I’ve mentioned many times in this blog that the traditional classroom technology configuration offers a glorified show and tell for the instructor. Generally, there is a computer and projector, maybe a smart board, a DVD player at the head of the classroom in the instructor’s control. The layout of the classroom is still by and large in the old lecture-format layout: rows of desks facing the instructor. So, now instructors can visit website content in class in addition to showing films; they can open documents for whatever reason, perhaps to mark them up as examples of writing; if they have a document camera, they can show details of objects. Where are the students? Still sitting at desks watching the instructor interact with content, still taking notes or dozing off.
I often try to imagine the classroom of the future, and I see moveable desks and chairs, modular arrangements of computers and projection screens, video conferencing equipment that allows for live communication with distant resources. It’s a flexible and changing vision of a classroom.
The Chronicle reports on an innovation I hadn’t envisioned: smart desks! Yes, of course, interactive desks with interactive screens ready to receive tasks for collaborative work. Great idea in the search for effective learning environments.
Some say the classroom of the future is not a physical space at all, but the concept of anytime, anywhere education writ large–it’s everywhere. I see that as a viable concept, but also don’t think that physical space is going away anytime soon. For a while, I think we will be trying to adapt physical spaces to this new world through trial and error, letting in the new and moving around the desks and changing the content of the classroom experience.
In the meantime, if you are dealing with a teacher-centered arrangement of tools, think about how you can collaborate with students, creating tasks that get them up to the front, alone or in groups, to run the show and tell for a while.