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Texas Wesleyan Flex Classroom Puts Learning on Wheels

The ideal space for teaching history should have an eight-foot sofa and two armless chairs all upholstered in dark blue twill, 25 rolling office chairs upholstered in red, and 24 quarter-round tables on wheels, which can be moved together into groups. The floor should be covered with blue carpet tiles, and the walls should be painted soft yellow, though two of those walls should have floor to ceiling corkboard. The room should also include 10 portable 5' x 5' whiteboards, also on wheels, that can be used to divide the space. The room also needs a mobile interactive whiteboard with a wireless instructor station, 25 Dell Latitude laptops, a classroom clicker system, a color printer and scanner, and wireless access to the Internet.

This "radically flexible classroom" proposal took first place in a Texas Wesleyan University competition that called on faculty and students to research and design their ideal classroom. Now the proposal will serve as a blueprint for transforming an existing classroom on campus starting in the summer.

The contest, "classroom.NEXT," was hosted by the university's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Judges included campus administrators, faculty, and staff, along with external classroom design experts.

The winning entry was put together by Elizabeth Alexander, an associate professor of history, and five of her "Methods of Teaching History" students. According to the 40-page proposal submitted by the team, the design they developed played with two characteristics common to today's students: "unconscious integration of technology into their lives" and a desire to "study and socialize as a group."

"I believe the Radically Flexible Classroom name fits perfectly," declared one judge. "The classroom has the ability to form itself to the teaching subject, method, and needs of the students. The room has the ability to focus on group work, presentations, traditional lecture style, all with a medium that moves easily."

The classroom.NEXT Web site shares slides from the other four entries in the competition.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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