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A classroom is a learning space in which both children and adults learn. Classrooms are found in educational institutions of all kinds, ranging from preschools to universities, and may also be found in other places where education or training is provided, such as corporations and religious and humanitarian organizations. The classroom provides a space where learning can take place uninterrupted by outside distractions.
Types of classroom
In elementary schools (from Kindergarten through the 5th grade), classrooms can have a whole group of 18 to 30 students and one, two, or even three teachers. When there are two teachers in a classroom, one is the lead teacher and the other one is the associate. Or the second teacher might be a special education teacher. There may be a third teacher in the back watching and taking notes. In lower elementary the classrooms are set up slightly different than upper elementary. In these classrooms there are tables instead of desks, a rug with a (smart board) for whole group learning, a library, computers, and centers. The rug is the vocal point of the classroom and everything else is strategically placed around it. The teacher must be able to move swiftly through the classroom. To determine if the classroom is meeting the highest level of quality there is a grading scale called ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale). There are 43 items on this checklist and it is divided into 7 categories and they are as follows: Space and Furnishings, Personal Care Routines, Language-Reasoning, Activities, Interactions, Program Structure, and Parents and Staff. In an upper elementary classroom students now use desks, there is no rug for whole group learning but there is a smart board and computers. Students also start practicing switching classes to get accustomed to middle and high, usually in fifth grade school transitions.
In a self-contained classrooms there are 7 or less students. Self-contained classrooms are designed for children that need more one-on-one time. Teachers get to solely focus on their small group of students and create individualized lessons for each child. An integrated or inclusion classroom can be thought of as a mix between a traditional classroom and a self-contained classroom. In this style of classroom, there is a mix of general students and students that need services. There are two teachers in this style of classroom, a general education teacher and special education teacher. They both teach and serve the students in the classroom, but during certain parts of the day the special education teacher may pull the students that have services to give them additional support. This allows students with accommodations or an Individual Education Program (IEP), to still get to be in a general classroom but also get the individualized instruction they need.
Middle school and high school classrooms are set up quite similar. There is one teacher and students transition from one classroom to the next. They do not stay in one classroom all day. These classrooms can have around 20 students. Students may not exactly have the same group of students in each class depending on the students schedule.
Then college classrooms are set up in a lecture hall or auditorium with one teacher, also called a professor. Typically this teacher has a Teacher Assistant (TA), which is a grad student. This person may help administer or grade tests. They can also hold review sessions for college students to come to once or twice a week.
Some other types of classrooms that a middle/high school or college might have are: computer labs for IT lessons, gymnasiums for sports, and science laboratories for biology, chemistry and physics.
Decor and design
The layout, design and decor of the classroom has a significant effect upon the quality of the educational experience. Attention to the acoustics and colour scheme may reduce distractions and aid concentration. The lighting and furniture likewise influence factors such as student attention span.
Historically, relatively few pupil-centric design principles were used in the construction of classrooms. In 19th century Britain, one of the few common considerations was to try and orient new buildings so the class windows faced north as much as possible, while avoiding west or southern facing windows, as in Britain northern light causes less glare. Desks were often arranged in columns and rows, with a teacher's desk at the front, where he or she would stand and lecture the class. Little color was used for fear of distracting the children. In the 1950s and 60s cheap and harsh fluorescent lights were sometimes used, which could cause eyestrain. Research has suggested that optimal use of daylight, acoustics, color selection and even the arrangement of the furniture in the classroom can affect pupils academic success.Georgetown University found that test scores increased by 11% through the improvement of a classroom's physical environment.
In the design of a classroom, desk arrangements are essential to the decor and design of the classroom followed by seating arrangements for the students. Usually classroom desks are arranged in rows or columns, but there are many more ways to arrange the desks, for example making a circle with the desks so that it's more of a group discussion or having the desks in a 'U' shape for group discussions and easy access for the teacher. Another common principle is arrangement in 'clusters' or small groups, which usually improves interaction and participation in (small) group-processes. Color is also a big asset to the classroom by relating the colors to the subjects learned in the classroom to help the students learn. Also color helps the atmosphere be fun and exciting and help visual stimulation for the students.
The acoustics of the classroom are very often overlooked, but are an important part of the success of a child. Choosing only materials that cause sound to reverberate, such as tile floors and hard wall surfaces, greatly increases noise levels and can prove detrimental to learning. One study of hyperactive versus control groups of children found that white noise has no impact on either group, but that auditory stimulation such as distant conversations or music has a negative effect on both groups of students. Children with attention deficit disorder scored higher on tests when white noise was being pumped into the classroom than when music was played. The control group of children as well as the hyperactive group of children averaged the same test scores when there was no sound as when white noise was being played.
By utilizing soft surfaces, especially on the floor, the sounds within and outside of the classroom will be diminished, taking away from the distractions facing students and improving not just the test scores of hyperactive children, but those without attention deficit disorder as well. Although carpet is an obvious choice for sound absorption, it may not be suitable for high traffic areas like hallways. In such cases, other sound absorbing materials, such as cork, can be used. The use of sound absorbing ceiling tiles may also be a wise choice for areas where carpet cannot be used for practical purposes.
Technology In The Classroom
Color theory refers to the effects color has on the human body. Red is said to increase both aggression and appetite, a poor combination for a school's interior. Yellow increases adrenaline levels and is also undesirable for a school setting. Blue, green, and brown create a relaxing and calming environment, which is a positive for the classroom. However, blue also is associated with cold and sadness and elongates the sense of time, which would make a blue classroom tortuous for students (Vodvarka, 1999). Warm colors are often favored by students, making them more alert and increasing brain activity, which helps in increasing test scores. Cool colors had the opposite effect. By balancing warm and cool colors, bright and subdued, a pleasing effect can be achieved that will reduce absenteeism in schools and keep the students focused on what the teacher is saying. Test scores go up when children are not in a stark white environment, which can feel sterile and cold.
Classroom arrangement or the arrangement of furniture is an important aspect because students spend most of their time seated in the classroom. The furniture should be able to move and easy to arrange to allow students to sit in places that are best suited for their learning styles so they can focus on work
Traditionally, classrooms have had one setup: straight rows of desks facing the front of the classroom. The row style allows teachers ample amount of space to walk around. This makes it easier for teachers to supervise the students work and catch any students that may be misbehaving, insuring that students stay focused. Studies have found that the row style also fosters less off topic talking causing the atmosphere to be more conducive to learning. While the row style sounds ideal from a teacher's standpoint it can be damaging to the student's well-being. The row style of desk arrangement has been found to cause the students to withdraw.
An alternative to the traditional row style desk pavement is to arrange the desks in groups. Phil Beadle, a UK Secondary Teacher of the Year, believes that it is best to arrange the desks in groups of six desks if at all possible. This allows for the most use out of the desk arrangement as you have the ability to utilize groups of two, three, or six students without moving a single chair. Beadle isn't the only teacher to swear by group desk arrangement; studies have shown that the group desk placement setup produces a greater number of on task actions than any other form of desk placement. The group setup does have one potentially serious negative side effect. Students sitting in group desk placements are more likely to misbehave when the teacher isn't looking, like using iPads that are provided by the school, such as in the Cupertino Union School District. To avoid this the groups of desks should be arranged around the outside of the room giving the teacher plenty of room to walk around and supervise as well as providing room for kinesthetic activities that can be beneficial to the students learning.
The final popular desk arrangement is the circle/semicircle placement. This particular desk setup is growing in popularity due to the numerous positive outcomes it provides. The circle desk arrangement facilitates the flow of ideas by fostering positive group dynamics. When sitting in a circle it is easier for students to not only see who is talking, but to make eye contact with the speaker. Students sitting in a circle arrangement tend to feel more comfortable speaking up and asking questions. This style of desk placement also makes it easier for teachers to control the class, preventing misbehaving and off task comments as it allows them to easily see all the students, and allows all the students to see the teacher. Besides, the type of furniture may play an important role in the learning space. There is a relationship between the ergonomic characteristics of the educational furniture and the number of cognitive errors, as the more ergonomics characteristics of the furniture, the less error. There is also an error percentage reduction using separated chair and desk.
Challenges to the classroom
Online learning technologies make it possible for learning to take place at any time, at any place, and at any pace that the learner desires. This is particularly important for adult students who may need to schedule their learning around work and parenting responsibilities. According to the American Society for Training and Development, as of 2014, approximately 25% of employee training hours take place online rather than in a classroom. However, critics argue that even the classroom space is full of distractions in the 21st century since even though access to the online world may be restricted by some institutions, students may find distractions in their physical vicinity and so tend to multitask and divide their attention without focusing on any one task at a time.
The traditional classroom has also been attacked by advocates of various forms of alternative education. Italian educator Maria Montessori wrote that 'Stationary desks and chairs [are] proof that the principle of slavery still informs the school'.
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Technology has always been at the forefront of human education. From the days of carving figures on rock walls to today, when most students are equipped with several portable technological devices at any given time, technology continues to push educational capabilities to new levels. In looking at where educational methods and tools have come from to where they are going in the future, technology’s importance in the classroom is evident now more than ever.
A History of Classroom Technology: The Primitive Classroom
In the Colonial years, wooden paddles with printed lessons, called Horn-Books, were used to assist students in learning verses. Over 200 years later, in 1870, technology advanced to include the Magic Lantern, a primitive version of a slide projector that projected images printed on glass plates. By the time World War I ended, around 8,000 lantern slides were circulating through the Chicago public school system. By the time the Chalkboard came around in 1890, followed by the pencil in 1900, it was clear that students were hungry for more advanced educational tools.
- Radio in the 1920s sparked an entirely new wave of learning; on-air classes began popping up for any student within listening range.
- Next came the overhead projector in 1930, followed by the ballpoint pen in 1940 and headphones in 1950.
- Videotapes arrived on the scene in 1951, creating a new and exciting method of instruction.
- The Skinner Teaching Machine produced a combined system of teaching and testing, providing reinforcement for correct answers so that the student can move on to the next lesson.
- The photocopier (1959) and handheld calculator (1972) entered the classrooms next, allowing for mass production of material on the fly and quick mathematical calculations.
- The Scantron system of testing, introduced by Michael Sokolski n 1972, allowed educators to grade tests more quickly and efficiently.
The pre-computer years were formative in the choices made for computers in the years following. Immediate response-type systems (video, calculator, Scantron) had become necessary, and quick production of teaching materials, using the photocopier, had become a standard. The U.S. Department of Education reports that high school enrollment was only 10% in 1900, but by 1992 had expanded to 95%. The number of students in college in 1930 was around 1 million, but by 2012 had grown to a record 21.6 million. Teachers needed new methods of instruction and testing, and students were looking for new ways to communicate, study, and learn.
The Entrance and Significance of Personal Computers
Although the first computers were developed in the ‘30s, everyday-use computers were introduced in the ‘80s. The first portable computer, in 1981, weighed 24 pounds and cost $1,795. When IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981, the educational world knew that it was on the verge of greatness. Time magazine named The Computer its “Man of the Year” in 1982, and aptly so: the foundation of immediate learning capabilities had been laid. Time declared, “it is the end result of a technological revolution that has been in the making for four decades and is now, quite literally, hitting home.”
- Toshiba released its first mass-market consumer laptop in 1985 (the T1100), and Apple’s infamous Mac (which later evolved into the Powerbook) was available starting in 1984.
- In 1990, The World Wide Web was given life when a British researcher developed Hyper Text Markup Language, or HTML, and when the National Science Foundation (NSF) removed restrictions on the commercial use of the Internet in 1993, the world exploded into a frenzy of newfound research and communication methods.
- The first Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) were released by Apple Computer Inc. in 1993, and with that, computers were a part of every day, if not every moment. By 2009, 97% of classrooms had one or more computers, and 93% of classroom computers had Internet access. For every 5 students, there was one computer. Instructors stated that 40% of students used computers often in their educational methods, in addition to interactive whiteboards and digital cameras. College students nowadays are rarely without some form of computer technology: 83% own a laptop, and over 50% have a Smartphone.
The Classroom Game
The Future of Technology in the Classroom
It seems like years since MySpace, first introduced in 2003, Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2007) have changed both the communication and business worlds. Instant connectivity has branched out from merely a tool of personal communication, to a platform for educational instruction and outreach. Social media is now being recognized as an accepted form of instruction in some instances, and groups such as Scholastic Teachers provide excellent support and tips for instructors. Many instructors use social media to communicate directly with their students, or to form forum-style groups for students to communicate with each other, and the method seems to be proving valuable in providing one-on-one attention to student’s questions and concerns.
With the classroom having already evolved into a hotbed of technological advances, what can the future possibly hold that could further educational proficiencies even more?
- Biometrics, a technology that recognizes people based on certain physical or behavioral traits, is on the technological horizon. The science will be used to recognize the physical and emotional disposition of students in the classroom, altering course material to tailor to each individual’s needs based on biometric signals.
- A second up-and-coming technology is Augmented Reality (AR) glasses, rumored to be on Google’s release list, and this technology could be a whole new world for education. AR Glasses (or even contact lenses) will layer data on top of what we naturally see, to allow for a real-world learning experience. For example, a student wearing AR Glasses could potentially sit at his desk and have a conversation with Thomas Edison about invention. It was Edison, after all, who said that “Books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.”
- Multi-touch surfaces are commonly used through equipment such as the iPhone, but the technology could become more relevant to education through entirely multi-touch surfaces, such as desks or workstations. This could allow students to collaborate with other students, even those around the world, and videos and other virtual tools could be streamed directly to the surface.
Educators and the Evolution of Technology in the Classroom
With the evolution of technology, educational capabilities are growing and changing every day. The Internet is a vast electronic library of information, and both research and instruction can be achieved through a click of the mouse. With these advances come new responsibilities to the instructor and therefore increase the value of a Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology. As technology advances, an educator’s abilities will grow by leaps and bounds, and without the knowledge of these changes and capabilities, an instructor has a good chance of being left behind.
A career in education requires hard work and dedication, but, for the diligent educator, can prove very rewarding. For those who are serious about success in the education field, staying well-informed of current and changing technologies is imperative. As the world of technology evolves, the learning environment, both on-campus and online, will equally progress, and the need for teachers who are educated in technology and design will continue to grow.
The Classroom Flash
Learn more about the online MSEd in Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University today and help redefine the way in which individuals learn. Call (877) 497-5851 to speak with an admissions advisor or click here to request more information.