Whatever happened to …

… rows and aisles?

I had a coffee with a school computer technician this past week and part of our conversation revolved around the challenges of getting the summer imaging done on the myriad of devices that are so prevalent in schools.

The conversation brought me back a few years to another coffee conversation with a technician actually done over the summer break.  His strategy was to “hijack a classroom for a couple of weeks” and place all the computers and laptops on the desks.  He’d bring in a portable hub, connect all the computers and start them all downloading.  It worked out well to grab a teacher’s chair with wheels and just roll from machine to machine.  Just repeat the process until every machine in the school was done.  At the conclusion, they would all be the same and run equally as well as each other.

But things changed.  Jennifer Aston’s post, referenced in This Week in Ontario Edublogs, indicates how her classroom is changing.  It can affect the convenience of imaging described above.  I still smile at the technician’s comment “have you ever imaged a computer in a beanbag chair?”  Or, “teachers don’t even have those nice chairs with wheels anymore”.  Yep, there goes the convenience.

I think of my own classroom.  I was in the Business Department in a new-ish school.  My first Business Education Director was involved in the design of the area and was visionary for the time.  He made sure that we had four rooms with electricity in the floor, and every one of the rooms had tables instead of desks.  We were the envy of other schools and often meetings and PD events were held at our place.  No jiffy poles!  (Plus having air conditioning didn’t hurt either.)

For the longest time, we had formal homerooms.  It was our principal’s attempt at building community; we got a homeroom in Grade 9 and we had those students (and they had the same locker) for their entire school career.  Until he retired, our Guidance Head had all kinds of activities for us to do with the students.  Plus, I’m told, homerooms allowed a buffer for late bus arrivals.  For us, it was more than announcements and taking attendance.  Our homeroom lockers were right outside the door.  We were easily able to spot those moldy lunch bags!

Having tables allowed for flexible group work but also for those times when it was more convenient for students all facing the same way at the same time.  The biggy is learning all the names of the classes and homerooms with assigned seating, at least for the first part of the year/semester.  It was very convenient indeed.  Moving into groups while still having a writing surface was easily done by moving the chair instead of a whole desk.

Your thoughts for a Sunday leading into a new school year on Tuesday…

  • What’s new in your classroom for 2018 / 2019?
  • Is your room set up for the convenience of learning names?  Do you have any name learning tips?  Particularly with teenagers, they’ll cut you a bit of slack the first couple of times but they do expect you to learn them quickly.  For rotary elementary teachers and secondary school teachers, that’s a lot of names.
  • Do you still have a teacher chair on wheels?
  • Will all the technology in your class be freshly imaged and ready for use on Tuesday?
  • How many times a year do you have “locker checks”?
  • Other than chairs or desks, what would we find in your classroom?
    • beanbag chairs
    • couches
    • standing desks
    • interactive white board
    • television
    • tablets?  laptops?  desktops?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  It’s a great place to brag about the learning environment that you’ve crafted for your students.

If you have an idea for a future post, please consider adding it to this Padlet.  The entire series of posts is available here.

 

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3 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, what a great idea for a blog post, as back to school time is almost here. I’m afraid that my reply may be as long as your post, but we shall see.

    1) The biggest new thing in our classroom for this year is an aquarium that we hope/plan to use as a terrarium. This might help merge our indoor and outdoor classrooms. Exciting! I’d also like to consider our outdoor classroom as part of our room, in which case, the organization of that space is also completely new – https://instagram.com/p/BnHDaNxHOOb/.

    2) The regular movement of kids around a Kindergarten classroom does not make the environment convenient for learning names, but having taught 16 of the children last year in JK definitely helps. We also invited parents to send us “summer memories” to add to our class blog (with permission to post them). More than half have done so. Reading these memories and seeing the photographs helps with learning the names – https://mrscrockett.commons.hwdsb.on.ca/category/family-contributions/. This is true for us as well as for the kids. Then on Tuesday, we meet the kids all day long in small groups. This helps us connect with them, and usually by our first day with everyone (Wednesday), we know all of the names.

    3) We don’t have a teacher chair or a teacher desk, or really anything just for the teacher. 🙂 Down we go into those little chairs or on the floor.

    4) Technically the technology is ready to go, but we introduce it slowly and at the best time for each child. We use tools (eg, hammer, screwdriver, etc.) as bigger sources of technology in our room than iPads or computers, but we do sometimes use this other tech to primarily have children capture and document their learning. The social experiences that come from low-tech put no-tech play is so important for our youngest learners (at least in my opinion).

    5) We don’t have lockers, but hooks in our cubby room. We check them daily. We try to avoid excess items staying at school. Parents also really like, and appreciate, things coming home with their children. Soon enough, our kids help us with these checks.

    6) A Kindergarten classroom is full of special furniture. In our room, you will find logs and stumps, a sensory bin (full of sand right now), an easel (currently for painting), a few little coffee table-like tables (small and close to the ground), a light table, a pretend fridge and stove area (in dramatic play), lots of blocks, and probably other things that I missed. The videos on this page should capture them all (including items in our outdoor classroom space) – https://mrscrockett.commons.hwdsb.on.ca.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking questions! I hope others share their classroom designs and ideas here.
    Aviva

  2. I was going to refer you to Aviva’s blog on this topic, but she’s already responded!

    My classroom has some unique challenges/opportunities this year, as it is both my homeroom classroom, and the rotary instrumental music classroom – it’s going to take some exploring and experimenting to figure out how best that’s going to flow…..

    What’s new: back to sharing a room with a LOT of instruments and 3 drum kits; bins full of hands-on activities for self-reg; an antique teacher desk to be used as a group workstation;

    The school supplied tech should be ready; I realized I didn’t plug my “extra” bits (an old iPad2 of mine, still trucking, a Chromebook I got from a tech grant, an old Dell laptop from my house) in before I left on Thursday, so that will need time to power up.

    I usually have my homeroom students complete a different seating challenge each day, and that actually helps me with names. My 27 homeroom kids will be pretty straightforward – the extra 60 who will come in for rotary will be more of a challenge. However, anything less that 150-180, like I used to learn for Core French, is a plus, and names, for the most part, are fairly easy for me.

    Teacher chair on wheels is still there, behind my standing desk/platform – we’ll see how much I use it. There is a reading corner, which I hope will eventually have some comfy furniture; there are different tables and stations around the room. Desks, right now, are in a circle, and will be moved into small group configurations as we move through Tuesday – I would much, much, much, rather have tables!

    3 desktops, a dock for a laptop, a tablet and a Chromebook, and then whatever I borrow from the school collective ownership. (also speakers, cameras, a green screen and a tripod – still thinking about where the green screen might go…….).

    As I mentioned in the comments on Aviva’s blog, the one thing that is certain about my classroom layout is that it will change (and as ever, I have questions – like why the sink is ALWAYS on the opposite side of the room from the instruments, necessitating walking across the full room to sterilize…..)

  3. Alfred Thompson says:

    I am not a fan of the layout of my computer lab but that’s life. I do have A/C and a chair with wheels. The A/C has been great as we have had record high temperatures so fay this school year. We’ve had two weeks of school so far.

    My computers were all set up and ready for the start of the year. We have outstanding IT people. I also came in during the summer to check the fresh installs to make sure everything was working right. What a difference a great IT team makes! I don’t miss the days when I had to set up computers on my own.

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