Recanting…& Remodelling My Ideal Classroom

A while ago I said that if I had my druthers,  I’d prefer 1 smart phone-per-child over 1 laptop-per-child. I’m recanting. Sort of.

I still think there’s much to be done with smart phones and that they’ll soon be a key tool in modern education. But after listening to an interview with John Seely Brown on EdTechLive, I’ve reconsidered the role of computers in my classes.

Seely Brown describes the studio model of learning, typical of architectural firms. There, all work-in-progress is public, so that all the apprenticing architects can see what everyone is doing as they work toward the completing the main project–an office tower, for example. From time to time the master architect comes round and critiques the work of one of the apprentices. As the work is public, so is the critique. The teaching and learning are cost-effective: everyone benefits from the one critique. More importantly, the model builds a more nuanced, textured understanding of the project, which, Seely Brown says, shifts learning about architecture to learning to be an architect.

I’ve done something similar using a wiki as the public space with my grade 9s. Each student was required to present a chapter of the novel we were studying then post his or her notes to the wiki. The rest of the class were asked to either make a significant contribution to or constructive modification of those notes so that collaboratively they built the best possible understanding of the book. They reported that they had never before realized that a good novel could be so complex. I saw them engage at a much higher level of thinking than ever before. I wonder now if they weren’t learning to be literature students instead of learning about literature.

So, if I could make my ideal classroom now, it’d look like this:

  • 1 laptop per student
  • 1 very large SMART board or better yet, a touch display of some kind
  • software displaying a window mirroring each student’s work, say 15 screens on display at once, like a TV wall at an electronics store; at a touch I can zoom in any one student’s work and display it full screen

I imagine a project where the students are working individually or in groups to create a comprehensive understanding of a piece of literature, a physics problem etc. They don’t need to be working on the same format: some could be editing video, others text and so on. As I move about the class coaching and critiquing each student, the rest of the class can see the material I am reviewing on the classroom display. If the discussion becomes especially important, we can stop other work and zoom in on one example.

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    toward the ideal classroom - conversations | shannon smith March 24, 2009

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