Moveable Workspaces

Where do your best thinking?  Your best work?  Do you like isolation or being in a large open room?  Do you like to sit in a comfortable chair or at a desk?  Depending on the task, I alter my work environment to be the most productive.
If I need to focus on something, especially reading a difficult text I like to go to the library and sit in a cubicle.  I like the feeling of being walled in on all sides.  It’s comforting and helps me focus.  When I need to brainstorm for a topic, I need the ability to move.  I take a walk or I mow the yard.  My brain needs a jump start and a walk usually gets the blood circulating and helps me to my best thinking.  When I want to work with a group of people I like to work at a large table with plenty of space for everyone to sit around comfortably.  I also like access to a whiteboard to brainstorm together.
As an adult I have the ability to alter where and how I accomplish tasks to best suit the situation.  I set myself up for success.  Shouldn’t students be given those same opportunities?
I recently read an article about the Hillbrook School and their iLab.  They have designed a “computer lab” unlike any I have seen before.  The lab features movable whiteboards, tables and chairs, along with a variety of comfortable seating arrangements.  The lab starts at a basic “reset” position.  From that point students are able to create their own workspaces depending on the task they are working on.  I could see this being a real motivating factor when students can create a workspace based on personal preference and the task they are trying to accomplish vs. the traditional classroom setting.
Here are some links to more information:
http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/06/13/california-school-overhauls-computer-lab.aspx?=THE21
http://hillbrookilab.com/
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own classroom, and there a lot of things I would love to try in the future if I can find the correct furniture.  Right now my wish list consists of the following:

  • A high top table for students to stand and work at- I think some of my students who struggle to sit still might benefit from being able to stand and work
  • Moveable whiteboards- It’s a lot easier to brainstorm with a group when you can write it out on a big whiteboard
  • A small stage, 12 inches tall- There is something about having a slight height advantage that gives students more confidence
  • A podium to give speeches and presentations from

I hope to find ways to allow my students to create their own learning environments next year.  I will be more flexible in how the students arrange their desks and encourage them to change their environments to fit their needs.

Why I don't read blogs before bed…

When I first started brainstorming ideas for an end of the school year blog post, I came up with a long list of things I wanted to reflect on.  I wanted to write about all of my successes and all of my failures.  I wanted to reflect on the kids who inspired me, and the ones who frustrated me.  I wanted to write about how my philosophies have changed and evolved. Those things are all great, and I plan on processing through them this summer, but what I finally decided to write about is why I won’t read blogs before bed…
To begin with I’m a self-proclaimed tech nerd.  I’m not even a good nerd.  I know a little bit about a lot of things, but if you had to ask me how to do something tech related, I would stare at you dumbfounded until I could sit down with the tech and figure out how to do the task on my own.  I don’t know what all of the most innovative tech trends are and what the next best thing will be.  Instead I’m a 2-steps-behind-the-frontrunner nerd.  I’m a nerd who learns about tech from other, more advanced nerds.  If there was a king of all nerds, I would be the translator who translates the king’s commands to the common folk (and makes stuff up when he doesn’t understand).  But I’m a nerd all the same.
As a nerd I suffer the same ailment that infects all nerds to some degree.  I can’t sleep because of technology.  I spend hours tossing and turning, thinking about a blog I just read or an app that I heard about.   I design lessons in my mind and organize elaborate scenarios of how that blog post could change my teaching world.  I know every idea isn’t world changing, but right before bed the possibilities are endless.  So I end up obsessing over new tech in my dreams.  I don’t know how to stop it, or turn it off.  I finally had to make a rule that I cannot read blogs before bed, because otherwise my brain starts racing with ideas for my classroom.  Or I get angry because someone is misusing tech and wasting all of its possibilities.
What’s worse is this ailment affects those around me.  I want to share my ideas, and it drives the people in my life crazy.  I tell them my half-developed ideas about technology that hasn’t been invented yet.  Or I bore them with step-by-step instructions on how this app will revolutionize my classroom.  They try to be enthused and sometimes they may be genuinely interested, but sometimes I think I come across as an ADD lion in a room full of three legged zebras.  I can’t stick with one idea.
It truly is an illness and if anyone has any suggestions on how to stop the gears from turning in my head, please help me.
 
P.S. Right now I’m obsessed with the possibilities of an app called Aurasma and the possibilities of Augmented Reality.  Awesome stuff!