Apr 20 2018

How to Embrace Unconventional Classroom Designs

By leaning on design principles and proper planning, schools can create more personalized and collaborative environments.

Despite the abundant technology advances that have taken place over the past century, many classrooms still have something in common with the one-room schoolhouses of yore. Desks are arranged in orderly rows and the teacher stands in front.

The Great Prairie Area Education Agency set out to change that. Chartered by the state of Iowa, the organization partners with more than 3,700 teachers and administrators to improve student performance. The agency launched the Room 21C initiative to create a learning environment designed to promote collaborative and personalized learning through the use of technology.

Make Use of Design Principles

Sally Lindgren, director of technology and innovation for the GPAEA, notes that one-to-one computing programs are rarely effective in the same old surroundings. Room 21C, which debuted in 2014, provides areas for collaboration, creativity, communication and contemplation.

The classroom boasts an array of displays, writable surfaces, modular furniture, networked lighting, audio management and more. GPAEA and its partner schools incorporate these three design tenets for modern learning spaces:

  • The classroom furniture must be mobile and flexible.
  • Each collaborative area must have access to a digital display.
  • Each collaborative area must have a writable surface.

Modernize Classrooms with Open Spaces

IT leaders can modernize their districts’ learning environments with some planning. To ease the process of bringing a vision to life, incorporate these best practices:

  • Involve multiple stakeholders. When planning a modernized classroom, get buy-in from leadership, teachers, students and parents.
  • Ditch the status quo. Abolish the teacher desk at the front of the classroom and reorient furniture and fixtures to expedite circulation. Change patterns and make it easy for students and instructors to rotate through stations for project-based learning.
  • Take advantage of space. Dedicate multiple areas to flexible learning spaces and don’t overlook hallways or courtyards.
  • Embrace color. Accent an uncluttered, clean aesthetic with bright pops of color such as brilliant blue, energetic orange or calming green.
  • Power up. Ensure the new space has reliable broadband and ample outlets for powering equipment and recharging mobile devices.

To learn more tips, download the CDW•G white paper, “A Modern Learning Environment.

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