How Are You Thinking About Educational Design?
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The Classroom Perspective:
As you enter our elementary classroom, your eyes are first drawn to the golden letters that spell READ. This was intentional on my behalf. Prior to teaching, I studied Interior Design at Michigan State University. When redesigning my classroom this summer, I wanted the focus to remain on the foundational skills my grade two students would need yet provide an environment that would encourage collaboration and creativity, while remaining brain-friendly (click here to view my webinar on brain-friendly learning environments). A great deal of research went into this project.
My students were the ones who inspired me to take the leap into redesigning my classroom space. I listened to the power of their collective voice and began to hatch out a plan with my class. The children were insistent upon having comfortable seating arrangements that would allow them to talk with one another and share their ideas. So, I began to look at the physical layout of the room and research flexible and creative seating options that would allow for maximum seating yet lend itself for rich dialogue to transpire between learners. We got rid of all of our desks – including my teacher desk (click here to read about this process via my SmartBlog for Education post and click here to read my interview on MindShift regarding the transformation). Such non-traditional physical changes also facilitated an environment that easily allowed for technology integration in meaningful ways.
How Does Your Space Allow for Technology Integration and Collaboration
– Watch this 2 minute clip and see how we naturally integrate technology into our classroom! –
As a member of The National Writing Project and a Scholastic Top Teacher, I understand the importance of powerful literacy instruction. However, as the 2014 Technology Teacher of the Year for Michigan (MACUL), I also understand the importance of incorporating STEM, or STEAM, activities into the classroom. A book that is currently in publication that I have coming out, with a few other colleagues, focuses on taking a closer look at digital writing. When integrated appropriately, technology has the power to enhance curriculum, engage students, and bring excitement to lessons while personalizing the learning for each student.I find it most important to make learning fun for the children. It is my personal goal to have each child wake up filled with such an excitement for learning. In doing so, I continuously ask my children, “What are you interested in learning?” and “How would you like to learn?” Then, it’s up to me to take our curriculum and standards and artfully craft them into engaging lessons for my students. I often ask myself, “Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?” This is something I’ve spoken about in my keynote presentations as I travel the country talking with fellow teachers and administrators.
A School Perspective:
Our elementary just redesigned our multi-medial lab. The transformation is quite remarkable. I wished I had a before photograph to show. If you could imagine a dark space with brown carpet and docks of desktop computers lining each wall, you would be able to get an idea what our lab looked like prior to the redesign. Students would face the wall. Teachers would see the backs of their heads. Collaboration was not an option. Now the space boasts a clean, open floor plan with several flexible seating arrangements and an infrastructure that supports the technology within the physical landscape.
The District Perspective:
As I travel the country, I’m often asked to talk about technology integration in the classroom. I was recently invited to speak in Australia for the Future Schools Expo regarding reimagining physical and virtual learning environments. Most recently, I partnered with a superintendent on the west side of our state to do a district redesign of his campus. His district passed a bond to support a new media-center area along with upgrading additional spaces within the district. I was contacted because of my design background along with my knowledge of project-based learning and technology integration. Though I was flattered by the invitation to work on this district redesign project, I knew that I would need to bring a few friends aboard for this initiative.
The bulk of the bond would be applied towards closing in the high school’s court yard and transforming it into a “Barnes and Noble”/”Starbucks” media lounge for the students to use throughout the day: before, during, and after school. After agreeing to partner with the district, it would be my role (along with the team I commissioned), to be the liaison with the superintendent, the architectural firm, and the technology consultation firm.
The team I put together would be a range of experts in the field of education who each bring a unique skill set to benefit this project. My first selection was my dear friend and 2013 International Technology Teacher of the Year, Nicholas Provenzano. Because this project would also require professional development at the high school level, I knew Nick’s work with 20% Time, redesigning learning spaces, and technology integration would be paramount to the success of our work. My next selection would be to bring on our good friend, Thomas Murray, State and District Digital Learning Director. Tom’s experience would be vital to our team’s efforts in developing a framework that would allow for our vision to become a reality. Tom’s knowledge would support the back end infrastructure and educational technology design.
I couldn’t be more excited as we work together to collaborate with friends such as James Sanders in developing ideas to propel this district into being a Future Ready District.
Sign the Pledge – Is Your District Future Ready?
In all the work I’m doing locally and across the country, I’m very excited to see the importance of this being recognized at the national level. What I love most about The Future Ready District Pledge is that it is all-inclusive.
The U.S. Department of Education is calling on superintendents like you who lead district, charter, and private schools to join us in taking the Future Ready District Pledge and working to develop, implement, and share your technology plan with other districts so they can learn from your successes and challenges along the way.
So often I feel as though certain projects pertain to only public or only private institutions; however, The Future Ready District Pledge is calling all superintendents and district leaders to take part for the students we serve. I appreciate how the spotlight is focused on the student rather than any policy or initiative. As a mother of two elementary aged children, I couldn’t be more proud of the direction we are headed.
I encourage you to SIGN the pledge and
commit to being Future Ready!
*click here to read more about being Future Ready*