When prompted to imagine my ideal classroom with particular respect to the technology, I found myself lacking creativity. While others were imaging holograms and 3-D goggles, my requests tended to be much more basic. In terms of technology, my thoughts went to architecture and interior design rather than the latest and greatest gadgets. The first thing I drew in was the outside layout of my room. I wanted windows. Not just windows, but windows that could open and close. It wasn’t just about letting in the breeze on a nice day or reducing the lighting costs. It was also about safety.
While I spent most of the time thinking building around instruction, one of the last things I thought about while finishing the exercise was school-shootings. I guess there are some things that just stick with us. Aside from having windows to provide an easy escape, I found that I had unintentionally set up the room so that the doorway was in a narrow indentation. I thought of myself using the narrow space to barricade my students in our class while we waited for help. It’s amazing how the brain jumps from sunny windows to dark memories.
From skimming the Wikipedia article, I’ve discovered that glass windows are a two thousand year old technology. From that comparatively modern invention, I moved further back in time to the wheel. I want tables with wheels on them. They can’t have just simple wheels. They need to be able to lock in place so that students can lean against them, but easy enough that we can unlock the tables and we can reconfigure the room quickly. It’s not the fanciest technology, but it makes a difference. Having sat at the awful tables in Room 2346 and constantly bumping my legs up against the support, one really begins to appreciate the simple power of a useful table.
I did eventually come across some more modern technology. I love white boards. Dry erase boards are among mankind’s greatest inventions. People can keep their Smartboards, just give me lots and lots of whiteboard space. Electricity is surprisingly useful. While I didn’t build many computers in my classroom, I had a grid with a half dozen electrical outlets laid into the floor. A document camera and a projector might be useful to have in a classroom, too. I’d much rather use my beloved whiteboard to work out problems, but there might come a time when I need to post instructions or less dynamic material on the document camera.
Final thoughts: I remembered to draw a table with a bunch of calculators on it; I did not draw any chairs (Looks like we'll be standing, class). I suppose that comes from years math teachers drilling us to remember out calculator. Ancient Babylonians could solve (some) quadratic equations and they didn't even have whiteboards.PostScript: If you're wondering about the random circular shape in the lower-right corner, that's my globe. If it's going to be my ideal classroom, then it's going to have a globe. The random circular shape outside the room is the sun (not drawn to scale).