“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
“The unexamined classroom is not worth teaching in.” – Me, I guess.
Why do classrooms have fronts?
When I think of rooms that have fronts, there aren’t that many that come to mind.
Rooms with fronts
- Lounge room? (If you’re really into netflix)
ssshhhhh…. The shows about to start.
In these rooms we face the front and passively consume that which is fed to us. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the movies. But calling it a learning experience is a bit of a stretch.
The most important thing in a room with a front is the thing at the front.
So what’s at the front of a classroom?
- A teacher
- A projector
- A whiteboard
So when I recently moved classrooms, I was very conscious to make sure that my classroom was “frontless.”
Here is my current classroom setup.
Now I don’t presume to say that this is the perfect classroom setup, because I don’t believe it is. But it’s the classroom I have for now and I’ve designed it this way for several reasons.
1. I don’t talk much
Today, across 210 minutes of class time, I spent approximately 6 minutes addressing my classes as a whole. That’s only 3% of class time when I expect all eyes on me. It would be strange to setup a classroom designed with a front.
Don’t get me wrong. I talk .I talk to small groups and individuals about their learning. This is a direct result of my flipped learning and allows much greater differentiation in instruction, not just in task.
The one who does the talking, does the learning. After all, Learning is Not a Spectator Sport.
2. Whiteboards for all
The whiteboards on every wall belong to everyone. If a student has a question, I can quickly write on the whiteboard directly in front of them. If a student needs an extension task, I can write them one on the whiteboard. If I’d like a student to demonstrate their understanding, they can work at their section of whiteboard. If we’re looking for group work, there’s the whiteboard.
Whiteboards are great and teachers have hogged them for far too long. Let the students have some fun!
3. 24 screens in this room (48 if you count the phones)
Behind each screen is a powerful computer connected to a repository of all the knowledge gathered across the entirety of human history.
Also, cat videos.
I want my students to use their computers effectively and I want to put them in the best position to do that. By standing almost anywhere in this room, I can see about 87% of their screens. A win for them because they get to use their computers and all the good that comes with them. A win for me because I remove the temptation to drift off task.
I think Pharrell summed it up best when he said.