Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My dream classroom (ED504)

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).


  1. White boards and a globe: Two essentials that I want to go back and draw into my ideal classroom picture! However instead of doing that work, I think I'll just settle for making sure that they're in the real one in the future. I appreciate your thoughts on kids' safety, because at the end of the day, it's really about their entire well being. Thus, ways to teach them new things cannot be our only consideration.
    Have a great weekend!

  2. Greg I have to agree with your opening paragraph, when i thought of technology in the classroom my initial thought was interior design and architecture. I must agree I love white boards and globes too. I think they will be hard to replace.

  3. The first thing that struck me, Greg, was your design's focus on the realities of today. My design was more idealistic, I believe, and more focused on a world where safety was a given; therefore, it included French doors as the entrance, something I viewed as inviting and aesthetically pleasing. In hindsight, it might not offer much for safety vis-a-vis school shootings. I did, however, consider how my room might be useful to more than just my discipline: history. I wonder whether you could see yourself holding your classes in my ideal classroom, that is, if they would/could be useful to Math and transdisciplinary instruction. (See my room at intheshadeofmyfatherstree.blogspot.com.)

    Based on my experiences in Math class, especially at the secondary level, a chalkboard, scientific calculators, movable desks, a perforated pull down screen for graphing to scale on the chalkboard, and the occasional trip to the computer lab (which housed some Commodores at the time, if I remember correctly, and which dates me a bit) constituted the prominent technological tools used. But, technology was not held on a pedestal, and our Math teacher constantly reminded us how much easier a time we had than he because we didn't have to use the slide rule, which he showed us often.

  4. School safety is really important today and should be taken into account in classrooms. We have to protect students from each other and others outside the classroom. In that regard, in addition to the white board, globe, calculators and computers, what about cameras? Cameras are the latest technology to be used in the classroom to ensure student safety. I have not made up my mind about their use. On one hand they certainly can capture unsafe situations, but still I would have the feeling that it diminishes my privacy.

  5. Hello Matt!
    I'd like to say you have a good eye for detail, or mind for detail in this case. During discussion as well as reading through this, I enjoyed the simple things: calculators, rolling tables, electrical outlets, etc. How'd you even have time to think and draw up those things! Also, I'm glad to have seen a little bit into your past and most likely part of the reason you're in urban ed.
    I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with you Matt!