Classroom design

I mentioned in a previous post about people I know who are setting up schools. Well, I visited one before it was finished was interested to look at the rooms. Of course, the building work was still going on but I could see the basic shape and feel of the classrooms. This got me thinking…..

We all learn about the horse shoe and other types of table logistics but how about the rest? A lot of the places I’ve worked in over the past few years have just been white rooms with tables and chairs and maybe an OHP, some have had boards but some haven’t. Sounds dull I know but when they are used for different topics then it makes sense.

Now then, what if I was given freedom to design my own room? I’m not just talking about tables but the actual shape, colour, walls vs glass etc. Would I go for trendy glass walls or stone ones with a fortified gate? To be honest, I’m not keen on glass as everyone is able to see you and you them. I like a traditional room that feel safe so students don’t feel watched. But under the glass principal why have walls at all? I’ve seen this in some places that just have 1 room with 15 desks full of students having 121s. Not my ideal environment I must say.

OK, so I’d like walls with 1 or 2 bigish windows with nice views and natural light. I don’t like all the artificial stuff. Now, shape? Would round be possible? That would be interesting and a break from square rooms or even oval might be good. Then I could be in the middle. Why do we always have to be at the front? Just because that’s where the board is? Well, have a portable board or a rotating projector. Or just a portable board.

Tables? Do I want any or would seats with little tables attached be OK? Why not. Don’t tables just serve as a boundary between ‘us and them’? Would I be ‘cool’ enough to just use bean bags? How about sofas? Or it could be like in primary schools with activity stations or ‘areas’ where students choose where to sit.

Colours? White, black? Orange would be nice I think or even a pattern or a mural. Those digital photo frames too with pictures of the weekly topics perhaps or even student work or students.

Would it be too much to ask for a glass roof?

Here are some examples of innovative designs:

This one raises the question of ‘why do we need separate classrooms or spaces?’ Couldn’t we have open areas in a large open space? Then everyday you could alternate where you teach.

Any thoughts?


7 thoughts on “Classroom design

  1. I was with you on the idea of glass rooms, until I did a training session in one the other day. I can honestly say that after 5 minutes I forgot there were windows at all. This might be because it was a one-off session, but at the moment I am a convert.

    I recently went to a friend’s school in Rio called One English. They have a really cool set up for kids where the tables are on a hinge so that they can be locked away against the wall. When the teacher wants the students to work at the table they fold out and there is a white board behind each one. There is also a big ‘glassboard’ (a big pane of frosted glass, it sounds strange but it works) at the front for whole class activities. The whole thing had a feel of being well-thought out without going too much for the novelty factor.

    • Sounds like CSI. How about a Minority Report type of board that is in the air and we just more things about?

      If we are to move forward I think it’s time we leave some of the old designs behind. I mean, there’s no point creating new and innovate lessons with tech or whatever if you deliver them in a dull out-of-date room.

      But how about 1 way mirrors eh?

      I worked in one place that had patio doors made of material so you could just push open dividers to make a bigger room. Bit sad for students though trying to look cool leaning back on their chairs as they would collapse against it.

      Thanks for the comment Stephen.

  2. Dear Phil,
    I totally agree with you. We should start thinking about the design of our classrooms and try to convince the administrators / owners of the schools for new ideas.
    I loved the idea of the glass room in the garden. Actually, I would prefer a multi-functional one, so students would feel great in a different place each day / week.

    • Thanks for the comment Merve. Yes, times are changing. Maybe we don’t actually need rooms or a school. Teachers+students = a lesson. In-house trainers do it on the company premises, others do it in students houses, in summer schools we do lessons outside even. This would then require a rethink about the design of a school to make it more ‘area-based’ with each suitable for a different kind of lesson. For instance, having a ‘movie room’ would be perfect for watching film clips. We have computer labs so what not others? I saw this in a nursery where they rotate every 45 minutes as they believe that is how long students can stay attentive. Definitely something to think about.

      • Very thought-provoking! So, ratheer than thinking in terms of “we need desks, what should they look like?” and “where does the teacher sit?” maybe think in terms of communication and affordances? All my teaching is done off-site and some of the things that turn out to be most important (we notice when don’t have them!) are : comfortable/adjustable lighting and temperature (learners who aren’t comfortable get distracted, we need to be able to see each other, adjust the setting for moods or presentations or whatever), quiet (we need to be able to hear each other), sound-proofing (we need to be able to make a racket without bugging others) and reliability (the space we planned to meet in is available at the time we need it for the amount of time we planned to use it). If I’m dreaming: rooms are empty but thers a gigantic storage area with all kinds of different stuff like rugs, comfy chairs, desks, tables, and so forth. Maybe plants, pictures, lamps. AV equipment, cables, extension cords. We (the class) work together to decide what we need, make the orders and reservations, put it together ourselves. Decide on adjustments for future lessons and order what we need. What do you think?

        • Good points Kathy. How about an inflatable class we can take with us anywhere? Or in the future it could be a hologram. Have you dabbled in Second Life? It’s interesting to see the learning environments schools have set up.

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