Specifically, since returning to classroom life after spending a year teaching pre-service teacher ed in a well-equipped (technologically speaking) small university setting, I wanted to bring my new-found tech “experience” into the classroom. (I say “experience”, because I am still largely a luddite by comparison to some of my more tech-savvy colleagues in the Board, however, I was now regularly using a document camera, and increasingly experimenting with ppt in the classroom.)
But –although my Grade 3 classroom set-up in an older school was safe and inviting in the aesthetic sense-- it simply did not allow for easy access to technology, both in terms of computer use as a teaching and learning tool, and in terms of classroom flow.
For example, if students wanted to see the screen from their desks, many of them had to turn their chairs 180 degrees, which then did not allow them to write as they watched or responded to something overhead. And if I wanted to wheel the Smartboard into the classroom, program had to be shut down for a half hour so we could move all kinds of stuff out of the way to clear a path for the beast from the lab!
(Click on the first image below to see larger versions of the BEFORE photos...)
I was extremely concerned with maintaining my cosy reading corner and easy student access to bins of math manipulatives. Also, because I run a very differentiated program, I need lots of little spaces for small groups to work independently or under the guidance of a teacher, student teacher, ERF or parent volunteer.
I was honestly quite worried about the prospect of rearranging everything mid-year, and disrupting the learning environment I had so purposely created. My head hurt when I thought of apparently menial but nevertheless necessary details like moving all our co-created “Daily Five” chart papers from one blackboard to another… and all that stuff AFTER hard physical labour at the end of an already long day of teaching???
I couldn’t do it.
Happily, Jim is not one to advise and depart. He immediately ensured that I booked a follow up date to actually implement the brilliant plan we had discussed, and communicate same to the custodial staff to get help with big items.
So – as I am currently lucky enough to have an incredibly competent and committed student teacher from Tyndale in my classroom – I booked Jim to return on a date when she was here.
My desk was moved from one corner of the room to the opposite corner, and the carpet was dragged, along with several large pieces of furniture, to the original location of my teacher desk. The computer and accompanying tech stuff was moved onto one large table, leaving the other free. Other adults in the room, who hitherto had to stuff their personal items and teaching materials into various crevices in different parts of the classroom, now have a dedicated table/desk in the room.
Perhaps my favourite part of the new set-up is an larger second reading "corner", defined on two sides by walls with book cases along them, and on a third side by an old, comfy couch backed against the math manip bins storage unit (the latter faces the large teaching carpet for easy access by students and teachers). The small mass of children who immediately adopted that space as their own, and began (and continue) to read, write, solve math problems, work through Science challenges and Art projects there was captured repeatedly on my iPhone camera the first week after the change, but unfortunately, there are too many identifiable close ups for me to risk posting that beautiful visual testament on my blog. (We’re not really supposed to post pics of kids online, for obvious reasons.)
I’ve used the doc camera almost daily since the shift, and students use the computer more frequently, too. A path exists from the door to the carpet/teaching space, and the mulltiple cozy teaching spaces for small groups and conferencing with individual students have been preserved and – I would argue – enhanced in some cases.
To those teachers considering a mid-year classroom revision, I say GO FOR IT! Don’t be afraid. Tell the students in advance that a change is coming, and involve them directly in the design and change management processes, where feasible. Then, enlist the help of willing colleagues and friends (including someone to bring you dinner if possible – I was there until 9:30 p.m. the night of the move!), communicate your plan to the appropriate custodial staff and other people who many need to know, and proceed with confidence!
A mid-year room revamp is a MAJOR undertaking, but well worth it if it results in an improved teaching and learning space.