21 October 2014

"We Just Want to Be Comfortable"

I went to the St. Louis EdSurge Summit at Ritenour High School Saturday afternoon. The event featured dozens of #edtech startups with tables sharing their product and passions, and a terrific keynote to end the day from Google Education czar +Jaime Casap, but what impacted me most was the student panel hosted in the auditorium after lunch.

The second question +Chris McGee posed to the group was, "If you had unlimited funds to set up your ideal learning space, what would you include?"

Accounting for my typing speed on an iPad, here are their responses:
  • A desk with matching pencils and notebooks, picking where you sit, no desks in rows or columns 
  • Students feeling comfortable, couches EVERYWHERE, because everyone loves couches, it's just uncomfortable sitting up in a desk - I can focus better on a couch
  • ATMOSPHERE, as inviting as possible, simplicity and complexity in a way to get things done
  • We DONT fall asleep on the sofas, it's not just the classroom, it's the teacher too, if we're in a cozy classroom the way we think and work will change
  • Availability of being able to choose our tools for what we want
  • Students interacting with teachers when districts are hiring new teachers
  • I think I focus on my work better when I'm working on a computer or tablet
  • LIGHTING is a big part of atmosphere for relaxing 
  • I can stay more organized with the laptops instead of using my binder.
Do you put as much thought into the layout of your room as you do the color on the walls, the alignment of your posters, or the security of your teacher desk?

I have a couch that I salvaged out of the "surplus: send to plant" storage area 2 summers ago that I put toward the back corner of my room in what I named the "collaboration corner." It's a decent space. I have a rug we were done with at home, a coffee table that I salvaged from somewhere else, and a few clipboards to write on. The only problem with the collaboration corner is that it's in the back corner. I don't feel like I can manage the students there when I'm at the front of the room at the SMARTboard (which is something else to consider anyway; should I be up there enough for it to feel like a problem?) or speaking at a student's desk in the front. So what happens? The collaboration corner hasn't hosted very much collaboration the past year and a few months.

So what's the plan? I'm gonna double down on the commitment to the collaboration corner and move the couch toward the front of the room.

Do you ever feel this way about the things those students shared? You want to believe what they're saying, that they're totally committed to those statements and that in the environment they described they would all be creative, productive little problem solving machines, but your experience with that starts to psych you out.

My hope is that moving the couch out of the back corner will separate the kids seeking the couch to hide out from the kids who just want to get in a spot where they can hunker down and work. The funny thing is, I thrive in the same environment with the same level of trust. I've convinced my curriculum coordinator to let me and a colleague go work at Panera Bread Co. this week on a website for the district rather than sitting at the table in his office. I'll sit there and drink somewhere between 6 - 9 cups of coffee, spread out my things, jam to some music, and crank through that work.

Here's where my put couch on Monday. You've got a week, kids. Show me what you've got.

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Thanks for sharing!