If “home is where the heart is,” then the classroom should be “where the learning is,” but also where inspiration is, where passion is, and where exploration is. Just like every home should be different and customized to its inhabitants, so too should we be able to customize our learning spaces to suit the needs of our students.
I primarily teach in a computer lab. For at least the last 5 years “Lab 239” has been my home base, mostly for information technology courses, with some “extras” in past years thrown in–Interior Design and Yearbook to be specific. I love having the lab, and it is obviously essential for the types of courses that I teach, yet it still functions as a 20th century classroom despite the fact I am teaching 21st century curriculum. Why? Well, I am limited by the constraints of my physical space! My computer stations are built in, with power supplies positioned accordingly. The lab was built in the mid-1990’s, (yes–I have teal and purple classroom accent colours!) and this style of “worker-bee” computing was the standard. I’ve adorned the walls with movie posters, fun slogans, and other creativity-inspiring elements; however, I am daily faced with the physical configuration of my classroom. I believe that many other teachers find themselves in a similar situation, wishing for a more homey classroom, but faced with rows of desks and built-in elements that are just not conducive to modern education.
So the question becomes: how can we transform our 20th century classrooms into 21st century learning spaces? In some cases, it might mean asking for funding. It in others, it might mean sacrificing “teacher space” to make room for “student space.”
For me, that means some funding. For others in a traditional learning space, it might mean moving desks out of the way for circle discussion, or grouping students in work pods. Companies that make educational furniture are listening to the needs of students, and are making new and innovative designs (I love to look at the Natural Pod catalog personally!).
On top of our classroom layouts, we can also transform our walls into shifting, moving inspiration by changing what our students see on a regular basis. We can’t all afford to paint each wall with white-board paint (you can always ask though!) but there are other options to look into such as giant vinyl whiteboard adhesives from Writey Boards.
Colour, safe spaces and movement are all great ways to change traditional classrooms into 21st Century Learning Spaces. I encourage you to explore what is available and find ways to “redo” your classroom!