Color variations represent the flexibility required in today’s and tomorrow’s classrooms. The theme is of flexibility of space and use as requested by students and teachers. Flexibility allows for the existing space of the classroom to utilized a number of teaching techniques such as group work, centralized teaching, isolated learning, etc. The ability for our desks to provide not only flexibility in movement but variations in space is key to our idea. The desks not only provide the separation of groups or individuals with partitions, but they also provide surfaces for storage, learning, and presentation. The interaction of the student with the space is direct and unavoidable allowing for better problem solving skills and peer-to-peer interaction while learning the school curriculum. Variation allows the teacher to keep the students interested as it is not only the lesson, but the space that keeps mind stimulated and wanting to learn.
During our research phase, as we were confronted with the teachers and the students expectations, the urgent need for flexibility in the classroom space became apparent. Serving average classes of 25 students, the existing traditional desk-chair units prevented any changes to the teacher-centered layout, claiming easily 80% of the classroom area. The other teaching techniques (group-work, research, individual tutoring, etc) were relegated to the perimeter of the classroom and cornered against the walls. Although aware that all had to happen in the same room, teachers dreamed of being able to use differentiated spaces, with distinct levels of “privacy” and group interaction within the classroom, that could better serve the individual needs of the students, as well as the classroom as a whole. Students were particularly eager to have differentiated library, study and computer/multimedia areas. Despite the overwhelming display of students’ work, teachers confirmed that the existing wall surfaces were not enough; most importantly, they were not flexible enough to accommodate all the different disciplines that took place in that same classroom space. Display is not only important to reward the students’ good work or to serve as a learning tool, but also to illustrate the quality of the education provided by the school. One of the strongest prevailing ideas, proposed by a student, was that in the future one could “make the desks disappear” when they were not required. The idea of creating spaces within one space, and being able to apply multiple variations to it, or even “cleaning it” of any obstruction, became the key idea.
The ability for the desks to move and connect to allow for group interaction at various levels allows for multiple workstations and activities to occur simultaneously in one room. The versatility of the desk unit to act as a separation between tasks or activities give, the space a much more open feeling while at the same time allowing isolated groups or individuals to function in the same space. The partitions also allow the space to change to fit the individual teaching style or class.
The desk unit as a multimedia surface is also key to the class interaction. Either in groups, as individuals, or as a class the multimedia functionality and connectivity of the desk and the teaching screen allow multiple levels of interaction and teaching. When not in use the desks can collapse to become surfaces to display class work or can be utilized in conjunction with other desks. The multimedia screen can act as a photo board displaying the students’ chosen photo to indicate the desk as their own, which enforces a sense of pride in class and work. The desk and partition unit is also a way to store class items such as books and the students’ belongings in book shelves or in the under chair compartment.
The teaching screen is not an isolated area on the wall as most of today’s screens are, but rather it is the wall, the floor, and ceiling. The ability for the floor, wall, or ceiling to become a teaching surface that the students and teacher can interact with is vital to the learning and teaching process. The floor can be a map of the world which the student can move and walk around in to create a dynamic learning medium for the class. When the teaching screen is not in use it can be turned off and the floor, wall, or ceiling can be an ambient light surface. The teacher can utilize a small area of the teaching screen to look into the work being performed in groups, or by individuals. The multi use multimedia teaching screen is an idea that would allow teachers and students alike to explore new ways of learning and teaching that are not available in today’s classroom.