Perhaps the biggest influences on the quality of teaching and learning in schools today are Curriculum and Pedagogy. These, by definition, must be able to provide students with all that they need to survive in the world. By this, I mean they must be provided with knowledge, skills, morals and attitudes; and strategies to comprehend themselves and others, to be able to build relationships and to connect with the wider world, as demonstrated in the Australian Curriculum.

In her article Beyond Four Walls: Experiential and Situated Learning (2009), Johnson explained how excursions and incursions are significant and important in supporting students in their general learning and in their social and emotional learning as well.

The social theorists, Lave and Wenger, believe that enhanced learning takes place in context, with social interaction (Johnson (2009)

When we look at these approaches, we see that our pedagogical approach must enable a community of practice, in this case – social learning. Students and teachers need to be involved in sharing ideas, exchanging knowledge, questioning, critically examining, helping and even challenging each other continually in an ongoing process. This inspires all to be more open and can change peoples’ ways of thinking.

As educators we constantly ask how we can keep all of our students engaged for the maximum achievement of outcomes. How do we get them involved? First, we must know our students. Their background, their prior knowledge, their culture, their experiences. What do they have to offer?

This leads to extending the community of practice to beyond the walls of the classroom and beyond the school fence. Who has some knowledge or skills that will benefit the community of practice?

When we look at this information, and combine it with the requirements of the curriculum we can start to ask bigger questions about just what the students need.

When thinking about excursions, we open our community of practice to specific individuals and organisations who have knowledge and skill sets that we need to enhance our knowledge and understanding by introducing these. This is used to actively engage and involve students to encourage the taking place of more powerful learning.

This is best accomplished with meticulous planning, not just of the physical aspects but of what the students actually need to learn from the experience. Therefore the teacher needs to be very well prepared before the day and the students must be prepared as well.

Just as important as preparation is the follow-up. Students must be able to reflect on the activity and its relevance to their current learning. When the learner takes action following an excursion and begins incorporating it into the learning of the community of practice.

Pedagogy and curriculum, enabled by a community of practice, create a process whereby students engage in learning to make connections between learning and experiences.

Johnson, J. (2009). Beyond four walls: experiential and situated learning. [online].Teacher (198), 18-20. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/fullText;dn=173862;res=AEIPT

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