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Feel, Function & Form
It's a Grind Design
In the Summer of 2009, our learning space design team set out to conceptualize a dream layout for Juliana Liebke's classroom at Pacific Beach Middle School in the San Diego Unified School District. This document details our efforts to come up with a design concept for her classroom based upon the needs assessment that was conducted and describes the various features of her classroom such as lighting, audio, computing needs, ergonomics, etc. that were all chosen based upon research and literary reviews that were completed for this task.
Pacific Beach Middle School (PBMS), built in 1936, will be one of the first middle schools to receive
funding, which will be used to make needed repairs and renovations to every school in the San Diego Unified School District. Recently, PBMS had the first of three meetings to come up with a site plan. Plans will be completed by January 2011 and construction is slated for January 2013. While PBMS is a long way off from construction, the site has only a year and a half to get all plans organized. For this project, we will design a standard 21st century classroom for Juliana Liebke's 7th grade social science class, room 210 at PBMS. The intention is to get the design funded and piloted before January 2011, so that when plans are made for the entire school, PBMS will have been able to test pilot and analyze the needs of its student population prior to spending Prop S funds.
The improvements that will be allotted to PBMS for the support of student learning and instruction include:
Provide 21st century technology upgrades, including audiovisual projection capabilities for all students
Enhance fiber optics in classrooms to increase bandwidth, which facilitates multiple concurrent applications
Install a wireless network (WIFI)
Reconfigure/renovate existing underutilized space to provide current programs and meet curriculum needs
Room 210 currently looks like this:
Juliana Liebke recently received the use of a laptop cart of computers for her social science classroom. As a graduate student of Educational Technology, Juliana hopes to integrate technology much more in her classroom than she’s been accustomed to. In addition, since Pacific Beach Middle School will be remodeling classrooms in 2013, the designers of the standard classroom in Learning Space Design have decided to design a model for Juliana’s future classroom.
Our team discussed how we would divide and conquer the room design. Juliana was asked about the needs for converting her 1936 classroom design into a 21st century model. To begin with, seating and overall layout was addressed. “The Design of Learning Environments” (
Bransford et. al.
) states that 21st century learning environments need include:
• Learner-centered environments
• Knowledge-centered environments
• Assessment-centered environments
• Community-centered environments
• Educational programs
Aside from learning environments, technology integration, and class sizes of 38 had to be considered within the space of the classroom as is. Because of these considerations, it was determined that collaborative groups of six would be maintained. Collaborative groups of four would work well for learning, but the consideration of ergonomics with large class sizes and limited space makes groups of six a more desirable set-up.
When asked about furniture needs, at present Juliana has desks set up that seat two students. The desks are arranged in threes (two face each other and one flanks the two as pictured here:
Juliana hopes to maintain this set-up, but the upcoming year is bringing a new approach to learning that isn’t possible with the current furniture style. Juliana will be granted laptop computers for the whole class, however, class periods will be shortened to 60 minutes. This means that in a six hour time period, upwards of 130 students will be using the same 30 laptops. The needs of the furniture include power sources at the student tables, efficient methods for getting laptops out, used, put away, and secured, and providing external microphones for students to participate in conferencing long distance as a whole class. Ergonomic principles require seating to be comfortable and flexible for student positions (
After attending a class session with guest speaker Jami Moyer from
, the inspirations for a few more items struck the group designing the standard classroom.
1. Placing the podium in the center of the room, surrounded by student work tables
2. Including a screen in more than one area, i.e. so students who find it difficult to face the front of the room, can view a screen from another angle
3. The idea that there can be multiple interactive whiteboards
4. Students can have the use of an interactive whiteboard at their table that can be displayed on the wall for reference
Lighting, visual, audio specialists then discovered these needs for the class once the group got the room’s main layout planned. After hearing from a guest speaker who remodeled an auditorium into a lecture hall at SDSU, insight as to the needs of a podium emerged. The podium needs to enable a Juliana to use a laptop, digital presenter, a remote smart board, as well as adjust audio and lighting. The windows in the room need to be changed to provide two things for this 21st century classroom:
more wall space, less window space
allowance of natural light without taking away from the quality of projection onto a screen and/or interactive white board
Some additional requests of Juliana include:
Wall space for a timeline
Wall space for 2 different sets of maps
Wall space for bulletin boards to display student work
A larger, movie-size screen
Microphones for students and teacher
Ability to conceal all electrical equipment
The design concept below includes a description of recommendations for the most fantastic, 21st century middle school social science classroom our group could dream up.
Ergonomics and Layout
Ergonomics involves the safety and comfort of a design. Classroom ergonomics become extremely important for the obvious need to keep students safe physically, but also so that students feel as comfortable as possible in order to maximize learning. Comfort also goes beyond being physically comfortable, but also being wiling to take risks among peers.
We followed ergonomic design guidelines for computer software/hardware, furniture, lighting, sound, and vision which you will see below. Our desks and chairs played a huge role in student comfort giving them the ability to sit in a variety of positions and adjust the desks for the various tasks required of a student. In future, we need to also learn more about room temperature and address that for our students.
Our basic design includes:
Podium centrally located
Students seated in groups of six and circled around the teacher podium to enable interaction, yet maintain student focus on the south wall as the primary display for learning
A Promethian board on the south wall and a large screen on the west wall so that students can see from 2 angles
Whiteboards on each side of the Promethian board in order to enhance learning with option to post individual student whiteboards
Maps on each side of the screen on the west wall so social science students can think/visualize geographically
Reduction of window to allow both for natural light and provide additional wall space for a time line to assist students with time and space
Addition of bulletin boards on the east wall and south wall cabinets to enable student work and announcements to be displayed
Details of each section of the room are provided below.
Guardian wall-mounted station
Wall-mounted computer station
As technologies are being upgraded in the classroom, the visuals definitely require a facelift. The Promethean boards (see below) will enhance the projection of visuals, as well as give an element of interactivity to theclassroom environment. This may boo st engagement and learning during lessons or lectures. To also maximize space and visual aesthetics, wall-mounted computers would be a great way for students and Ms. Liebke to have easy access to the internet or any other computer functions. Because the size is adjustable to the height of the user, this setup is ideal for set-ups used for multiple people. Another option is guardian wall-mounted laptop stations, which protects the computer from theft, vandalism, or another incidental damage. Each guardian computer station can be secured with a turn-key lock, and has a fold-out keyboard. Cable management solutions are provided with a variety of mounting hardware to easily secure each unit to virtually any flat surface. A large computer monitor could be a dedicated space for sharing student work without occupying miles of wall space. The instructor could take digital photographs of projects, then display them as a slideshow on the monitor. The slideshow could also be used for images of the historical era currently being studied in class. Other essential to amp up the visuals in this standard classroom environment are a quality document camera / projector, a Promethean board, and wireless tablets for student use (see below).
In order for Ms. Liebke's classroom to maintain a flexible and fluid setting, furniture plays a key role in this. The students are expected to perform with focus and enthusiasm in the classroom, however we want them to be comfortable and provided with a learning space that encourages a 21st century learning style. Tackling this portion of the classroom design required Ms. Liebke to voice what her , "must haves," were. They are as follows.
Tables / Laptop Security Desk 72'
She was clear that when furniture was being considered, tables that enhanced her community style seating was the direction she wanted to go. However with the goal of a 21st century classroom, we had to reconsider our options. In researching tables, we were able to locate the ideal table that provided both power, functional spacing for laptops and security so that the instructor does not have to remove the classroom laptops daily and lock them up in a cart. Versa Tables carries a modern table that does all this. It is big enough for learning space but functional enough to create the classroom setting Ms. Liebke wants. At first it was considered keeping the community style learning within groups of six. However, after evaluating the table's features and functions, it would be best to keep the groups at four members. Therefore, the tables would be set-up in a manner where the members are able to face each other and still have a good view of the instructor. In total 19 Versa Tables would need to be purchased in order to accommodate her learners.
Chairs / Intellect 4 Wave Chair with casters
Seating is a key component when considering a learning space. If a learner is uncomfortable this can be highly distracting. When considering new design principles for Ms. Liebke's classroom, chairs that were sleek, comfortable, modern and portable needed to be found. Believe it or not chairs can contribute to student's success. If a learning space is appealing, such as comfortable chairs, student learning can be fostered in a way that they are stimulated and focused on learning content. The Intellect 4 Wave Chair with casters has a clean modern look. It also has the functionality and proper curves to support ergonomics in the classroom. The poly constructions allows for easy cleaning after numerous uses by several middle school students. The lightweight design would allow students mobility while participating in collaborative learning without the fuss of rearranging seating space. They also offer durability that would allow for long-term use which is beneficial to a school's budget. In total Ms. Liebke would need 38 chairs to seat her students.
Podium / Teaching Multimedia Teaching Desk
Video Furniture International
A centrally located podium would be the hub of instruction. Ms. Liebke could manage her instruction from her podium while at the same time create a sense of accessibility to her students. Finding th
e right podium for this job required some research. It was expressed that the learner's view should not be obstructed and that the podium remain mobile to provide the instructor flexibility to teach from the center, front or back of the room. Keep in mind, a Promethean ActivBoard will also be another location where instruction will be lead. Therefore a podium that was not bulky and hard to maneuver around needed to be considered. The podium also needed to allow ample space for her multimedia teaching tools. These need to be handy and securely available at all times. The VFI Multimedia Teaching Desk provides all of this. It's mobility on heavy duty locking casters are perfect for stationary instruction as well as flexibility to change positions within the classroom.
With this multimedia desk, Ms. Liebke will also have the capability to accommodate all her multimedia tools. The flip up shelf serves as a space for her document camera, Promethean tools, and laptop. The height of the desk is works well because it will not obstruct student's views.
The Promethean ActivBoard 300 Pro, which is available in a 95" model will hang on the wall, flanked by traditional whiteboards. The Activboard Pro will provide an interactive visual element to classroom lessons, giving the teacher all of the features that interactive whiteboards can provide. With this board, the teacher can display and control her laptop, show videos, and create interactive resources to engage and motivate her classroom. As a social studies teacher, she will no doubt take advantage of the dowloadable map and geography resource packs to enhance her lessons. The
website contains a host of ready made resources and applications that allow teachers to bring their subjects to life immediately without having to spend a great deal of time creating content.
The dual user functionality allows two ActivPens to be used simultaneously, allowing students to come to the board and work at the same time. For users who cannot reach the
entire board due to their height or because they are seated in a wheelchair, the class will also have an ActivWand, which can operate the board just as the pens do, but provides a 21" extension of the user's reach.
Each of the six tables in the classroom will be equipped with an ActivSlate, a wireless interactive tablet with which students can collaborate in groups to create and share their work on the class's whiteboard. The teacher's podium will also be equipped with such a tablet, and she will be in control of which tablet is being displayed at any time. Further, because the tablet is battery powered and wireless, the teacher can move about the room and control the board and manage the lesson from any vantage point.
Each student desk will contain a laptop computer that is networked with the others in the classroom and be connected to the internet and to each other wirelessly. Students will be able to create and collaborate on their laptops and share their work with the class. The laptops will use Promethean's ActiVote VR learner response system to allow the teacher to poll the class and ask questions during lessons, increasing interactivity and student engagement. The teacher will also be provided with a laptop with which to manage the interactive whiteboard and control the learner response system.
The student laptops will be MacBooks, while the teacher's will be a MacBook pro. Choosing Macs gives our teacher the advantage of having a range of applications already available for students to use, including the iLife suite and others. The 13" MacBook will take up no more room on the students' desks than a textbook and provide enhanced learning for each child. With electronic textbooks and web resources becoming more widely available, this classroom will be ready for a future that doesn't require traditional textbooks.
The teacher's podium will also be equipped with a document camera for displaying any document, book, or even 3d object for student viewing. Promethean's document camera has a flexible gooseneck mount for easy adjustment and a variety of viewing angles. You could even point it at your class so that they can see themselves working.
Audio in the classroom will be set up for the purpose of amplifying teacher's voice and digital media files from computers, DVD players and audio mixers. Surround sound speakers mounted on the ceiling along with an LCD projector will allow wiring on the ceiling to be focused in one area. All audio will be controlled by a
mixer, which integrates all the necessary audio components into one compact board that stores inside cabinets in the front of the classroom.
The teachers voice will be amplified using a Promethean Sound wireless teacher microphone. This hands-free microphone
has volume control for the student microphones integrates with the Promethean Activeboard application to allow recording of classroom lectures and discussions. Student participation is also enhanced with 6 Promethean Sound hand-held microphones (one at each table group). All audio can be controlled with the SRP-X500P's remote control which is stored in the teacher's podium.
In order to meet and enhance much of the technology that will be used in the classroom, the classroom will come equipped with an integrated classroom lighting system. It will be controlled using a wall button panel or by using a control touch panel on the lecturn that has preset buttons which can be activated based upon the activity that is going on in the classroom. To reduce visual display terminal screen glare that can occur when computers are used in the classroom and to accommodate the Promethean Activboard that will be used in the classroom, two rows of direct/indirect linear fluorescent pendants will be installed that are placed parallel to the windows. These suspended fixtures will provide for an A/V mode in the classroom and minimize projection screen washout. The control touch panel will have dimmers that the teachers can operate if needed or the six preset buttons which can be used if the teacher is showing a movie, using the Promethean Board, having the students use the laptops, etc.
To adjust the amount of classroom light that is allowed into the classroom by the windows, certain types of glass will be used to affect the transmittance levels. A Viracon VE1-2m glass, which has a transmittance of 70%, will be used on the top windows along the wall to prevent most direct sunlight from entering the classroom. A sensor will be placed near the wall of windows to activate the row of luminaries closest to the windows if lighting levels flow below a certain level or to dim the lights if a certain daylight level is reached. The benefits of using an Integrated Classroom Lighting system are energy savings and teacher control of the lighting that is used in the classroom.
Click on the video below to see a three-dimensional model of the redesigned Social Science classroom.
This design floor plan represents a dream teacher's classroom, in particular Juliana's dream classroom. The reason why certain components and elements were chosen is because these are things Juliana wished to have in her classroom in order to present an engaging and stimulating learning environment. Each element of the design floorplan: furniture, audio/visual, computing technologies, and lighting was researched in the interest of meeting this teacher's needs. Research was done to find the best products and systems that would meet Juliana's requests. Hopefully, this floor plan will translate into real life once it is presented to members at Juliana's school site.
Ergonomics and layout
Students seated in groups of six
Incorporates 4 learning environments (
Bransford et. al.)
Ergonomics and layout
Podium centrally located
3 Promethian boards on the south wall
Facilitates group interaction and enables class participation for presentation. (Jami Moyer from
Ergonomics and layout
Chairs roll and are comfortable
Students should be able to sit in a variety of positions (
Integrated Classroom Lighting System
Lighting will reduce visual display terminal screen glare and promote easy use of technology in the classroom (
Promethean interactive whiteboards, learner response system, and tablets.
Promote flexibility in lesson design, and an interactive, learner centered environment.(
Bransford et. al.)
Macbooks for each student and teacher.
Gives this class a chance to go electronic. Textbooks and supplementary material can be accessed electronically, will be more up-to-date and relevant, and in a format that can be manipulated on the computers. Offers an opportunity to teach 21st century digital skills in the classroom.(
Ceiling mounted speakers and wireless teacher and student microphones
Readings pointed to the need for learning spaces to serve the community for various functions. The addition of audio can be used when hosting community events, such as small forums, conference meetings or parent nights. Also, amplification of teacher voice allows students to hear more of the lecture and focus more in class. In addition, speakers integrate with the use of multimedia tools such as video. Having the ceiling mount creates a neater space without visible wiring.
Laptop Security Desks
Curved Chairs with Casters
Multimedia Teaching Podium
Research guided furniture decisions that resulted in the theory that furniture is not just a thing but it is also a tool to promote successful learning. Furniture should provide flexibility and function.
(Dittoe and Porter)
Research/assessment/evaluation questions and potential sources for data collection
Survey to teacher and students will include the evaluation of:
Estimate how much time is spent setting up and putting away laptop computers.
How many hours/week are students spending on computers?
Where do you work from/sit in the class room (give table number)?
Rate from 1-5 (5 being the best) how well you can see.
Rate from 1-5 (5 being the best) how well you can hear.
Rate from 1-5 (5 being the best) how comfortable you are with the desk arrangement. What would you change?
Rate from 1-5 (5 being the best) how comfortable the chairs are. What would you change?
How important is the volume of the teacher's voice for classroom management?
Not Important Somewhat Important Very Important Neutral
How important is it for you as a teacher to have audio components available for student use?
Not Important Somewhat Important Very Important Neutral
Rate from 1-5 (5 being the best) how well you are able to see content on the Promethean Board with the preset lighting conditions.
Is there adequate lighting in the classroom for you to complete your work?
Have you noticed any eyestrain with the laptops due to lighting in the classroom? (Yes?No)
to view the ppt presentation on google.
Chapter 6: The Design of Learning Environments. In “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School”, edited by
Bransford, Brown, Cocking
) Online at
"Steelecase Higher Education Thought Starters" (pdf).
School buys laptops instead of textbooks
"Integrated Classroom Lighting System
The Light in the Classroom-
"Lighting the Way for High Tech Classrooms"-
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"