The FUTURE of better

By Alex More

If you could change anything about the way students learn, what would you change?

The curriculum?

The school day?

The experience, or …

The classroom?

Most of the above are out of reach from us day to day teachers, left to the policy makers. But, you don’t have to be a policy maker to be a change maker. Change can come in may forms and this change is all about the classroom.

Many teachers teach in the same room. I have come to realise that the best classrooms are those the students are desperate to get too. We can create inspiring learning spaces for our students, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth! If you follow the blog, you will know that I have been working on a ‘Future Classroom’ project with Epson and SMIT visual. I don’t yet have an image for the space so you’ll have to visualise how it might look and function. To help with this, here is the plan:

  • No fixed desks – instead lecture style chairs that can be moved, stacked and placed anywhere in the space. Foldable tables will be used and students will be standing for parts of the lesson.
  • Writable surfaces – a combination of SMIT visual boards and whiteboards, strategically placed so 3 walls of the room and completely covered. This allows a huge canvas for students to create ideas on.
  • Epson EB-1485FI Projector and SMIT Visual board – a state of the art projector provided by Epson as we will be a ‘future classroom’ pilot school, this is a collaborative process.
  • Class VR headsets – a groundbreaking technology designed to help raise engagement & increase knowledge retention for students of all ages through virtual reality.
  • Plant wall and plants to improve retention, to keep CO2 Levels at approximately 2,200 parts per million.

In the first instance let’s look at the optimium learning conditions for a classroom environment. Research by Heppell (2018) identified some parameters for successful learning inside the classroom which leans towards science of how we learn. His findings outlined four key elements:

  • Temperature: the optimal temperature for a learning environment is between 18 and 21 °C.
  • CO2 Levels: levels under 2,200 parts per million are optimal. Concentration is affected above 2,200
  • Sound: in the form of background noises (projectors, other classrooms, outside noise) needs to remain below 70-72 db.
  • Light: lux above 750+ is ideal for focus and new learning content, 250 lux is adequate for conversations about learning

Reimagining the modern classroom (Glatter et al 2016) painted a picture of a utopian learning environment, outlining ideas for an educational ‘Garden of Eden’. There were some similarities with the Heppell research, with both stipulating that inspiring learning spaces make students feel good about being at school. Art, living plants, music where appropriate, comfortable seating and fast internet access improve the learning experience according to the authors. Horn (2016) believes that In the future, we won’t have “classrooms.” The enemy of the future of the classroom has arguably been that phrase: “the future of the classroom.” It locks us into a model of believing students will be sorted by age and sit in a room together with one teacher in the front. Students should learn in student-centered environments—perhaps learning studios.

I like the concept of a ‘learning studio’, a space to grow ideas and work with others. Here are my thoughts on what this space might look and feel like …

A Pre-show to the learning

Coridoors are under-used. Why not create a way to sharing learning objectives and plant ideas in the space outside of the room itself? Digital signage, LED lights and scrolling messages can be engaging ways to welcome students to the session. I am going to call this ‘a pre-show to the learning’. This shouldn’t be a gimmick, rather a prerequisite to the learning that’s about to happen. Disney, Merlin and most theme parks understand the importance of a pre-show for a ride. It builds excitement, wonder and anticipation for the rider. Educators have the potential to replicate this feeling in part and give it an educational objective and purpose.

Entry Tickets

To break the conventional definition of an entry-ticket in the education setting, I am not proposing a test at the start (entry ticket) which leads to a test at the end (exit ticket) model. I envisage a different purpose for this entry-ticket, it would be a physical ticket students hold and gain on entry. This ticket would open up learning experiences during the lesson and would be pre-programmed with Ed-tech capabilities.

Example of the ‘Entry Ticket’ complete with Wifi Log in, team colour, Class VR Code, QR Code for Plickers app and most importantly, a learner ID.

The ticket would have 5 key pieces of information essential for every learner.

  1. Wi-fi code for quick access to devices when required
  2. QR Code for teacher scanning when using the Plickers App
  3. Team colour – there will be 5 teams (see next heading)
  4. Class VR Code – so students can access the VR headsets
  5. Learner ID – this is the most important as it will identify their input during the session and be traceable through group work and the 360 camera image taken as an exit ticket.

Team Colour

Students will be organised into 5 teams on entry. There will be yellow, blue, red, green and white teams. The chairs will be colour coded to match the team colours and the walls will have painted strips so teachers can map work per group when writing on the walls. Heppell (2016) calls these teams ‘superclusters’. Every student within a team would have a role, including; project manager, scribe, speaker, artist and Ed-Tech guru. Teams would compete and present their ideas at the end of the lesson. This would become their exit ticket.

Learner ID

This is a simple concept. Each learner would be given a ‘Learner ID‘ on entry. The capacity of the space would be 32 learners so this could be numbered 1-32. The Learner ID would create a footprint for each learner so the teacher could track progress and provide feedback through the following 5 tasks;

  • The Flipped Learning task – prior to the lesson, learner ID’s could be used on comment forum on Youtube.
  • The SOLO walls task
  • VR Headsets – digital journeys
  • Colour coded team work and roles within the teams
  • Writable surfaces. A 360 camera will be used to capture what each team has written on the wall. These images will then be uploaded to a central platform for post-analysis and teacher feedback.

Lesson Structure

The lessons will last 60 minutes. The learning is separated into 6 separate blocks within the hour. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll list each block as a letter, A – F.

Block A: Pre-Show

This happens outside of the classroom and sets up the learning experience. Students receive an entry ticket, the learning objectives and a lesson starter.

Block B: SOLO Walls

This block uses SOLO taxonomy to determine what students already know. The walls of the room will be covered with writable surfaces (whiteboards and SMIT boards). Each team will have an allocated section to express their ideas on. This part of the lesson is essential for Q&A and helping to establish existing knowledge. SOLO will help inform student progress and learner IDs can be left on the walls showing where they started and where they end up at the end of the hour.

Block C: Flipped Learning Checker

This part of the lesson connects work/research done outside the lesson to learning in real time. Youtube and a 360 camera platform would be the mediums for sharing with potential for Google Classroom to do both. This block would be teacher led and would involve the teaching of new content.

Block D: Embedding the learning

This would take the form of 1 of 3 immersive learning experiences:

  1. CLASS VR Headsets – students would work in pairs, using Class VR to access online journeys through Virtual Reality.
  2. Colour Coded Team Work – working on a team theme using a writable surface to develop ideas expressed on the wall. Team would then present these ideas to their peers. A 360 camera would record all the work and upload it to the shared online platform so it could become lesson notes or revision tools.
  3. AR assisted learning – Using Augmented Reality to bring learning into the lesson, students can interact with plant cells, corals, art collections and learn through Google Expeditions.

Block E: Team Presentations

Teams present their ideas to a critical audience. They take questions and have their ideas challenged. Learner ID’s can be used to poll team input, presentation style and ownership of the content.

Block F: Plenary and Exit Tickets

Students capture the writing on the wall digitally and upload it to the shared platform. This is then set as a home study alongside a flipped learning video ready for the next lesson.

So, there it is, a possible blueprint for how this space might work. As a follow up to this blog, I will post a sample lesson plan and links to a presentation on the use of technology, specifically the Epson projector and its capabilities. I will also use this platform to share images of the space as it happens. If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions on how we could maximise the space, please drop us a message in the comments below. I am particularly interested in how we might enable access, bookings, staff training, inducting SEND students and alternative uses for the space (STEM lab, yoga studio, staff CPD venue).

Alex

Deruy, E, Glatter, H & Wong, A. 2016. Reimagining the Modern Classroom https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/reimagining-the-modern-classroom/498224/

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