This is my son’s first year in High School (yes, I just admitted that). Last week I attended the “curriculum night,” which is a full evening of meeting his teachers by studying his schedule and trying to traverse the very full of parents hallways of the high school before the bell rings and you are late to the ten minute course overview. The night offered so many distracting flashbacks that I actually cut out of 5th period, went to the diner and never went back. Just don’t tell my son.
One difference, however, between his high school experience and mine is that every one of his classrooms has interactive board technology in it. I was thrilled to see the district understand the importance of using technology to enhance learning through collaboration, stimulation, activity and creativity. Allowing students to coordinate activities with the teachers is a powerful tool. Taking a closer look I realized something was strange about the set up. In three of the five rooms I sat in, there was either a desk or a lab table IN FRONT OF the board. Making it quite difficult for students to walk up to the board and use it.
Are students really benefiting from the technology in the classroom, are they able to truly interact with content, if there are physical barriers within the active learning space? Is it truly an active learning environment when the traditional classroom has not been transformed from rows of students facing the teacher’s desk in the front of the classroom? The school claims that they have installed technology in every classroom as a result of grants they were awarded. Keeping in mind that these grants were issued following successful research indicating technology rich educational spaces increase assessment scores, collaboration and retention. But the technology installations aren’t used effectively if the idea of traditional learning isn’t re-imagined. And maybe that starts with the configuration of the learning space.
Any type of barrier, whether intentional or not, prevents movement and flow. Technology in the classroom is only as effective and useful as the environment allows it to be. Limiting the potential for interaction and collaboration will reduce the advantage of having audio visual equipment. The unfortunate feedback to the administration will be that it doesn’t seem to help all that much, and that the equipment, software, required maintenance and training is cumbersome.
Students want technology rich environments. They crave it. More than that, they REQUIRE it. They have been brought up on instant information download and stimulation being received from multiple types of sources all the time. Learning through all their senses, rather than two. Please, don’t limit the students’ engagement and reduce the effectiveness of the AV investment by failing to take into account the entire classroom configuration.
Check out an effective collaboration space designed by the Princeton Academy in NJ, here.