Schools trade traditional classroom setups for flexible learning environments
Flexible classrooms are emerging as a way to foster community learning, and traditional rows of desks with a chalkboard at the front of the room is no longer meeting the needs of next generation learners, EdTech reports.
Aside from allowing for independent and group work, flexible learning setups also make way for introducing ed tech resources in a modern learning environment. This could appear in the form of unconventional chairs, adjustable standing desks, cushions, mats and more, EdTech notes.
In describing the benefits of this kind of atmosphere, EdTech quotes an Ohio elementary school teacher, who said, "When students are given a choice of where to sit, it increases their engagement and overall attentiveness and just creates a more positive environment." Other teachers say the layout has given students a sense of ownership, community and investment in their education.
In the workplace, companies are making the shift from traditional cubicles and desks to new, more appealing options around the office. In some cases, hammocks and couches are taking the place of office chairs and conference spaces, and collaboration rooms are stocked with ping pong tables to spark creativity. And schools are increasingly deciding their buildings should be no different.
Today’s educators are told to emphasize collaboration and personalized learning in their classrooms, and with traditional desks and rows, it's difficult to make that happen among their students. And as schools become more digital, students need to store fewer items inside a desk, such as paper textbooks and homework packets. Flexible learning has been proven to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness, too, and school leaders and administrators can help make the transition to this type of layout possible.
In supporting this new learning environment, schools should consider different shapes of lightweight desks that can be easily moved, and whiteboards should be mobile. Fun school redesign ideas — including cocoon zones, active flexible seating like bounce chairs, and collaborative spaces that allow students to sit in learning groups — can also make for a more engaging place to learn. Bright colors can inspire creativity, boost optimism and potentially up students' excitement for learning.
When investing in new school furniture, administrators can also work to make their schools more sustainable by following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles, which can help improve air quality and help schools attain environmental goals. And as ed tech becomes more commonplace in the classroom, choosing pieces that can accommodate different types of technology is a must. It’s likely that newly purchased classroom furniture will be around a lot longer than the technology it’s designed to accommodate.
Before making such significant changes to teachers' and students' environments, it's important for administrators and decision-makers to get input from both groups on new furniture designs and purchases. For instance, starting with a limited number of items to see how students interact with the furniture before making a bigger purchase could be a helpful trial run. And, if school budgets allow, seeking a consultant before any big decisions are made can help to ensure any transition is as smooth as possible.