A thought occurred whilst studying classrooms of the past and moving towards classrooms of the future. There are certainly some very valid points that classrooms today, including the ones currently being built now which greatly resemble the classrooms from decades ago – a “stage” area at the front for the teacher to instruct from and rows of seating for children to be confined to, at times. A few key design features may have changed, but these are most probably due to the influence of interior designers and/or architects – not necessarily from the children themselves (Read, 2010, p76).
One mental connection that I have been guilty of up until now was visualising that “classrooms of the future” somehow required modern spaces filled the latest features and a stockpile of “new” resources. However, prior to reading about classrooms of the past or future I watched the Candlebark/Fitzroy Community School (FCS) YouTube video.
Something occurred to me as I compared information from the reading and the schools in the video. Both Candlebark and FCS have proven that they have had success in the developing their students (academically and otherwise). However, the glimpses shown of their classroom learning spaces didn’t necessarily seem to focus on it being a “classroom of the future” that I would have initially pictured. In fact, the FCS appeared to be run within a converted house of sorts with a very home-like atmosphere in many areas and the Candlebark School seemed to reflect almost an “outback” school quality from a simpler time decades ago. Are these perhaps the some of the key elements that have made the difference in learning for their students?
It is evident from FCS and Candlebark that they have created classroom learning spaces that meet the needs of their students, and presumably their teachers. However, they certainly don’t have the most updated buildings or flashiest interior design in their spaces that one may assume is necessary for a classroom worthy for the “future”. However, they work!
Often the argument of why classrooms remain outdated comes down to lack of money in the school’s budget. But, do Candlebark and FCS perhaps demonstrate that a “classroom of the future” doesn’t necessarily require additional funds to create great learning spaces? Are we just not using what we already have to the best of our ability?
Are schools perhaps assuming that to redesign their classrooms into “classrooms of the future” requires a huge overhaul costing a lot of money to make it possible, which often means that nothing gets changed. But, are we looking at too grandiose an answer? Are there perhaps current elements that we can combine and/or reposition in a new manner to produce a classroom learning environment where students can thrive? I wonder what changes students would suggest if they were asked to redesign their current learning space using the materials that they already had? After all, this is meant to be “their” learning space, yet our biggest error is that we presume to know what they will respond to without necessarily seeking their input.
It would seem that FCS and Candlebark have perhaps done exactly this – they have adapted what they have into something that will support both the teacher’s ability to teach, but more importantly to allow the students’ learning to flourish.
Linking to the curriculum
It is evident in the Australian Curriculum that the impact of students “learning how to learn” underlies much of the content that they will cover during their educational experience. There are many areas mentioned under “Critical and Creative Thinking” (which is considered a “General Capability”) that beautifully demonstrate the importance of allowing our students to learn in a way that most suits their natural tendencies. Some of the best examples of this are in these quotes taken from the Australian Curriculum website itself –
“Both Gardner (1994) and Robinson (2009) emphasise that we need to understand and capitalise on the natural aptitudes, talents and passions of students – they may be highly visual, or think best when they are moving, or listening, or reading.”
“Theorists believe that learning is enhanced when rich environments contain multiple stimuli, stressing the importance of engaging the mind’s natural curiosity through complex and meaningful challenges.”
“Twenty-first century learning theories emphasise the importance of supporting authentic and ubiquitous (anywhere, anyhow) learning, and providing students with opportunities, resources and spaces to develop their creative and critical thinking skills (Newton and Fisher 2009; McGuinness 1999, 2010).”
So, if we are to assume that we as teachers are following the guidelines that the Australian Curriculum is asking us to, the the design of the classroom as a learning space MUST incorporate elements that are naturally in-tune with each student’s innate preferences to learn AS WELL AS allowing them to learn from each other by developing and nurturing spaces for them to create a their own learning community. Perhaps this is exactly what FCS and Candlebark have done?