I spent a couple of hours in my classroom today taking pictures, sketching ideas, and annotating those pictures on my iPad using Skitch and Evernote. Here were my thoughts as I looked at my room. (Caution: These are just rough ideas, not final decisions.)
I'm going to start with the stage area in my classroom. This is the area that students love the most and tend to congregate before and after class. It is also the center of group work for most students if they can claim it before anyone else. The chairs have been collected over the years and student love to sit there and work. The whiteboard areas always change during the school year and the door is painted with IdeaPaint and it is called the Dream Door. Student can post thing they hope to accomplish during the school year. As I looked at the space, I took down some ideas.
The stage used to be the center of my Blogger's Cafe idea from a few years ago. I moved away from that because the students had their own devices and they didn't need to be there to have access to their blogs. The chairs stayed and the iPad cart was added. A few more chairs were added, but the space has gone unchanged for the most part. The answer to my classroom space issues have been staring at me from the stage for a few years. Instead of viewing the stage as a special area to lounge and work, why didn't I see that the entire room should be like this? Despite how innovative or progressive I try to be, there are elements of the "old school" mentality that stick with me and are hard to break.
The front of my room needs some serious changes as well. Here is what I realized while staring at the front of my room like a student would in class.
I have wasted so much space in my room because I had the wrong idea of what a classroom should look like. "All eyes up front" is not the way to go about designing the classroom. That makes the learning environment about me and it should not about me at all. Even when the desks are moved into a table formation, students are constantly adjusting their seating to make eye contact with the speaker.
I move all over the room, yet I set everything up to make the front of the room the focal point. It doesn't even make sense. I spend time dodging stray backpacks as I walk the room and students are turning every which way to keep me in their view. This formula is a huge fail.
Here are a few more shots where I suggest some changes. I hope I can make them.
I have all of this board space that should be used in class by my students on most days. I need to arrange tables and chairs around those learning hubs so the students can collaborate freely without having to get up and go to the library or the hallway to get comfortable.
I would like to see each part of the room that has something a little different and special that could accomodate the different types of learners that come in and out of my room. Maybe a couple of the areas have screens for students to plug in their device and work collaboratively on a computer. Maybe another spot features dry erase boards and desktops so they can map out their plans with markers. I think there are so many different possibilities if I take the time and figure out what is best.
Once I get some ideas set, I'm going to reach out to some students for feedback and see what they think about the learning space.
If you are a vendor interested in helping me create the #NerdySpaces for my students, please drop me a line on Twitter (@TheNerdyTeacher) or though email OneNerdyTeacher@gmail.com.