Day 13: A Day Off & A Step Back

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“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, though MLK Day and time off for many districts, was a day off for me due to Mr. Angell being home with a sick child. Nonetheless, what a wonderful coincidence as I had time to watch the Presidential Inauguration, read an article, and reflect and consider Martin Luther King Jr.’s words on education…plenty to digest and blog on despite not physically being in the classroom.

About a year ago, at this time, the Washington Post published a wonderful compilation of words reflecting Martin Luther King Jr.’s views on education in America. It is not my intent to get “overly political” today, and my focus is not on MLK entirely, but I would regret not mentioning this brilliant man and the role he played in the development of our nation. I would encourage you to take a moment to read the link below for some wonderful insight from a brilliant man.

Article: MLK On Education20130121-182841.jpgThe idea I feel MLK was trying to portray through his views, especially the quote at the beginning of this post, was one that I have found myself pondering often as well (and have even blogged about in the past): Education goes beyond just building intelligence. Educators must strive to create better people.

To do this, though, we must better and more effectively reach each and every student…which is easier said than done. Technology certainly plays a role in this, as I’ve noted before, but the following article gave an interesting and new perspective today that I (and I’m sure many educators) often dismiss: Classroom Arrangement.

Article: Study Shows How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning

Today may have been just what I needed to pull my nose off of the iPad, take a step back, and look at what else has made WSR successful in the way they reach their students…beginning with things as simple as the way they arrange their classrooms.

The new WSR middle school classrooms, with integrated technology, look dramatically different from the thousands of more-traditional classrooms across Iowa, and the country, with interactive whiteboards/projectors,”whiteboard/moveable desks,” shared resource spaces, moveable seating, and varied desk choices for students. Most all of this I have mentioned previously, and coupling this TO technology integration, likely has some positive impact on teachers and students alike, beyond morale. The article above suggests that learning space can impact/affect learning by as much as 25%! So, looking at how our classrooms work, what’s the point? Some teachers and districts have the opportunities to renovate or build new learning space, much like W-SR has so effectively done, while many more do not — studies like this one suggest it DOES matter, though. So, even if you work in an older building, perhaps consider paying attention to things like bulletin boards, lighting, desks-to-window locations, etc. I remember being a student and loving to return after break, only to find desks moved, new posters up, etc. Some of my best teachers over the years “mixed it up” in their classrooms, and as a result, I not only learned more, but grew to love them. Whether they knew it or not, I can now see some of what made their classroom so special.20130121-184841.jpg

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20130121-184857.jpgThere is, undoubtedly, a need for this “step back” every now and again in this 21st Century learning environment. Just like many parents have told their kids countless times to “get outside” or “turn off the screen,” we as educators need to occasionally change our focus as well! Technology is, without a doubt, the future of our classrooms, but there is a balance that needs to be found. Though not specifically associated with classroom arrangement, this video a friend tweeted me today does a nice job analyzing this necessity for balance in our schools.

Video: Fast Times at Woodside High

So, while many of you may have enjoyed today off, had workshops to allow students a day off, or maybe still taught normal classes like W-SR did, hopefully you are able to take a step back like I was today and look at your classroom from an outside perspective. What are you doing to find that balance?

The biggest downfall we can make in the 21st Century classroom is to sacrifice the balance found in quality education in exchange for technology-founded efficiency. I leave you today with Martin Luther King’s comment saying the same…

“But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.”

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