by David A. Bateman, Jr.
Listen to the lecture at home, and do your homework in class. This scenario has become commonplace on today’s campus. Traditionally, students learn through lecture or direct instruction while in school. In a flipped class, students study the lecture at home, and class time is spent discussing, experimenting, and exploring those topics in greater depth. Since around 2000, the upside-down or flipped classroom model has seen more acceptance and adaptation and has gained more mainstream media attention.
Technological advancements in personal computing have pushed the envelope on not only what students learn, but how. The terms “active learning classroom” and “team-based learning” describe a pedagogy in which students are actively engaged in the learning process. Similar to the flipped model, these approaches involve students working together in class to advance what they learned at home. They are working in teams to solve a problem or developing a solution to an issue by collaborating with the teacher as well as their peers. With or without technology in the classroom, this model has shown to improve learning outcomes.
By adding technology to these models, so-called TEAL or SCALE-UP solutions have become prevalent in the classroom. TEAL, developed at MIT in 2004 as Technology Enabled Active Learning (or Technology Enhanced Active Learning), involves a new classroom setup by removing the front lectern, placing the instructor in the middle of the class, and locating a video projector, flat screen displays, and white boards around the room perimeter. Small groups of students work together on the curriculum, and technology provides immediate access to online resources. The instructor has flexibility to help focus individual groups while allowing other groups to work without interruption. The SCALE-UP model, known as Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies, is another name for the same classroom layout, with an included description on the teaching style.
Having defined these learning trends, what infrastructure is required to support these technology-rich classrooms?
These classroom layouts are similar. Typically, tables of six to eight students are spread around the room with a teacher station centrally located. Display devices are hung from the walls, usually one per table as space allows. With the cost of flat-panel displays continuing to drop, these seem to be more prevalent than video projectors and projection screens. However, in some cases where whiteboard space is required, projectors and screens are used instead of flat-screen displays. When wall space is insufficient to support as many flat screens as desired, some classrooms use two table or cart-mounted displays back to back, with groups of students seated on either side. Other considerations?
- Network bandwidth: Students need to be able to connect devices to the display to show work, as well as connect devices to the network to access content. A school’s wireless infrastructure should provide sufficient coverage and bandwidth to allow students to connect, browse, and stream from the internet without crashing.
- Device connection: Students may connect their devices via a wired or wireless connection. Wired connections pose more logistical challenges for room design, furniture layout, and newer devices lacking a video output port. Wireless solutions allow students to connect their device to the AV system and show content, regardless of device type. Some wireless receiver solutions also allow multiple students to connect simultaneously.
- Classroom design: Room finishes and background noise levels need to be carefully considered when designing classrooms for active learning. Absorptive finishes and specific wall construction between classrooms can help with sound levels and transfers, and HVAC noise should be considered as well.
What happened to the dog eating your homework? With the flipped classroom model, homework is done in class as a group. By having advanced technology collaboration tools in class, the ability to instantly research and share ideas removes the possibility of the dog eating your homework.
David A. Bateman Jr. is a principal at Acentech of Cambridge.
Note: This article originally appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of School Construction News.