Oct 18, 2017

Future Classroom: Simple, Flexible...and Affordable

By Dan Case, 
Associate Director of Academic Technology at Carroll College

What We Know...

Classroom design influences levels of interaction, enthusiasm, and engagement. These aspects and active learning improve retention for all students, no matter what level of education they are pursuing.

A study from the National Training Laboratories in 2000 found that only about 5 percent of the information delivered through a lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 50 percent for a discussion group and 70 percent for practice by doing. Even higher, at 80 percent, was retention of students teaching others. In the modern classroom, technology is ubiquitous, changing the learning landscape and demanding a learning style that is active and learner-centered. For the past five years, Carroll College in Helena, MT, has been modifying and perfecting a high tech flexible classroom that can be used in multiple ways with lots of technology possibilities for very low cost.

In recent years, educators are noticing a shift in teaching and its link to educational environments: active learning classrooms and the resources they require. Teachers are beginning to focus less on what they do and more on what the student does. They are keenly aware of what motivates students and how much time and energy each student gives to the learning process. Student involvement has become the main area of concern for teachers which is supported by teaching resources and techniques.

This is where classroom design can help to develop skills for future life and work, and where self-directed learning and collaborative problem solving are essential skills for success. Communication skills, diversity, critical thinking and problem solving, interpersonal skills, learning to learn, and personal responsibility are the focus of many educational institutions preparing students for the future.

After field testing and modifying the classroom design and function for 5 years, the team at Carroll College has expanded the concept that showcases collaboration options, flexible seating and configuration, wireless connectivity and multiple display devices that don’t get in the way of learning. Criteria were developed to encapsulate the following mantra for classroom design:

It has to be simple...flexible...and cost-effective. 
It's meant to be a collaborative, project-based environment.
There is no teacher station. It's simple, moveable, and even works well without technology.

Lessons Learned
1. Students love to have horizontal and vertical work spaces. Whiteboard paint has been a huge hit. We also realized that the cloud is the way things are going to go, and this type of environment lends itself to collaboration in the cloud.

2. Wireless Connectivity is key to the success of the room. Because all of the projectors have been placed on the network, students and teachers can easily mirror any PC, Mac or Chromebook to any (and up to 4) projectors at once. This free software has eliminated the need for elaborate, expensive switching devices, multiple dongles and adapters and the distraction of cords everywhere. 

3. Design can increase levels of student and faculty interaction through formal and informal means. When teachers can move around the room freely and easily connect with the students then the level of interaction improves significantly. Students who have a high level of interaction with their teachers are more likely to express satisfaction overall with their educational experience, resulting in better the outcomes. Also, comfortable classrooms—physically and psychologically— promote a sense of well-being, keep minds focused, and limit distractions.

About The Center for Innovation in Technology (CITE)
CITE stands for "The Center for Innovation in Technology," a collaborative workspace housed in Carroll College's Corette Library. The CITE is dedicated to exploring new ways to use technology to improve the delivery of education for 21st century students.  The CITE is also a place where students and professors can learn new techniques and new technologies to incorporate into their academic pursuits.  Staffed with two full-time academic technology specialists, Carroll College students and professors are able to take advantage of experienced mentors when undertaking a project that requires an unfamiliar technology.  Staff will assist students and faculty in producing high-quality digital projects without losing focus on the discipline-specific learning those projects are meant to support.

About Dan Case

Associate Director of Academic Technology at Carroll and the mind behind the Sandbox classroom.  A Carroll graduate, Dan has a variety of experience in academics and technology. He is a certified Extron A/V Specialist, a regular presenter on "getting out from behind the desk" at national conferences, and an all-around nice guy. Being able to design classrooms with both an AV/IT background and 20 years of teaching experience gives him a unique perspective on design and practicality. With a background in Political Science, skiing, burrito rolling and graphic design, Dan jumped into the web world and IT in the mid 90’s and hasn’t looked back. He has been teaching in Higher Ed for the past 22 years and now look at classroom design from a holistic view of pedagogy, technology and physical environment.

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