Workplace design is changing. At companies like Facebook and Google, the work environment is wide open, a design approach geared toward enhancing flexibility for an agile, mobile workforce.
It’s a concept that also works for classrooms, says Carl Hooker, director of innovation at Eanes Independent School District in Austin. Hooker describes how changing the layout of the classroom and creating a flexible learning environment pairs with the growing use of mobile devices.
Hooker acknowledges that redesigning classroom space can be expensive but says there are lots of ways to do it on the cheap. The key is to remember that students learn better when they move around or stand up and are actively engaged.
With the diversity of devices students are using in schools, it’s time to rethink classroom design. A redesign can improve access to outlets, increase opportunities for collaboration and make the learning environment more seamless.
For teachers concerned about how a classroom with an open design impacts classroom management, Hooker has a solution. It's a concept he calls the Mobile Learning Quadrant (MLQ).
“The MLQ is about the four areas to focus on when you have mobile devices in the classroom,” Hooker explains. Those areas are:
Content. The range of content can be consumptive (students looking at textbooks on their devices) to creative (students create content to share with others).
Space. When you have a static space, kids don’t move much in class. In a dynamic space, students are able to get up and work with others.
Time. This involves the flipped classroom model. Allowing students to access online content in the classroom or for homework frees up time for the teacher to work with students individually or in small groups.
Interaction. In one extreme, you have the teacher/lecturer model and at the other extreme you have student-to-student interaction, where the teacher acts more as a guide than a lecturer. The key is to recognize that there has to be a mix of interaction types for students to learn effectively.
Implementing the MLQ approach in classrooms can be accelerated with these tips:
Make it about the learning objective, rather than getting hung up on the type of mobile device or apps the students are using.
Relinquish a little control when allowing students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. This fits nicely with the Empowered Learner standard, which is part of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.
Be comfortable letting the students lead when it comes to introducing new apps and tools.
Change up space and place, using classroom space differently or having students work outside.
“When you had computers bolted into the wall, you didn’t have these options,” Hooker says. “Mobile devices let you go anywhere.”