Scaling Flipped Learning Part 4: Learning Spaces

--Originally published at flipclass – Flipped Learning Simplified

“We don’t just want to flip classes; we want to flip schools.” Ignacio Romero, MT Groupo, Spain

This sentiment expressed by Ignacio resounds with me. One of the greatest strengths of flipped learning has been its grassroots nature. It started with teachers trying to do what was best for their students and has grown into a worldwide movement. However, often individual teachers struggle to implement the model because their schools have not thought systemically about implementation. This series of blog posts addresses how schools and systems can scale flipped learning in order to have highly effective flipped learning environments. In Part 1, I discussed the technological needs, Part 2, the pedagogical shift, and in Part 3, the teacher evaluation changes required to scale flipped learning. This post will address how learning spaces change as a result of the flipped class and how schools can accommodate and prepare for the change. 

Prior to flipping my class, students faced the front of the room. The focus of the room was on the screen and a whiteboard. I used PowerPoint as a way to display slides and used the whiteboard to work out chemistry problems. I, the teacher, was the focus of the room. But when I flipped my class I got away from the front of the room. No longer was the purpose of the room content dissemination; instead, the purpose was active learning. I rarely turned my projector on because students were busy learning in the class.

As I realized that the focus of the room was no longer on teaching, but rather learning, I rethought many things. One of them was how to best utilize space to accommodate teaching with the flipped classroom in mind.

Rearrange Your Furniture First, I simply rearranged the furniture. Instead of the tables in nice neat rows, I arranged the furniture in a way that fostered student collaboration, movement, problem solving, and exploration. Rearranging the furniture may seem like a small thing, but it led to powerful learning outcomes for my students.

Interactive Whiteboards After about a year of flipping my class, I received a grant for a SmartBoard. I was excited to get it not because I wanted a better presentation station, but rather because I wanted a place for students to interact with digital content. I had it mounted on the side of the room, and it quickly became “the” place for students to work. They loved being able to discuss science and interact with online simulations together on the big board.

Analog Whiteboards One observation I have had as I have visited flipped classrooms across the world, is that there is never too much whiteboard space. Students love to interact with markers and whiteboards. Since a flipped class is by definition an active place, then have as many whiteboards as possible. You may even want to invest in whiteboard paint and make entire walls into marker space. See the video below of Kirk Humphrie’s class, a middle school math teacher in Deerfield, Illinois which I visited this past spring. I love all of the whiteboard spaces in his room.

Purchase Collaborative Furniture As your flipped classrooms expand to more and more teachers, it is likely time to rethink standard school furniture. The purpose of the furniture in a typical school is for students to sit and take notes. It is not often designed for collaboration and exploration. Most educational furniture manufacturers now offer furniture which allows for greater interaction and collaboration. These are a worthwhile investment. However, let me tell one story of caution. A few years ago I visited a major university which had bought the latest in collaborative furniture for their classes. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this upgrade. However, as I visited the classrooms, virtually every professor had put the furniture in nice neat rows so that they could teach in the traditional manner. What the school had not done was help their professors make the mindset shift to active learning. This is really the most important step in scaling flipped learning which I will address at the end of this series. Buying furniture will not help unless the mindset change has happened first.

Provide Quiet Spaces in a Noisy Room Flipped classes are busy places, and the volume of the room is typically higher than a standard classroom. For some students, this can be over stimulating. Many introverted students and students with ADHD might need to have quiet places to ponder, think, and process. Ideally, a room could have a glassed-in quiet space for students to work. However, this is usually very cost prohibitive.  A less expensive alternative, is to purchase noise-canceling headphones to give students a quiet space in noisy classrooms.

You Chime In If you are a teacher who has flipped your class, how has your room design changed as a result of flipped learning? If you sit in an administrative role, how are you incorporating learning spaces into your school to get more teachers involved in active learning? Post below.  

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