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.

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