Middle School Active Learning Drama ClassroomTeam Members: Andrew Om, Anne Paczula, Jeremiah Starr, and Lauren VonderharrPresentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/

In recent years, there has been a trend toward designing classrooms that foster collaboration among students and transform the instructor from a expert lecturer into a facilitator of the learning process. These new classrooms are called active, or collaborative, learning spaces and have been found to be very effective in university courses in various subjects such as the sciences, humanities, and writing.

Most current research on active learning spaces focuses on university settings. It appears that these active learning spaces are serving as models for high schools to develop their own. Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Florida redesigned five classrooms based on the Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) model from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). TEAL was born when an MIT freshman physics class was redesigned to promote student engagement with the aid of technology. The redesigned Bishop Moore classrooms have been very popular among faculty across all disciplines. What seems to be key in designing the active learning classroom is to make the pedagogy the priority, and then design the space and the use of technology to support it.

We have found that the research on active learning spaces is also relevant for middle school classrooms. Our team was given the task of designing an active learning space that would accommodate 25 to 30 middle school drama class students. Drama classes naturally lend themselves to active learning through student exploration and recreation of a dramatic production. Providing technology in the form of tablets, a variety of software, and a wireless network gives students additional tools to create and share their own ideas that they can then dramatize with small groups of their classmates. In addition, we are proposing furnishings that are easily moved around to create different types of learning spaces for small group work, a lecture class, and a theater for watching performances. Lighting for performances, for filming, and for small group and lecture formats as well as microphones for the instructor and for performances are also included in our plan.

The space that we are designing measures 50 square feet, has two closets for general storage, and can be used for multiple purposes at the school. Given the wheeled furniture, technological features, audio-visual and other enhancements we are proposing, this space will be as in-demand as the active learning spaces at Bishop Moore High School.

Needs Assessment
As part of our needs assessment, we consulted with several stakeholders about what they would like to see in such a space and reviewed sample middle school drama curricula. This helped guide our decisions in the types of technology, lighting, furnishings, and recommended layouts for the space.

Our team members spoke briefly with stakeholders who had helpful input:

  • A high school drama teacher said that it would be ideal to have students be able to create their own spaces within which to work in groups and for each student to use a tablet with various software available which maximizes their creativity and minimizes conflicts among students. In addition, she said that although a stage isn't required, it adds a lot to the feeling of performing.
  • A member of our team met with five middle school students to identify what an ideal drama classroom would consist of. Student number one stated that it would be nice to have somewhere to perform in front of an audience (stage). Student number two explicitly stated that it would be great to have room to practice and prompts to pull out. The third and fourth students agreed that it would be perfect to have tables and chairs set up to discuss what play they wanted to perform. Finally, the fifth middle school student stated that having tablets and recorders would be needed for research and for the ideal practice environment.
  • A 10-year old girl interviewed separately and who loves to act suggested having costumes to help students get into character, even if costume choices consist only of hats, scarves, glasses, and purses.
  • A facilities staff person suggested it would be ideal to have furniture that can be moved around in order to clean the floors, especially if there are many different pieces of furniture. He also appreciates a classroom without a bunch of cables that can trip you if you're not watching closely. Since our space is wireless, the number of cables will be minimal.

We researched curricula designed for middle school drama classes. In these classes students may learn about and try out improvisation. In addition, they may learn about storytelling and drama by watching a performance or comparing two written dramatic excerpts; then they may plan and carry out their own production. The planning would involve developing characters, writing scenes and dialogue including expressions of emotion, and providing stage direction for character movement. Students would learn how to use their bodies and voices expressively and express their characters through movement and voice. Then, they would rehearse and perform for their classmates. These activities are done primarily in a small group setting, providing the opportunity for students to learn to collaborate artistically, solve problems together, and observe and critique one another's work. These types of activities that occur in a drama class led us to select furnishings and technology that students would want to use, be easily moved to a new location, and that would permit collaboration among students.

Design Rationale
In traditional classroom settings, students are expected to be passive recipients of knowledge imparted by their all-knowing instructors. In newer learning spaces, on the other hand, the instructor becomes a mentor who facilitates the learning process and makes valued input to students. Students work together in small groups and participate in creating and adding to their knowledge in collaboration with their classmates. According to constructivist learning theory, the best way for people of any age to learn is to be active through analyzing, examining, critiquing, questioning, and creating. If you give students ownership of their learning process and control over their environment, they will learn more profoundly and enthusiastically.

We wanted to create a learning space for drama students that would permit students to maximize their creativity and collaboration. We also wanted to create a space that could used for different disciplines, not just drama. Creating a multi-purpose space for so many students and so many purposes was a challenging task. Drama students need this space to learn, to create and brainstorm, to act, to rehearse, and ultimately perform the plays they practiced in front of an audience. This means that the space needs to be transformed at any moment depending on the needs of the students or the instructor. With this main factor in mind, we set out to design a transformable space that could meet their needs.

Dr. Jeffery A. Lackney of the University of Wisconsin-Madison outlined educational design principles in schools, four of which provide especially helpful guidelines our this space:
  • “Design for a variety of learning groups and spaces” - It is important to provide a space for learning in different sized groups. There should be spaces for larger groups, small groups with distinct boundaries, and individual work. The drama space we have designed allows for work to occur in different sized groups depending on the instructional goals that need to be accomplished.
  • “Provide resource-rich, well-defined activity pockets” - Each size group should have spaces for smaller groups of students, such as 2-5, that has available the resources they need - surfaces upon which to work, any storage, and seating. Providing these resources in smaller groups of students and smaller spaces tends to promote greater learner task engagement and teacher interactions, more social interactions among peers and cooperative behavior. For our space we recommend different furniture, technology, and supplies and encourage small group activities and layouts that will allow for students to enjoy these benefits.
  • “Provide studios to support project-based learning” - This principle pertains to learning-by-doing in groups of different sizes, provide surfaces and storage for creating and storing projects, and the technologies that may be necessary in the creative process. This is especially relevant for the arts - visual/digital and performance arts. The drama classes that will take place are precisely this kind of learning: students will work together using various technologies in ways that capitalize on one another’s strengths to explore, write, design and critique performances.
  • "Design for appropriate acoustics" - Learning space design research has shown that minimizing outside noise and controlling the sound level in the classroom is important for a successful learning space. We recommend a type of acoustical flooring as well as a curtain that can cover the mirror, which will absorb noise. There is only one outside window in this classroom, which will help reduce the sounds coming in from outside. In addition, making sure students hear what needs to be heard through sound amplification, such as instructor or student voices during a class presentation or discussion and student voices during a performance, is also important. This is accomplished through the use of a sound amplification system for daily class use and stage floor microphones, which are only used during a performance.

Various Room Layouts

Design Concept and Recommendations:
Lighting, Audio, and Visual
The lighting, audio, and visual components in this space were all considered with the understanding that the space will be utilized in many different ways. With the possibility of whole class instruction, collaboration, and performances all taking place here, decisions were made to have the most functionality while also creating a rich learning environment.
Natural Lighting
While many studies have been done that show the benefits of natural lighting, this particular environment does not set up well for allowing extensive amounts of natural light to gather in the space. Due to the room being used for video recordings, rehearsals, and even performances the need to be able to completely eliminate any natural light exists. At the same time, this space will be used for all activities leading up to a recording or performance. Having students collaborate on all aspects of a drama performance, script writing, directing, and pre-production, creates the additional need of having natural light available.

Due to these two extremely different needs, limiting the window space is one consideration. Another option is to equip all windows with an automated blackout shade like the one shown.

Video of motorized blackout shades

Study showing the benefits of natural lighting
Artificial (Dynamic) Lighting
Some studies have shown that a students' concentration level may be increased via the use of dynamic lighting in the educational setting. While this research seems to be in its initial phase, and there are studies to contradict the positive effects of dynamic lighting, we wanted to create the most productive and inviting environment for our students. Dynamic lighting will mimic the light of the outdoors while also allowing for this room to be utilized for performances.

A further explanation of exactly what dynamic lighting is and what effects it may have on a space can be found by visiting the link that follows. Phillips: Dynamic Lighting
Portable Stage Lighting (1)
Duo Q-Beam Bar_main.jpg
A transportable linear beam bar allows for the lighting of performances in almost any setting. The transportable bar is equipped with two independent heads that can be directed independently to meet the needed lighting effects for performances. Purchasing a bar with a programmable control mode also allows for performances to be pre-programmed by the students prior to the performance.

Video of linear beam bar
Portable Stage Lighting (2)
In any performance, ensuring that the audience, or in some cases the camera, is able to see the performance clearly is important. Having a standard small stage lighting kit on hand will ensure that all performances in this venue will be lit properly. By choosing the portable kit, the room will also be able to be cleared during the pre-performance work the students will be taking part in while leading up to the performance.

Simple stage lighting kits can be found via many retailers.
Video Display
Retractable Screen.jpg
Having the ability to project a large image will be very important for this space, and having the proper surface to project that image to can make all the difference in the quality of the image that is seen. Purchasing a high quality projector screen for this space will ensure that images are shown the way that they are intended,

Another aspect that must be considered is that the constant up and down motion on the screen will eventually take its toll on this piece of equipment. This, combined with the fact that a permanently placed screen is not suitable for this environment due to the multiple applications this space will have (performances, collaboration, instruction), means that a fully automated and ceiling recessed screen would best suit the needs of the users in this space.

This type of screen combined with the proper projector (addressed in the Technology section) would be optimal.

Retractable ceiling recessed screens can be found via multiple vendors.
Audio Enhancement System
Audio Enhancement.jpg
Audio enhancement will be extremely vital in this educational setting. There will be many opportunities where the instructor will need to utilize the features of such a system.
  • Whole class instruction
  • Amplifying student responses for all to hear
  • While showing video clips for student reflection
  • Listening to possible accompanying music for performances

Additionally, because this space will also be utilized for rehearsals and performances there are multiple reasons for having a way to amplify sound.
  • Voices of performers
  • Background music
  • Audio effects for performances

With all of this considered, having a system in place that allows the teacher as much flexibility as possible is ideal. Built-in speakers to the ceiling or walls will help to cut down on the use of floor space and eliminate any unsightly cords or wires. Having the capability to use a wireless microphone will allow the teacher freedom of movement around the room during collaboration time while also allowing them to project their voice for everyone to hear. The wireless microphone also ensures that all students can be heard when expressing their ideas to the class.
Finally, having a system that utilizes an equalizer to balance all the sounds in the room, and that can be added on to with additional external microphones or inputs would make this room useful for as many applications as possible.
Additional Microphone
stage floor mic.jpg
In this space, there may be times where performances are given for an audience. To ensure that the audience is able to hear the performers as clearly as possible, we want to have the capability to amplify the performers voices. The addition of a stage floor microphone for performances will allow this to be a reality.

A stage floor microphone picks up sound from around the stage and then relays and amplifies that sound through the speakers that already exist in the room via the audio enhancement system. This simple addition will allow for audiences to hear performances in a much better way, and allow for the recordings of performances or rehearsals to be looked at so they may be modified. This simple addition to the tools in this space will go along way in making all the experiences in this room better for everyone involved.

Floor microphones can be found at a variety of retailers.

Furnishings, Flooring and Walls
Because we envision this room to be used for multiple purposes, we chose furniture that can be easily stacked or collapsed and moved to the side of the room. In addition, most items have wheels for easy rearrangement by the middle school students.
Student chairs
This chair is made for a student to sit in four positions: facing front, rear, or either side. It is lightweight and stackable for easy storage and is available in different heights. This is one of the few furnishings we selected without wheels. We learned from teachers and learning space researchers that wheels on student chairs would lead to distractions and potentially prove dangerous for students.

Available at www.smithsystem.com in 18 colors. We chose cerulean blue, a calm and positive color.
Student tables
The tables have casters for easy relocation by students or the teacher. Each table can seat 2-3 students. The casters can also be locked to keep the table in one place.

These tables will have a maple finish and cerulean blue edge to match the chairs.

Available at www.smithsystem.com.
Folded student tables
The tables can be folded and pushed to the side of the room for performances using the portable stage and for other uses of the space.
Portable whiteboards
The whiteboard will provide a place to brainstorm and collaborate as well as provide a movable partition to help groups focus and not be distracted by other groups. The whiteboard is two-sided and magnetic, so students can use magnets to attach print-outs or sketches created on the tablet. Groups can use one or two whiteboards to create private space within which to work and to practice scenes in semi-privacy.

Assembled height: 74-1/2"W x 23"D x 69"H

Available at www.usmarkerboard.com
Canvas tarpaulin
Green Canvas Tarps
Green Canvas Tarps

Each group may use a tarp to cover their whiteboard when filming to create greater privacy and a non-reflective solid-colored surface as a background.
Media charging and storage
A charging cart allows a class set of tablets and other media devices to be charged while they're in storage. The locking door provides an extra level of security to deter theft of these devices. In addition, the cart can be wheeled to one of the closets and locked inside while class isn't in session.

Available at www.schooloutfitters.com
Printer cart
There will be two wheeled carts to support the two classroom printers. There is storage for paper and ink cartridges underneath. As with the media cart, the printer can be stored in a locked closet at the end of class.

Available at www.wayfair.com
Storage for costume elements
A wardrobe on wheels will be used to store the garments students will use to get into character. Garments may include belted tunics, scarves, hats, and glasses.

Available in widths of 21," 29," and 43" at www.smithsystem.com
Teacher desk
This desk has a modern, industrial feel with the metal frame and curved lines. There are holes on the laminate desktop to connect laptops and other technologies to a power source. Also, it is on wheels for easy relocation, has three lockable drawers for storage, and has rounded corners to reduce the chance for injury.
Teacher chair
The teacher's chair is designed for comfort and usability. It can be adjusted numerous ways (the chair and armrest height, armrest width, tension, and the position of the chair back) and has a cushioned seat. In addition, the chair is on wheels for easy movement.
Portable stage
The portable stage is for students to use when performing their play for their classmates. It is versatile, strong and lightweight. When not in use, it can be dismantled for storage.
This epoxy flooring has sound-dampening qualities and also provides a smooth surface upon which to move the wheeled furniture. We would choose a style that is less reflective than this illustration.

An example is available at: http://www.sscoatings.net/
Cooling colors will be used in the room so as to not overstimulate the students. The curtain that covers the mirror and the tarps for covering the whiteboards will be a dark green, and the walls will be a pale blue. The paint will be matte for easy touch-ups. Matte also reflects less light so gives learners better control over lighting.
Mirror on wall
A large mirror will cover one side of the classroom. This will help students practice body movements, facial expressions, or dance routines.
Curtain to cover mirror
A dark green curtain will be used to cover the mirror when filming occurs. Covering the mirror will give the students control over the lighting when filming their practice.
Ergonomics and Room Layout

Our ergonomics and room layout is designed to fit perfectly with middle school students. Every piece of portable furniture is easily adjustable for any student, no matter what their mobility may be. There are closets that are located near one end of the classroom that are spacious enough to hold the stacked chairs, wardrobe, media charging cart, whiteboards, teacher's desk and chair. The tables can be folded and the portable stage taken down, and both can be easily removed from the room for temporary storage elsewhere in the building. The mirror is located near the left side of the classroom to let students watch themselves perform, and the projector screen is mounted on the right wall to provide a second "front" of the room, the first "front" being where the stage is typically located.

Room layout during activities
We chose these arrangements in the classroom to have the students move around to the different items in the classroom. For instance, students have to move around to get their tablets, write on the whiteboards, rehearse, put costumes on, working in front of the mirror, and performing. This works well for ergonomics because the students are not just sitting around, but actively moving. Within the chairs that are in the classroom, students are allowed to move around in four different directions, which makes it realistic for students to use.
Furniture around the classroom
student chair blue .png
The classroom furniture makes learning comfortable and fun, by providing accessible pathways for students to move around. These chairs allow students to be seated in four different directions, which makes it realistic for students to use. We chose tables that are the appropriate size for these middle school students, along with the appropriate height. This choice of furniture helps make learning environments more adaptable and fun, through the design and placement. This furniture is easily mobile: students can work in groups, independently, or as a whole class. They are each located in safe areas within the classroom, where students cannot get hurt in any way. These pieces of furniture also have locks on the wheels. The teacher can also have access to any part of the room, with her mobile chair and desk. This is ergonomically made for this classroom because it allows students to talk to the teacher, with how spacious it is.
Where portable tablet and printer are located
The two printers located in the classroom are stable on a cart. The tablets are located in one of the closets that on the end of the classroom. Each student can access one and return it at the end of class.
Where projector is located
The projector will be located in a safe, steady position. It will be placed on the ceiling oriented toward the right wall of the classroom where the projector screen is located.
Where the portable stage is located
The stage is located towards the front wall which is safe and non-flexible. It can be taken apart and moved at any point.
Where dividers are located
These portable dividers/whiteboards can be used to divide the classroom into four equal working areas for students. These spaces will be used for students to write, practice and rehearse the play they came up with. These dividers are easily movable and easily stored. Students have easy access to get up and move around to collaborate and brainstorm about their play.

Computing Technologies
This learning space poses unique issues that other classrooms may not run into. For instance, this space is a living space that transforms based on the needs of the teacher and students. Due to this fact, the technologies present in the learning space must reflect this rationale. All the hardware chosen serve multiple purposes to save on space, are portable, and have little to no wires for portability and safety reasons. Loose wires strewn across the room with extension cords can be a safety hazard.

This brings us to another issue. Although technology is a great tool for education, it comes with its own problems. Technical support is needed in case a device fails. Initial setup of the wireless network and components will take a little time but once set, there should not be too many issues that arise. For example, the wireless projector is a nice feature but it does support a cabled connection if devices fail to sync over the network. For tech support of minor issues that are not urgent, the school's AV and Electronics Clubs can get firsthand experience with troubleshooting issues. If the issue is more complex and needs immediate attention, the IT department should be involved.

Teacher Computer
The teacher's computer should be a laptop to fall in line with mobility and portability. When it comes to technology, familiarity is important. Whichever operating system the teacher chooses to work with, the technologies listed below are compatible.

The picture shown is a Macbook Pro but the type of laptop is up to the user.
-be sure to purchase a laptop with HDMI out
-at least 256GB of HD space
-Bluetooth capabilities
Student Computers -
Tablet Computer Hybrid

(one per student)
A tablet PC provides students with the mobility of a tablet and the power of a PC without having to have two devices. This also functions as a camera and video recorder. Students can also take notes and digital drawing to share with others. Since the multi-purpose room is a changeable environment, the need for PCs without wires is paramount in terms of safety and ease of setup.

This particular model is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (educational pricing available)
-i5 5th generation processor
-128GB HD space

Rugged cases are available for the Surface Pro 3 and iPads which will protect it from dust, drops, and other accidental damages.

*iPads will work as well if
Wireless Network
A wireless network will provide students with access to the Internet and networked devices without being tethered to a specific spot. With technology such as DLNA and network shared folders, students can share their files on multiple screens and devices.

-Must be at least a dual band gigabit router
-NAS (Network Attached Storage) capabilities built in is a plus
-Must have firewall and securities built in
Networked Printer/Copier

(at least 2)
A heavy duty networked printer will allow student and the teacher to print not just handouts but pamphlets, playbills, photographs, and other things. A networked printer allows all computers and devices that have access to the network to print to the device wirelessly. This particular model is an All-In-One that allows the user to print, copy, scan, and fax if needed. An All-In-One saves space by combining multiple devices into one unit. The printer options allow for limited access so the teacher can control if students have printing privileges.

This particular model is the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M177fw
-wirelessly connected to reduce wires and is moveable
-laser printer outputs crisp text and pictures in large volumes
-can print, copy, scan, and fax
-double-sided printing capability
Network Attached Storage (NAS)

(at least 2TB)
These are hard drives that are connected to the network. It basically acts as a personal cloud storage service without the monthly fee. These come in a variety of storage capacities and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Some NAS devices automatically connect to some smart TVs and computers so pictures and videos can be streamed. This allows students to share files and have access to them at school and at home. Some NAS devices even allow you to host your own website.
Smart TV
Smart TVs sometimes come with networking capabilities that allow the TV to stream media from networked computers and NASs. Also, WiDi technology allows computers with WiDi capability to mirror their screens onto the TV display without the need of extra wires or hardware.

Wireless mirroring is also available for Mac OSX and iOS devices with the use of Apple AirPlay.
A projector would allow everyone in the room to see the screen with ease. Some projectors, such as the Optoma TW766W pictured on the left, is equipped with wireless connectivity. Computers and mobile devices are able to stream their content through this projector onto the screen without having to connect any wires. Once again, since the room is going to be used in multiple ways, having a set computer lab area would not be feasible. This would provide a good solution.

-Lumins must be high enough to offset ambient light coming through the windows

Learning Management System (LMS)
A Learning Management System (LMS) can provide teachers with an easier way to control class content dispersion. With all students digitally connected, the teacher can create assignments, assign work, give real-time feedback, and students can also use this space to communicate with each other.
Productivity Suite - Microsoft Office

(a subscription per student)
Multi-license educational pricing is available for Microsoft Office. This software is widely used by schools and professionals. The suite provides students with a word processor, spreadsheet creator, presentation software, and a note taking program. Office 365 also allows users to use the Office suite applications on their mobile devices and access their files through Microsoft's own cloud storage services.

*This software is available for both Windows and Mac.
Adobe Creative Cloud
This software suite allows students to edit photographs, create pamphlets, design logos, edit sound recordings, create videos, and design websites. Educational pricing is available and schools can request a quote. This software is useable on tablets as well as on smart phones with a shared creative space that allows multiple users to work together on projects from different computers.

*This software is available for both Windows and Mac.
Collaboration Tools - social media
Tools such as Dropbox and Google Drive allow students to store, share and edit files in real-time unlike trying to edit a Word document that can be edited by one person at a time.

For communication, programs such as Skype and Google Hangouts provide students with a free method of chatting and video conferencing with anyone in the world.

Websites such as Yola Site, Wordpress and many others provide a quick and easy way to create websites to promote plays, share ideas, or just update visitors on what is happening.

-These tools can be used to help take the class out of the classroom and into the real world.
-some of these tools, such as Google Documents, offer a free stripped down version of their paid counterparts. Google Documents could replace Microsoft Word and so on. This could be a great option if funding is limited.

Evaluation Plan
There are many different stakeholders to consider when developing this learning space. To ensure that all the needs are met and any further additions to this space can be made, we will keep all involved members aware of the design and rationale throughout the project phases. Once the redesign is complete, we will have an open house or mock teaching session for stakeholders, members of the board and the PTA so they can see first-hand the changes to the drama classroom and how each component in our design promotes a more engaging and enhanced learning experience compared to a traditional classroom. This could garner support for future endeavors and possibly aid in justifying additional funding when the space might need to be updated or technologies need to be fixed or replaced. This is also a good chance for initial feedback on the space before it goes "live".

After the initial unveiling, we will evaluate the usage of the space in two different ways.

Informal observations will take place on a weekly basis throughout the first year of this space being utilized. During these observations we will be looking at not only how the technology and equipment in the room is being utilized, but also at how the space is being used for instruction. With the planning of this space, we were very focused on making the space as valuable as possible, by making it adaptable to many needs. As the observations take place, the observer will be focusing on recording how the space is being used for learning: whole group, small group (collaboration), independent study, or performances.

Survey of Users
We will give students a survey at the beginning of the school year, in the middle of the school year, and at the end of the school year to measure their learning experiences in this space. Students will be asked the questions below to measure how they feel the room is being utilized. This is not a complete list of questions, as we may choose to add to our survey questions to gather additional information later on.
  • How many times did you use the drama space for whole group instruction during the last month?
  • How many times did you use the drama space for collaboration during the last month?
  • How many times did you use the drama space for independent study during the last month?
  • How many times did you use the drama space for a performance during the last month?
  • In which of the following learning methods do you feel you learn best? Whole Group Instruction, Independent Study, Small Group (Collaboration)
  • In which way would you like to see the drama space utilized more in the coming month? Whole Group Instruction, Independent Study, Small Group (Collaboration)
  • What tools/furniture did you use in this space (beyond the basic tables, chairs, teacher desk, and ceiling light)? Select from whiteboards, tablets, printers, mirror, projector, video display, audio enhancement, microphones, stage.

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