Studio Classroom: Designing Collaborative Learning Spaces
A new type of classroom design is becoming popular in K-12 and college environments. It's based on the desire to move away from the traditional lecture-based pedagogy toward what is referred to as "studio teaching." In this model, the instructor serves as a project facilitator, answering questions, providing resources, and moving around the room as necessary. Students work in groups and activities are structured to emphasize collaborative, active, student-based learning. While the pedagogy is not new, the need to create learning spaces to meet the very specific needs of studio teaching has caused a dramatic re-thinking about how to design new classrooms. The most startling characteristic of these classrooms is that they don't have a recognizable "front" either visually or from the perspective of the place where you expect the teacher to be. And this has several implications for design and technology integration. Here is what you need to know about studio classrooms.
• Rooms are sized to allow for comfortable circulation and a certain messiness, even chaos, during classroom project activities.
• A good portion of the perimeter walls are made up of whiteboard writing surfaces, along with magnetic or corkboard tack surfaces for the display of paper-based materials created during class sessions.
• They have multiple electronic display surfaces oriented on different walls. Some are large projected images, using dedicated ceiling mounted projectors. The images projected onto these screens are used to engage larger groups of students or the entire class. Other displays are wall-mounted flat panels to display computer-based materials within smaller workgroups. Ideally there is also an interactive Smart Board.
• Furniture is lightweight, movable, and reconfigurable to accommodate workgroups of various sizes. The carpeted floor contains a grid of power and data outlets or connectivity is integrated within table surfaces.
• There is a small, possibly mobile, formal instructor's workstation. However, most of the time the instructor is a wanderer, listening in on discussions, answering questions, and furnishing resource materials.
• Remote control of the room's audiovisual technology often is contained in a wall-mounted control panel. Using it, a teacher or student can access network-stored multimedia, control display devices, etc.
• Though the entire building might have wireless network connectivity, an array of hardwired outlets is furnished to provide connectivity to support ultra-high-bandwidth multimedia applications. Wall outlets provide power for recharging purposes as well as to support various portable equipment.
• The lighting is zoned such that the fixtures closest to the projection screens can be turned off independently of the other fixtures. Indirect lighting provides a comfortably soft illumination and is daylight-balanced.
• For students who do not own their own laptops, a mobile cart of these devices could be available to support computer-aided learning activities as necessary.
• There may be fixed work surfaces along a portion of the periphery of the room. On them, students assemble projects and use the document camera, printer, or computers dedicated to the room.
• The room should have a dedicated computer and DVD player and be able to receive cable or satellite, as well as Internet based video programming. And the display system should have connectivity for personal video devices, such as iPods or notebook computers.
• Ceiling or flat panel speakers would be used to provide the sound from any recorded or live program material.
• Dedicated video origination capabilities, consisting of cameras located at the front and rear of the room would be used to capture classroom activities. These activities could be recorded, digitally, for later viewing, distributed anywhere in the building, or used for distance learning activities. Also video teleconferencing would allow collaboration with field teams and other remotely located groups. Guest lecturers would also participate this way as well.
These new kinds of spaces will not and should not replace all traditional classrooms, as both configurations are necessary to meet the wide range of learning activities. While it is tempting to hope that a single room configuration, using movable furniture, can serve both traditional lecture and studio classroom activities, the integration of technology together with a front/no front orientation, makes a significant impact on how the room will work. The best outcomes are achieved when classroom design and teaching/learning activities are well synchronized.
Michael David Leiboff
Studio Classroom: Designing Collaborative Learning Spaces
School of the Future: Student Design Competition
School Building Week is an annual program celebrating our schools and reinforcing the connection between school facilities and student learning. It features a weeklong celebration of school facilities, including the School of the Future student design competition, Healthy Schools Day, an historic look at our schools through our children’s eyes, a focus on excellent schools that serve as centers of community, and a variety of community, state and national events.
The Future Design Competition offers an opportunity to illustrate the kind of creativity that students bring to the planning and design process. The competition highlights the importance of well-planned, high performance, healthy, safe and sustainable schools that foster student achievement and enhance community vitality. The annual competition, open to middle school students, challenges student teams to design their schools to enhance learning, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community. The multi-disciplinary solution requires students to follow a planning process from the concept phase to completion of the project, with thorough documentation and presentation of their project to a jury for review. The competition is supported by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Association of Realtors, American Institute of Architects, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and over 35 other organizations.