August 01, 2019
Go Beyond the Technology for a Modern Learning Environment
Schools need to look at the classroom space itself to fully transform their learning processes.
Your school’s one-to-one program now has laptops for every student. Check. All of your learning materials are digitized and computer accessible. Check. The teachers have all gone through professional training to take advantage of all the new tech possibilities in the classroom. Check. Your modern learning environment is ready to go. Nope. Transformation in the classroom can’t happen without changing the classroom space itself.
As pointed out in the book The Third Teacher, the design of the classroom space impacts learning and teaching. CDW•G recognizes that technology alone is not enough to transform the classroom into a modern learning experience. In fact, simple elements like the color of the walls and the layout of the chairs and tables have a huge impact. To help meet the needs of schools, teachers and students, we’ve developed a classroom design service called Blueprint to Design™.
CDW’s Blueprint to Design Service
This is a no-cost service we provide that starts with a school consultation with one of our education strategists. The consultation focuses on gathering the basic details of the space the school wants to improve, what that space is currently used for and what the school wants it to be used for in the future. In the hundreds of consultations my team has done, we’ve found that many schools start with old computer labs, looking to turn these locations into a shared interactive space for project-based learning, or even a makerspace.
To start, we talk with the school about what kind of activities they want to have in the space. It’s often collaborative endeavors: students making things, exploring, doing projects instead of sitting at a desk with a device. This conversation gets everyone thinking about the educational goals for the space. It’s an opportunity for us to talk about design thinking — what are the best ways to utilize a space.
Following the consultation, my team organizes the collected information and passes it along to the designers at our partner for Blueprint to Design, MooreCo. They render 2D and 3D designs. Our learning environment advisors then share and explain the design to the school, working through changes and adjustments, getting sign-off from all the necessary stakeholders.
Design in hand, schools are ready to roll up their sleeves for the real work of securing funding for their transformation pilot projects. Many of the schools I work with are in the process of seeking support for their initiatives. The design we provide becomes a visual resource that the school can reference as they apply for grants or work with their PTA on fundraising.
How One School District Transformed Classrooms
In helping customers navigate this design process, I often reference Rochester City School District, located in New York. In 2018, RCSD had all of the tech in place to transition to pedagogies focused on blended and project-based learning. The only piece of the puzzle they had not tackled was redesigning the classroom spaces. The district decided to take a space in their central office and turn it into a pilot project for different ways to rethink its classrooms. That way teachers could come in and use it, explore unique pedagogies and gather ideas for their own classroom spaces.
RCSD involved a lot of stakeholders in the process — an approach I recommend — from the IT team and instructional technologists to superintendents and teachers, even students. The classroom pilot was a big success. In fact, the district is in the midst of a multiyear, state-funded program to modernize and renovate school buildings. Thanks to the positive impact of classroom in the central office, board members of the district’s modernization program, made up of school and city officials, have added flexible furniture to their contract bids. And RCSD has now done several more classroom redesigns with us.
Invest in Learning Spaces
If your district or school is doing the hard work of improving your classrooms with technology and building toward a modern learning environment, don’t overlook a key element — the classroom space itself. Consider checking out Blueprint to Design. It won’t cost you anything. And you can take the budget you would have spent on a design and put it toward what really matters, the transformation of your classroom.