Student Learning Environments
Throughout the school year, students often occupy a variety of physical spaces, and engage in learning activities in vastly different environments from one class to the next. In my classes, specifically, students participate in activities in three main areas: the Art Studio, Art Patio, and Digital Classroom. Each space has its own unique atmosphere, with benefits and hindrances to learning.
The Art Studio
Students of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade studio art courses, autistic support art class, and gifted-enrichment courses most often find themselves in this physical space, throughout the semester. The art studio room houses various materials/tools for art production and project-based learning, along with a variety of work spaces. The room represents a fairly typical "classroom," in a way that might make Bob Pearlman rip out--what's left of his--hair! Nevertheless, the space is utilized in a way that provides students with an opportunity to engage in modern learning tasks, differentiated modes of learning, and digital technology. While Student Work Tables are fairly inflexible, student seating is very flexible so that learners can easily move throughout the room. Students can choose to sit, stand, move to other work areas away from the standard Student Work Tables (i.e. Standing Work Table, General Work Table, Light Table, Student Computers), work in "project teams," or individually (Pearlman, 130).
As a physical space, the Art Studio acts as a fairly successful 21st century learning environment, in that its flexible seating and multiple work spaces allow for various learning styles and activities. A wall-mounted, digital projector displays work from the document camera, or any digital source within minutes, should a lesson require it. It is visible from most every area in the room. With student computers and a color printer in the space, students can move quickly between researching a modern artist online, to sculpting at a Student Work Table.
The Art Patio
Students can use the door off of the Art Studio room to step outside and onto the Art Patio. This special space provides more than just natural light. Students can work together at the picnic tables, benches, or along the wall at the edge of the patio. School WiFi reaches into the space, allowing for students from my gifted-enrichment courses to research current event articles in open air. Studio art classes can draw and paint in this space, for a new atmosphere, outside of the classroom walls.
While this particular space allows for some creative learning opportunities and engagement with the natural world, it has a its drawbacks. The patio is only a usable space for a short duration of the school year, as it becomes either too warm, or too cold. We have also had some uninvited visitors, of the stinging variety. Beyond the wasps and the weather, the space can also pose a distraction for some students, who benefit from the structure and stability of a table, with their own personal seat with four legs. Nevertheless, this space, in use with the Art Studio, provides learning opportunities and modes of working that can be likened to those of New Learning Environments in the U.S. and U.K. Innovative Schools (Pearlman, 145).
The Digital Classroom
Students do not solely occupy the physical spaces described above. Families and students work at home, and online, to stay involved in classwork. Each student in the district has an Office 365 account, and access to Infinite Campus. Students and their families use these programs to digitally access information
and work, both in and out of school. Students can also use their 365 accounts to collaborate with their teachers and peers, while Infinite Campus can be used to access assignment feedback and grades. These digital environments more easily allow students to view learning as a process, taking place outside of the four walls of a classroom. These platforms promote interdisciplinary learning, collaboration, and student-directed learning, in a way that demonstrates 21st Century Learning.
(Microsoft in Education, Saving Teachers Time with Office 365)
Bob Pearlman, 21st Century Learning Skills
Microsoft in Education, Saving Teachers Time with Office 365,
All photographs by Alison Bongiorno