Passion and Creativity > Intelligence

I can’t believe CEP 812 is coming to a close. Sometimes it feels like the past 8 weeks flew by, and other times it feels like they were the slowest 8 weeks of my life. This course has been the most challenging thus far….although it is only my third course in the program. In the other two classes my learning was much more physical- i learned to play the guitar and make circuits out of play-dough. The first two courses presented me with problems to solve, or so it seems, but this course really made me identify the problem.

Reflecting back on the past year, I am reminded of the course of events that led me to the MAET program. Almost a year ago now, I emailed past professors asking for their suggestions on master’s programs focusing on educational technology. At the time, my passion for implementing modern tech tools in my classroom was conflicting with my school’s technology policy. I hated telling my students to use resources and tools, and then have to punish them if they got out their cell phone to look something up on the Internet, snap a picture of the whiteboard work, or video something they heard and want to remember…especially because I felt like a hypocrite for telling them not to use a tool I regularly use: my cellphone. I was looking for a program to help me reconnect learning and life. I was curious as to why my learners were highly adaptive to rapidly evolving technology outside of school, but struggled to use technology in the classroom. Now, finishing up CEP 812, I am still reaching out to professors and others within my growing PLN (professional learning network).  It seems that everything I do regarding teaching and learning is driven by my passion and curiosity and remediated by reaching out to individuals in my PLN or searching for the answer on the web, which are appropriate closing thoughts considering our final learning task.

For our final task in CEP 812 we were asked to read the article It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. written by Thomas Freidman.  In the article, Friedman (2013), says that in our hyper-connected, technology-driven world, the individuals who will succeed “won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.”  That is, intelligence alone will not prepare individuals for an unknown future with unknown problems and jobs, but rather a combination of passion, curiosity and intelligence is necessary for success in a rapidly changing economy. After reading and reflecting on this article we had to create a representation of how we embody and envision PQ and CQ in both our present and future work as educator. I created a video remix using YouTube and iMovie to hopefully help views see that passion and creativity go hand in hand in my instructional practices and learning experiences. Enjoy.

Friedman, T. L. (2013). It’s p.q. and c.q. as much as i.q. The new york times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html

Making Innovation Part of Learning Ethic

Over the past few weeks, Alyse, Allison, Yahia, and I have been working together to identify strategies, approaches, and technologiesImage that we believe provide a viable solution on how to make innovation part of the learning ethic. In my last blog post I summarized my group’s Wicked Problem of Practice and explained why I felt it was an extremely complex problem to tackle. Since then, my group has come a long way! By collaborating with classmates and implementing their feedback, we were able to turn our proposal around and refocus our recommendations around strategies rather than the problem itself in our revamped White Paper Recommendation. 

From there, we created several pieces of work that define the nature of our problem and the complexities surrounding it, and offer our vision on making innovation part of learning ethic. Since making innovation part of learning ethic isn’t really about using a specific tool or procedure, but rather freedom and choice modeled by a progressive classroom design that embraces learning as a process and utilizes 21st century tools as supports, we refocused our recommendation around this question: If creativity is the driving force for innovation, how do we cultivate creativity in education?

In doing so, we established what we felt were essential aspects of the creative learning process in terms of cultivating creativity– providing time for learners to share experiences and make connections through collaboration, to use their interests to engage them in higher order problem solving learning tasks, to use 21st century tools to share and learn with a global community– and why those skills were so important to prepare for future of unknowns. Please watch, read, and explore our work by checking out our Smore Flyer. 

References:

Adams, K. (2005). The sources of innovation and creativity. National Center on Education and the Economy. 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Suite 5300, Wash

ington, DC 20006. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/889923744?accountid=12598

Barseghian, T. (2014). What kids want out of school [Video File]. KQED: MindShift.  Retrieved February 12, 2014 from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/what-kids-want-out-of-school/

Beers, S. Z. (2011). 21st century skills: preparing students for their future. In STEM Education Coalition. Retrieved February 14. 2014.

Crie, M. (2006). Using Blogs to Integrate Technology into the Classroom. Teaching Today. Retrieved February 24, 2014 from http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml/47.

Foote, S. M., Harrison, D. S., Ritchie, C. M., & Dyer, A. (2012). Exploratory Learning through Critical Inquiry: Survey of Critical Inquiry Programs at Mid-Sized US Universities. International Association for Development of the Information Society.

Gee, J.P. (2013) The Anti-Education Era [Google Books]. Retrieved from Google Books App.

Innovation. (2014). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovation

Koehler, M. (2011). What is TPACK? TPACK. Retrieved March 1, 2014 from http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/tpack/what-is-tpack/

Milloy, C. (2013). Who’s Failing? America’s uninspiring, creativity-killing schools. The Day Connecticut. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://www.theday.com/article/20130804/OP03/308049963/1070/NWSlatest

Sawyer, K. (2011) Schools that foster creativity. Huffington Posts: Ted Weekends. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-r-keith-sawyer/teaching-creativity_b_2258239.html

A Wicked Opportunity: Innovation as Learning Ethic

ImageThe past few weeks we have been exploring a wicked task in small groups; specifically, my group has been tackling making innovation part of the learning ethic. Innovation as learning ethic is a particularly complex problem to solve because there is a lot of uncertainty: the exponentially advancing digital technologies have led to exponential growth in innovation, essentially making the predictability of the future nearly impossible or at least hard to plan for. For example, remember when everyone tried to plan for Y2K? …and then it was a bust? No one wanted to be “that guy” who had horded years worth of food and water in their basement. Similarly, since we can’t begin to fathom the technological advancements that will be available to us in the years to come, trying to create a plan that guides us towards or a more sustainable future using tools that don’t exist yet can be scary. As an educator, I must train my students for jobs that may not even exist yet. I must instill the qualities of a creative problem solver and innovative thinker to help my students prepare for a world of unknowns. And, while uncertainty often causes fear, exploring innovation as learning ethic opens the door to opportunity and CREATIVITY. As a group, we used our diverse experiences, conflicting opinions, and values to achieve a greater understanding of the complex problem at hand. By actively communicating, we were able to create a visual representation and a report based on our findings to solve our wicked problem and address what we believe is the very nature of the problem. The rough draft of our project is available here.

CEP 812: Problem of Practice

This week our task was to choose a problem of practice and illustrate how a digital tool would address the problem. The problem of practice I chose to address in my geometry classroom is classifying and proving quadrilaterals. I believe this is an ill structured problem because there are several important variables that need to be considered, in context, at the same time. That is, students must make connections to prior learning and using reasoning skills to formalize definitions, make conjectures, and write proofs. In the screencast below I will show how using the interactive math software, Geogebra is much more effective for teaching quadrilateral properties and how it allows learners to explore more diverse learning scenarios.

“The times, they are a-changing”…CEP 811 Reflecting Thoughts

WOW!! The past 8 weeks have flown by…As this week marks the end of CEP 811 (adapting innovative technology to education), I will conclude my work in this course with a reflective blog post that addresses my experiences in this course, my work with Squishy Circuits, my plan for incorporating design, creativity, and Maker Education into my curriculum, and my growth both personally and professionally since starting the MAET program.

When I concluded the CEP 810 course, I felt like I had a handle on how to effectively use technology to support learning but I wasn’t quite sure how to do so effectively. Now, as I reflect on CEP 811, I am aware of an abundant amount of tools and resources that I can use in my classroom to effectively support learning and understanding; this course addressed and answered the questions I left CEP 810 with. This course forced me to consider the resources and the purpose they serve in my classroom.

After deeply engaging with Maker Education & Squishy Circuits the past few weeks, I feel like I have been exposed to a whole new approach to teaching and learning…well not entirely, creative learning by doing is not a new concept nor is it new to me as a teacher; however, somewhere along the way, I lost track of my purpose for becoming a math teacher: to take learning from a noun to a verb by providing authentic, creative tasks that spark learners’ curiosity and make learning math worthwhile and meaningful and got caught up in the logistics and politics of public education. And lets be honest, sometimes I’m just trying to keep my head above water, but still, it’s kind of sad how a kid who hated math became a teacher who so easily lost site of her teaching goals. This course was kind of a reality check for me. It really made me consider the teacher I want to be and the teacher that I am.  It forced me to consider the purpose for my choices- every step of the way. Did I plan according to my purpose? Do my goals match my purpose? Does my blog post match the purpose of the assignment? Can people that read my blog see the purpose of my post? Do my learners see the purpose of the task? Does the purpose intrinsically motivate? Does that tool serve a purpose? And so on… everything in this course seemed to boil down to the purpose for the choices I was making, whether they were choices I made as a MAET student or as a geometry teacher… and I really had to think hard about those choices! Reflection really helped me understand everything I was reconsidering about teaching and learning.

In terms of our maker kit, Squishy Circuits turned out to be a fairly easy kit to set up and use. The website included instructions that were easy to follow and video tutorials that explained how and why squishy circuits work. The “play” stage was exciting. I was so excited when I got the first LED to light up. However, once I began to create my first Maker Experiment using a repurposed thrift shop item, the excitement faded and the frustration set in. I felt like my students often look when I introduce a new concept: a deer in headlights. The idea of using a dough circuit in Geometry class was not ideal. I had no idea where to begin. I started several activities using Squishy Circuits only to find that the task I planned was not authentic and could be more effectively completed without the maker kit. It wasn’t until I spent time reflecting on my commitment to relentlessly creating a worthwhile task for my geometry class using Squishy Circuits that I realized the value of the maker kit and repurposing assignment was actually in the learning process itself.  You can read about this in my maker experiment lesson plan blog post as I explain how my students could use Squishy Circuits to support their understanding and development of writing proofs as a logical process, not a final product. If my teaching goal is to help learners understand the learning process or get them have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, then I would consider Squishy Circuits. However, in terms of “making” and “doing” in geometry, I believe there are far more creative and effective methods of approaching the content, which I will elaborate more on towards the end. I often felt like I was forcing Squishy Circuits into my curriculum…it only seemed to work as a way to understand logical thought processes, which, again, could be explained using a scenario or more timely activity.

Although I don’t plan to use Squishy Circuits in my classroom, playing and designing with the Squishy Circuits kit, at minimum, gave me a greater appreciation for the learning process and forced me to reevaluate my teaching practices. As I progressed and designed using my kit, I was reminded of the importance of experimentation and play while developing new understanding. Using the kits forced me to be a creative thinker, approach learning from new angles, and use tools that I would not typically use. For these reasons, and several listed above, I plan to refocus my teaching and curriculum to include design thinking and “making” through creative experimentation. Actually, it was through this creative process that I learned to love math. I learned math by writing…and never erasing. Through writing I was able to see a purpose for learning math that was more than the mundane. I was able to identify patterns, reflect on mistakes and connections along the way. However, this course helped me realize that not everyone will appreciate the creativity and freedom I found through writing in math class. The assignments, especially the maker kit, forced me to learn from angles I wouldn’t typically choose using tools that made me uncomfortable. It helped me value choice and individual approaches to learning, but it also helped me value the new learning that is achieved by considering different methods of learning. Throughout CEP 811, it was the diverse learning approaches and tools that helped me realize the importance of providing a variety of tools and choices that serve a purpose and make learning worthwhile. Through these experiences, I learned how to assess learning goals and present problems that force students to think and reflect; problems that are designed to change their way of thinking, spark their curiosity, encourage them to try new things, and encourage them to grow as learners and doers of math… just as Squishy Circuits did for me.

“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”
Albert Einstein  

In the future, I hope to better embrace my learners’ curiosity. Unfortunately, Grant Wiggins (2012) an assessment expert found that mathematics teachers are prime offenders in encouraging creative thinking in the subject-despite the fact that real mathematicians create all the time. Mathematicians have worked for years to create formulas and theorems that make complicated ideas simple. Consider Euclid, he created a beautiful, axiomatic system for writing geometric proofs, a system that all high school geometry students have experience using. Harsh truth: I’ve become one of those offenders. I don’t know if I’ve become a realist or a tiny bit jaded, but this year I seem to find my self thinking and saying, “wouldn’t that be nice?” regarding my students’ creative thoughts and dreams. But, like JT said: “the old me is dead and gone.” This course has inspired me to reinvent myself as the creative math teacher I once was. To constantly question, “how can I do this better,” and while I don’t believe Squishy Circuits is the most effective method of embracing curiosity in geometry, I do know of several other experiments, problem scenarios or activities that support creative thinking and problem solving. Last year my math support classes and geometry classes created math music videos. Groups of students picked songs and rewrote the lyrics to teach a math concept. It was through their writing that they were forced to reflect on their understanding of the concept and whether or not their lyrics made sense. I had students consider whether they were being deceived as shoppers by evaluating the surface area, volume and unit pricing of grocery products. Through this learning activity students began to question whether there was a way they could design packages better. We also created tetrahedral kits and flew them. In small groups, students identified algebraic patterns in the kite’s structure and naturally began to wonder about how they could re-create a kite with a better structure. Through these activities, my students wondered about things in terms of their goal as a designer. They questioned the weight of the kite, the materials of a product, the words and their meaning, etc. Better yet, I didn’t have to prompt them. They were intrinsically motivated.  I was teaching with a purpose, which is kind of like when you read a really good book or watch a great movie and feel changed; you are transformed. Teaching this way allows you to watch your students transform into learners… and better yet, I (the teacher) am transformed watching them transform. There’s nothing better than watching someone cease to hate math and begin to love it…besides maybe feeling that way yourself. Like I said previously, the creative process of “making” and “doing” in math class isn’t new to me. Based on my experiences I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that these are effective learning practices…this course helped re-inspire me. I was able to see the value of this learning first-hand. Through my reflection, I was reminded the effectiveness of reflection and writing as a way to evaluate understanding. And while Wiggins (2012) provided a great rubric for assessing creativity, I believe the bulleted points on his rubric occur naturally in the classroom when students are given the chance to creative problem solvers…a rubric isn’t really necessary. The interactions in the classroom allow me to formatively assess understanding and inform my instructional decisions. Like I discussed in my post, the curiosity and discussion that occurs as students create, play, and try new things allows me to assess their understanding. Through formative assessments I will be able to assess the effectiveness of the task in terms of the learning goal and purpose. My students’ ability to take a tetrahedral kite activity to the next level by wondering how they can recreate a more effective kite structure, whether they consider the materials or lift, shows me that they are learning, understanding, and ready to make something great.

Overall, this course was much more of a challenge for me than CEP810. Squishy Circuits wasn’t as enjoyable as the task I completed in CEP 810: learning to play the guitar using only help forums online. I was uncomfortable using circuits and often wondered if there were other maker kits that would better support math curriculum. After learning about the Maker Faire I began to consider the “maker kits” I could potentially create for my classroom. Since geometry literally means the measurement of the earth, I began to wonder about maker kits that would support geometric learning outside of the traditional classroom. Comparing the Maker Kit project in CEP811 to the Network Learning Project in CEP 810 helped me value choice in learning and assessment methods. We really had no limitations on what we chose to learn. At times I felt limited by the Squishy Circuits Maker Kit, but like I reflected on above, I did learn a lot from working outside of my comfort zone. Moreover, this course was especially beneficial in terms of putting ideas into practice. I learned a TON about resources available to me as an educator and how to assess whether the resources are effective tools in my classroom. Within that realm, I learned the importance of providing diverse learning experiences that remove barriers. I considered small details, such as text-t0-speech, that I had never considered before and I learned where to find them FOR FREE online. Most importantly, this course helped me realize that I need to focus on my purpose as an educator and reflect on that as I plan learning activities for my students.

References

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: Yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

Maker Kit Lesson #2 UDL

Part #1: This week we spent a significant amount of time learning about Universal Design. After we read the UDL guidelines and explored free tools online, we used what we learned to modify our  original Maker Kit Lesson Plan to include elements that support the UDL framework . The revision process entailed focusing on how I could minimize barriers and maximize learning by implementing multiple methods of representation, expression and engagement in terms of what I wanted my students to learn and care about. Embedded you will find my modified lesson plan. To see what changes were made, check out my original lesson plan and read my reflection underneath the document below.

Part #2: Reflection

After reading the UDL Guidelines published by CAST Center, I felt slightly overwhelmed by all of the details. For each of the three principals there were several guidelines and within those guidelines there were several checkpoints with various implementation examples. However, after analyzing my notes and original lesson plan, I found that I had actually included several of the UDL components in the activities I originally planned; I just hadn’t specifically stated them as supports. I was surprised to find I could show evidence for at least two of the teacher implementation examples on most guidelines. With that said, UDL is intended to increase access to learning for all students by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers, and although I am confident I provided options and supports, I did realize that I hadn’t considered all learners while planning. I left out supports for HI students, CI students, and ELL students. So, the goal for my lesson plan rewrite is twofold: to go back and add specific details regarding the options and supports that I already have in place and to implement tools and supports for students who are CI, HI, and/or ELL (because I teach students with those specific impairments I am choosing to focus on them).  Moreover, I believe that the changes made for those specific impairments will actually help students without disabilities as well, kind of like how wheelchair ramps also service individuals with strollers or luggage.

My lesson plan is A LOT more detailed and looks different in format. I started by downloading the UDL lesson plan format and copied what I had from my original lesson plan into their design. I added a few boxes to their design that they didn’t have because I felt they were important components and the UDL Guidelines did stress the importance of short and long term goals, which is why I added a box that shows what they learned, what they are currently going to learn, and what they will learn in the future. I also added a box for materials because it is a cooperative learning lesson and the materials were improved to provide supports that would remove barriers, such as headphones for text-to-speech. Aside from that, my lesson plan is true to their format. I really believe this helped me refocus my planning and re-writing because I had to consider what background knowledge my students should have and how I could help them make connections.

In my original lesson I planned for an exploratory cooperative learning lesson & as explained in my original post, the content actually allows for students to learn in way that it makes sense to them.  Moreover, by focusing on constructivism and choice theory, I found that my original lesson actually covered most of the 3 principals in the UDL guidelines. By paying close attention to the teacher implementation examples for each guideline I naturally began to consider small details that I may have left out, such as print documents for all auditory components I use or visuals to support vocabulary and/or instructions. By exploring online resources and reading about UDL before rewriting my lesson, I was able to easily identify barriers that existed in my original plans and I had a better handle on the supports available to remove those barriers. If you read through my new lesson, you will see I added a ton of support for hearing impaired students, ELL, and students who are cognitively impaired. I used the ideas I learned about on the free resources page we explored. Read my tweet!!

In terms of multiple means of representation, the goal of my lesson is to learn how to write a two-column proof, so there isn’t much autonomy in the structure of their written proofs. However, as I stated in my original post, the path that each learner takes to complete the proof is NOT linear. There are choices each step of the way…that is the beauty in mathematical proof. With that said, to help learners understand that there is not one right method to write a proof, even if it regards the same exact visual element, I added the “driving directions” analogy to my lesson plan (you can read it in my new and improved plan). The UDL guidelines suggest that analogies and metaphors help learners make connections and assimilate new information. I did, however, add additional presentation options, different methods of taking notes for reflection, different methods of communicating and receiving feedback, and alternate methods for viewing and playing with circuits (online switchboard/drawn out circuit). I believe that the original lesson plan included appropriate levels of challenge and support, so, in the rewrite, I focused on providing more options and descriptions that would make the existing challenges and supports explicit and accessible to all learners.

By learning about the three primary principals that guide UDL, I was able to rewrite my lesson plans with improved goals that were specific to the purpose, with differentiated teaching methods that provided support and matched the goal, with materials necessary for learners to access, analyze, organize, synthesize, and demonstrate understanding in varied ways, and with informed assessments that accurately measured learner knowledge, skills, and engagement. You can read about each of these specific changes in the actual lesson plan above. 

This weeks activities helped me re-think my teaching practices and supports. I have hearing impaired students that I wear a microphone for, but I hadn’t really considered all of the other supports they could potentially need that would help their classmates as well. The same idea goes for my ELL and CI students. I have some curriculum redesign ahead of me!!

References

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Hustle & Flow: 21st Century Classroom Design

Classroom Redesign Project


”Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. 
Design is how it works.”–Steve Jobs

This week our goal is to use SketchUp to redesign our classroom, integrating experience design into our new and improved learning space. After watching a short video clip where Tedde van Gelderen explains Experience Design, I had a much better hold on how to complete this week’s task. In fact, watching the video made me realize that I have spent and continue to spend a lot of time planning and learning in accordance with Experience Design; I had just never heard it called Experience Design. In short, Tedde (2009) describes how an experience is a holistic view of how people go through a set of events in time. He stresses the importance of time, flow (or order of events), interaction [with the environment and people], and emotion and how they all play an important role in the overall experience—the experience is funneled by human senses triggered by what we see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. This theory resonates with something one of my classes came up with last year. They decided we should have a “hustle and flow” classroom. That is, our classroom should allow for diverse learning experiences to occur simultaneously…but that there should be “flow” or rhythm to the learning occurring at all different levels, kind of like how various instruments come together to make a beautiful composition. They decided that it may look like chaos to someone who walks in and sees different types of learning occurring all around the classroom, but that if that person sticks around they will see the “hustle” or efficient learning occurring with a natural “flow” or progression of organized activities that allow for multiple perspectives and learning styles. Moreover, I learned that Third Teacher+ & Edutopia just announced a new project called “Remake Your Class.” I watched a short video clip about the project. It reminded me of the TV show “Flip This House.” The group goes through a classroom and evaluates the learning space in accordance with the teaching style and teaching goals. The goal is to match the learning space with the values by identifying what works and what could work better. With the Design Experience and this short clip in mind, I began recreating my learning space.

I tried to be realistic while creating, although I know I wasn’t giving restrictions. I tried to follow the re-design process they did in the “Remake Your Class” clip by identifying what works and what could work better. Since I currently have one of the tiniest classrooms, if not he tiniest, I did allow myself to have a bigger classroom with more resources that I currently have. My goal has always been to create a classroom atmosphere that is both encouraging and stimulating, that develops a learning climate that supports thought and exploration and where the students feel secure and confident to take risks. For this reason, I also felt it was important to keep learning theories that support my teaching style in mind while recreating my classroom environment since the two go hand in hand. I tried to make features available in the classroom that align with Glasser’s (1998) Five Basic Needs – water cooler on my desk, various seating arrangements, etc. Below I have created a list of The Five Basic Needs and how they align with classroom re-design and learning goals.

ImageImageImage

The walls in my classroom will be adorned with learners’ work, learners’ goals, learners’ heroes, learners’ favorite quotes, or anything that reminds them of what they are working for. The learners can add or remove items they place on the walls as they grow and change. We all enter class with an ideal image of who we want to be. Typically, we haven’t achieved this ideal persona. My hope is that the learners can reflect on their personal inspirations as they develop who they want to be. I will also have at least one TV mounted on my wall for the gaming system I will have. In terms of my game collection, I will have leisure games and educational games. I hope to have an arcade game in my classroom for strategy as well. I enjoy game theory and especially liked learning about the learning opportunities the Kinect has to offer in a math classroom.

I had a hard time painting one of the walls in SketchUp, so I made them all white instead (my frustration got the best of me), but I would have my walls a pale yellow color like they are in my current classroom. Believe it or not, but I think the yellow walls I currently have are uplifting and mood altering. They are cheerful. Moreover, I would also use whiteboard paint on the tabletop surfaces. This works exceptionally well in the math classroom. Students can work out problems with their groups, by themselves, or with a teacher right on the table surface. I used whiteboard tables a ton during my undergrad work at Grand Valley and during my student teaching experience in Grand Rapids. We could use different colors to show growth as we progressed through a problem or worked with a partner. I believe whiteboard tables in my new classroom will be just as effective as they were in my previous experiences. The tables will support the social interaction and the interaction with the learning environment itself. Working on the tables will probe discussion and inquiry as learners explore mathematical concepts with others around them.

Moreover, I would have more permanent resources available in my classroom. Presently, we have a math computer cart that I have in my classroom twice a week; however, in my new classroom, there will be computers available at all times. There will be a stationary computer station as shown, as well as a math laptop cart that stays in my classroom at all times. Moreover, there will be a library with an assortment of books available for pleasure reading and for learning content, which provides balance. The library will have a sitting area with different light options. This area can be used for but not limited to group work, studying, or reading. Near the library you may notice a fish tank. I would like to bring the idea of classroom pet back into 21st century education. Fish are low maintenance and I believe a classroom pet would bring positive energy into the learning environment. In my math class we could chart the fishes growth, feeding times, or other components that relate to the math content we are covering. Aside from educational purposes, a pet requires responsibility and purpose.

The desk arrangement was the most difficult for me. I had to consider what the set-up I currently have says to students about what communication should look like in class. Currently my desks are in two columns with four desks in each row. It isn’t practical in terms of my teaching/learning style and doesn’t support the collaboration I require during learning activities; however, my space is limited and there are only so many arrangements that allow for thirty desks. In my new classroom, the instructional space will have tables. Although I will make various, alternate seating arrangements available so learners can engage in a manner they find comfortable. The learners can choose a beanbag, the couch, the bleachers, stools, or the tables. I set the tables up with 7 chairs; however, since I have a few larger classes, I could add additional chairs if needed. I chose to go with tables because they can be split apart but they also allow for conferencing in groups and provide a large work area. I anticipate some learners will choose an alternate seating arrangement that matches their learning style, though. With tables set up this way the students are able to split into two groups of four if needed. They could turn away from each other or they could split the tables. The table design and layout in my new classroom matches the design of an instructional space at Grand Valley State University that I particularly enjoyed. I felt the design was practical for all sorts of learning activities and was easily altered to accommodate particular needs. During my class at GVSU, the table arrangement supported group work, individual work, and partner work. The arrangement also allowed for all of us in the room to see the information being projected or written at the front of the classroom, which is a struggle I have in my current classroom design. The layout in my redesigned classroom is spacious and allows for students to spread out and for the instructor to move about freely and facilitate learning. Students are allowed to walk around the classroom freely, and this layout allows for movement without distraction. Further, when students are working in groups, there is plenty of room for me to walk around the class conferencing with groups and providing individual attention where it is needed.

Most learners have been well trained on how to adequately behave in a traditional classroom. Consequently, in order for this re-vamped classroom layout to be successful, it will be necessary for me to model appropriate classroom procedures for group work, resource exploration, and learner responsibility. I will not tell my students what to do, but I will show them how effective learning occurs in diverse settings, like the ones I have created in my new classroom model. Most importantly, my redesigned classroom matches my learning goals, my teaching methods, my collaboration expectations and supports learning and understanding.  I have created a trusting, safe, and fun learning environment where risks are taken and learning is stimulating and challenging.

For a large-scale project like this classroom redesign to happen, there would need to be several sources of support. Grants could be written for the technology, local businesses could be contacted and asked to donate items such as beanbags or books, and the school, of course, would need to be on board with the changes. Items like the bleachers could be donated from sports stadiums. Parents, students, community members, administrators, and staff members would all need to have an active role in implementing the changes. In accordance with Glasser’s Choice Theory and the students’ 5 Basic Needs, the students would have a large part in creating the specifics in the design to ensure individual and holistic learning needs are met. Like I mentioned previously, the teacher will model how learning occurs in diverse settings and will support students as they establish what an effective learning environment looks and feels like. This process should ensure that each aspect of the redesign serves a purpose and supports desirable behaviors and the types of learning we hope to see occur in the new environment.

The cost of the project would depend entirely on how the project was implemented and the types of materials purchased. The overall goal would need to be considered: will the classroom be redesigned efficiently using resources that are available or are low cost or will it be redesigned using a high scale budget, purchasing top of the line technology and materials. The items available for such a project vary greatly. Consider technology, whether it is a plasma TV or laptop, the price ranges significantly based on the product type and functionality. For example, I would love to have MacBooks for my classroom, but the school could choose to go with netbooks instead to lower costs. Either computer would be effective for what my students would be using it for. Things like tables, chairs, and whiteboards are easily budgeted within most districts, so those items shouldn’t be a problem. However, if I would like nice chairs, I may have to seek additional resources. Like I mentioned previously, community businesses may be able donate items or funds for such materials, which would help lower costs significantly. Or, fundraising and grant writing could be done to lower costs for materials as well. There are a lot of small things to consider when taking on a re-design project, from lighting to paint colors, each aspect should be considered in terms of how it will support learning and collaboration in the new space.

Finally, a project like this would probably have to occur over time. Changes would likely be implemented as funds or materials became available. However, depending on the situation, a school district could potentially choose to put all the changes into play over summer vacation or a holiday break during the school year. Typically these types of changes don’t happen overnight. The time frame for the project is directly related to the scale in which the changes are being made and the funds that are available: big changes will require more time and money. Realistically, in the district I work, technology would be purchased and replaced over time; it could be months or years. Lower scale projects like painting would occur much faster over a long weekend or holiday break. Although, I could apply to be a part of The Third Teacher+ & Edutopia’s new project and have my classroom remade that way. A girl can dream 🙂

Resources

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. [Print]. New York: Harper Paperbacks.

van Gelderen, T. (2009). Tedde van Gelderen on experience design. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB4VFKn7MA4&feature=youtu.be