yes, yes, of course, the desk!

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.

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Categories: collaboration, innovation, student-centered learning, technology, Web 2.0

5 replies

  1. I was just watching a show called hak5. They created DIY multitouch screens. it was created with a peace of glass, an Amazon box, a web cam, some tape, and software. This device could be used to interact like never before with a pc.

    http://ssandler.wordpress.com/MTmini/

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  2. In my office, where I host many people that I collaborate with, I started positioning the furniture and electronic equipment in ways that are more accessible to people who use my office, and allows me to create private workspace as needed. For instance, the main desk spaces are stationary, but at one end I put a table that is on wheels. I can pull it behind my desk for extra workspace, put it to the front of the office for students who review exams, and can put it in a central position when I need to collaborate with a faculty member. I started this about 3 weeks ago, and it is going well. I would love to have my entire office in modular furniture because at any moment, the activities in my office change.

    The impetous for this occurred after reading some books on women and public and private spaces. With areas outside the home deemed public male spaces, and the home deemed private female spaces, I decided to challenge how people enter and move within my office. Both men and women faculty walk right into my office and come directly behind my desk, standing beside me in what I think is a power position – me sitting, them standing. It’s as if my office is unconsciously seen as a public male space where people other than myself can use it freely; my private space becomes the public space of others. By employing the modular furniture design, I can move things to show when I think the office is public or private. In a classroom as well, the modular design could certainly make a seemingly public space into an environment that adjusts as the needs of the users change.

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  3. I think I spelled impetous wrong, so don’t freak out. Just get the drift!

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  4. impetus

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  5. impetus

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