Classroom Design and Innovative Learning

I attended the EDUCAUSE conference in Denver in November. This is the largest gathering of leaders involved in technology in education in the US. It also has the largest exhibition of educational technology. The term technology covers a lot more than just information technology and there were a number of classroom furniture vendors participating in the exhibition. Furniture is an important part of defining the learning experience in a classroom.

In the last blog entry I included a video on the history of educational technology and suggested you look at the classrooms. Here are pictures of a classroom today and one from a hundred years ago:
Old classroomnew classroom

Do you notice the similarities? Although the design, colors and materials may have changed, the basic layout has remained consistent with this abstract diagram:Abstract diagram of typical classroom   The display has progressed from blackboards to whiteboards to projector screens. Seating has developed from hard wooden seats to soft ones with power adapters for laptops. However, the basic layout and model of the classroom has not changed. They are still designed so students can sit in rows and absorb information from a podium and display in front of them.

Many of the furniture vendors at the EDUCAUSE exhibition are creating prominent designs for more collaborative classroom furniture that integrates IT. Here are a couple of examples:
collaborative tablecollaborative table
Most classrooms in most colleges are not designed for the innovative learning described in this blog. That classroom furniture designers are promoting more collaborative designs suggests this is beginning to change. I have continually emphasized that technology alone cannot innovate learning; it has to be accompanied by new methods. This video illustrates the difference a collaborative classroom layout can make when accompanied by a more interactive method of teaching:

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