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It’s the first day of school. Students have the choice between two classroom environments.
The first classroom has all the desks facing the front of the room where there is whiteboard and a projection screen. The layout supports lecture as the primary mode of instruction. Students have just entered a traditional classroom.
The second classroom is arranged with an array of seating options, integrated technology, and marker boards around the room. This layout reflects a High Impact Learning Environment™ with flexible furniture, writing surfaces, and technology that support instructors while engaging students in shared learning activities.
It’s not hard to see that the second classroom environment would be popular. The 21st Century Classroom should provide an environment where students develop foundational soft skills and teachers can become the activators of their student’s learning.
Moving away from Traditional Classrooms
The traditional classroom layout can be practical. This layout is effective for traditional instructional methods because it encourages focus on the teacher and the lesson. But are students in this setting developing a real passion for learning?
A study from the National Training Laboratories found that only about 5 percent of the information delivered through lecture was retained. Compare that with retention rates at 90 percent by students teaching others. The more active the teaching and learning methods, the higher the retention rates.
High Impact Learning Environments™ incorporate five key components when planning for an active classroom.
1) Integrated Technology: The integration of technology into the environment is more involved than placing computers in a classroom. Designing environments that support and enhance the use of technology as part of the learning process is critical to increasing student engagement and encouraging students to take ownership over their learning.
2) Learner Mobility: Today’s learner is mobile. Effective use of mobile technologies allows for an ideal connection between learning environments, where both educators and students can access a multitude of resources to support learning across time and setting.
3) Adaptability: The design of a space must support current educational delivery methods with an eye to the future. Adaptability in the classroom allows educators to model a different approach to learning and take advantage of learning opportunities that aren’t always planned.
4) Multiple Modalities: A High Impact Learning Environment is designed so that differential instruction may take place with ease. This means creating spaces, configurations and flexibility to support a variety of learning strengths and styles. All kids are different, and the design of the environment should reflect this idea.
5) Dynamic Ergonomics: Studies show that between the ages of 5 and 16 a child will spend approximately 15,000 hours sitting down. Humans are made to move and an active learning environment stimulates cognitive development.
Modern Day, 21st Century Classrooms
The High Impact Learning Environment™ focuses on student-centered learning. Students who walk into this environment on the first day of school will be walking into a classroom that invites them to be an active participant in the learning process.
Brandon Hillman, ALEP, VP of Sales, East Region
Brandon is a passionate industry thought leader and education advocate with over eight years of experience in creating High-impact Learning Environments. He has been with MeTEOR Education since 2013 and in that time has worked with districts across the country on transforming their learning environments in a planned, progressive, and programmatic manner. Brandon is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP). This is the Association for Learning Environment’s (formally CEFPI) most comprehensive professional program in the educational facility industry. It is therefore the top industry standard for all professionals engaged in planning, designing, operating, maintaining, and equipping learning environments at all levels of education. His greatest joy comes from spending time with his wife Meghan, and their two sons: Easton and Jameson.
Instead of teaching the three classes in isolation and shuttling students from English to science to technology. We teach the three classes in concert around big topics. The first unit focused on nutrition, food production, and health. Students read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and conducted labs to learn about the digestive system and what happens in the body when we consume different types of food. They published digital notebooks, recorded podcasts, designed infographics and documented all their work online.
N.E.W. School is project-based and student-centered. Our goal is to help students see the connections between what they are learning and their lives beyond the classroom. It is only when learning is student-centered, hands-on, inquiry-based, and relevant that students will truly understand, apply, and retain information. Our goal is to cultivate curious, confident learners who can drive the learning and assessment happening in the classroom.
This is where the design of the classroom space becomes incredibly important. As Marika put it so eloquently, “the first step in creating is creating your learning environment.” As we designed N.E.W. School, we imagined a very different classroom environment. Instead of clunky desks and traditional chairs, we wanted to create a variety of spaces with moveable furniture that allowed for easy collaboration. We wanted our students to move the furniture to create the best learning environment for the task they were working on at that exact moment.
Too often furniture is a hurdle that must be overcome. Students must move around the furniture, push bulky desks together, and squeeze chairs into uncomfortable positions to work together. The result is a learning environment where furniture impedes learning instead of improving it.
In N.E.W. School we wanted to ditch traditional one-size-fits-all furniture and embrace variety. Unfortunately, my school board decided not to fund my proposal for alternative furniture. So, we wrote a Donor’s Choose project requesting soft seating and light-weight stools, which was funded. We also turned our classroom into a makerspace and students transformed milk crates into ottomans.
Despite our creative attempts to introduce alternative seating options, most of our furniture is still the traditional two-seater desks and chairs that were purchased when the school was built almost 20 years ago. However, to be truly effective, the classroom environment must be an extension of the learning philosophy. Both the furniture and curriculum design must strive to place students at the center of learning. Right now, my students are making do with what we have, but the learning environment presents challenges instead of solutions.
Editor’s Note: MeTEOR Education began working with Catlin and Marika on the design and implementation of N.E.W. School 2.0 in the fall of 2016. The result is an environment that supports their educational paradigm to encourage collaboration and student-driven learning.
About the Author: Catlin Tucker is a Google Certified Teacher, bestselling author, international trainer, and frequent EdTech speaker, who currently teaches in Sonoma County where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2010. Catlin’s first book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 is a bestseller and her second book Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology was published in June 2015. Her newest book Blended Learning In Action was published in September 2016. Catlin writes the “Techy Teacher” column for ASCD’s Educational Leadership. She is active on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker and writes an internationally ranked education blog at CatlinTucker.com.
Although research supports inquiry’s effectiveness, teacher buy-in comes with growing pains. No longer “in control”, the teacher must commit to becoming a learning facilitator and, in some cases, must demonstrate a willingness to replace lengthy stretches of direct instruction with unfamiliar practices that extend beyond long-established comfort zones. Are we educators willing to take a chance if it means building a richer learning environment for our students?
Written by Jennifer Mattu, Guest Blogger.
CO ASCD is a bi-partisan educational organization. We believe that uniting and influencing the P-20 educational community to promote excellence for each Colorado learner is key to the development of our students in our state. CO ASCD provides a place for professional growth and educator's voices to be heard using mature discourse, problem solving, and innovation at the highest form for the good of all our children.
In light of the most recent tragedy in Florida, there is a great debate about what we should do as a nation, as states, and as individual communities regarding the safety of our children. That debate has not skipped my home either. As you are thinking of the children and families you serve day in and day out, as well as the ones you tuck in at night, I would like to ask you to think of the possible solutions from all different angles, different perspectives, including the ones that you cannot even fathom you would ever say yes to implementing. Use that discourse that is ingrained in you as an educator. Use the knowledge you have of childhood development, learning theory, and what other nations do to protect their children to decipher what you believe is the best course of action to take in your school, your community, and our amazing state.
As you think about what safety means and looks like in our schools, I recommend reading ASCD's Whole Child Initiative that includes six tenets promoting long-term development and success for all children. My eye is drawn to the second tenet, safe, where each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults. To learn more about this tenet, take some time to read the Whole Child Tenet #2 Safe Indicators. Use it as the litmus test for every possible solution as you decide what the best way is to keep Colorado's children safe.
Jill Lewis, CO ASCD President
There is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution for creating the ideal learning environment. The multitude of factors ranging from teachers’ teaching styles to community involvement and everything in between necessitate that the ideal learning spaces for a school will vary. However, after almost a decade of working with schools to create their ideal learning environments, we have found that there are 5 essential elements that, when combined, create a high-impact learning environment. Learner mobility is showcased in this breakout space shown in the photo. Students' learning is not confined to the classroom.
High-impact learning environments center on the reality that the 21st Century knowledge worker will need extremely high agility and adaptability in order to succeed. They have to be able to assimilate new technologies, adopt new skill sets, and validate information that they are receiving. Sure, you can look up bits and pieces of information online, but effectively sourcing, analyzing, and validating that data – then using it to collaborate with others – is an extremely important soft skill that not all students are acquiring at the K-12 level. And while the physical classroom setting doesn’t necessarily correct this problem, it does support the lifelong learner and his or her future needs.
A supportive, collaborative, high-impact learning environment includes the following critical elements:
For a more in-depth look at shifting to high-impact learning environments, check out our follow up article here.
Digital Storyteller, MeTEOR Education
About the Author:
Amy Bradley has a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with a minor in Japanese and TESL from the University of Florida. She has TESL certification and worked teaching English language learners at the University of Florida English Language Institute before coming to MeTEOR Education in 2014. At MeTEOR Education, she helps spread the message of High-Impact Learning Environments and Experiences through MeTEOR’s digital pieces and social media sites. In her free time, she enjoys practicing Japanese and sewing.
It takes a great deal of time and energy to create and maintain a positive culture, but it’s essential for all successful schools. When thinking about what qualities are needed to create a positive school culture, they fall into a top 7 list.
7. Be on a Mission
All school communications clearly state what the institution is about …. their mission, vision, purpose, beliefs and objectives. The handbooks, websites, banners, etc. all reflect what the school is and strives to become. Written policies and procedures are reviewed annually to keep the school current.
6. Stay in the Loop!
Well-designed forms of communication are critical when creating a positive school culture. This includes everything from the school’s website, phone calls, newsletters, etc. Jill Adams, an Educational Consultant, summed it all up when she wrote, “When educators do not communicate, the public fills in the blanks and sometimes the blanks are not positive or even accurate. Control the message” (Adams, 2014).
5. Lead the Way!
There should be numerous opportunities for teachers to take leadership roles within the school and district, such as serving as a department chairperson, professional development coordinator, or curriculum expert. Students should also take leadership roles such as being a school ambassador, student council officers, or student mentors.
Behavioral expectations are clearly defined and supported by the administration and staff. Support is in place and provides services for students. Robert Sylwester states that there should be a focus shift from classroom management to student-teacher collaboration that improves classroom dynamics and helps develop social skills (Sylwester, 2000).
3. Help Students Create a “Growth Mindset”
Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, states that teaching a growth mindset increases motivation and productivity. When students understand that their intelligence isn’t fixed and they can change their intellectual ability, she found that motivation increases and they boost their achievement.
2. “If you don’t feed the teachers, they’ll eat their students!”
Schools that have a strong budget for professional development are sending the message that they care about the continuing improvement of their staff. Besides attending conferences and workshops, schools provide in-house PD by creating professional learning communities, peer-to-peer mentoring, etc. But more importantly, the school creates time during the workday for teachers to meet with one another, share what they’re doing, and allows teachers time to assess their effects related to student learning.
1. Above all … CARE!
Successful schools embrace racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity and expect inclusion to be a “given.” Having teachers who care, that take time to listen, possess empathy, and demonstrate a positive regard for others have a greater impact on student achievement than those who don’t (Hattie, Pg. 118).
A school’s culture includes the perceptions, attitudes, relationships, and the unwritten rules that influence every aspect of the school. It is formed by both conscious and unconscious perspectives, values, and practices. As Rex Miller stated, “Culture is the invisible attitudes, values, habits, and behaviors that run the place when you’re not there.” (Miller, pg. 147).
Dr. Lou E Whitaker has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Administration from National-Louis University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Having over 35 years of experience in education, she has been a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and served as the Associate Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She is currently an Educational Consultant for Open Minds Enterprises, EdCenter, Global Center for College & Career Readiness, as well as a consultant for MeTEOR Education.
Chosen as one of Dr. Pat Wolfe’s Brainy Bunch Members, she has been involved with Dr. Wolfe’s continuous study of the human brain. The Brainy Bunch is a group of educators and health professionals who are passionate about brain development and its impact on learning. On a yearly basis, the group invites two outstanding neuroscientists to meet with them and discuss their latest research developments. Then this renowned group of educators, led by Dr. Wolfe, translate neurological research into classroom practice. Dr. Whitaker understands the important of keeping abreast of what is going on in neuroscience as well as understanding the importance of data-driven best practice research. These are essential for making a positive impact on our students’ lives.
Adams, J. (2014, May 9). Fostering a positive school culture. (Jill Adams, Adams Educational Consulting) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from Blog: www.effectiveteachingpd.com/blog/2014/5/9/fostering-a-positive-school-culture8-best-practices-html
Bergland, C. (2012, March 7). Enriched environments build better brains. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Psychology Today: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201203/enriched-environments-build-better-brains
Diamond, M. &. (1999). Magic tress of the mind. New York, New York, USA: Penguin.
Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mindset’. (E. Week, Producer, & Education Week) Retrieved October 8, 2016, from Education Week: www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, New York, USA: Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2013, November 22). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping. (TEDxNorrkoping, Producer) Retrieved October 9, 2017, from You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwJXUieDOU&t=547s
Miller, G. (2010). Visible learning by John Hattie (2009), Summary by Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller. Tyneside EZA Consultant, Gerry Miller.
Miller, R. L. (207). Humanizing the education machine. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Partnership, T. G. (2013, November 25). School culture. (T. G. Patnership, Producer) Retrieved October 10, 2017, from The Glossary of Education Reform: www.edglossary.org/school-culture/
Sylwester, R. (2000). A biological brain in a cultural classsroom: Applying biological research to classroom management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Crowin Press.
Willis, J. (2017). Why teacher education should include neuroscience. (Teachthought, Producer) Retrieved October 8, 2017, from teachthought: www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/why-teacher-education-should-include-neuroscience/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 23, 2018
Contact: Cameron Brenchley, email@example.com
ALEXANDRIA, VA—ASCD, a mission-driven nonprofit dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading released its legislative agenda at the organization's Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy. The 2018 Legislative Agenda calls on ASCD's 115,000 members, and all educational professionals to become more engaged with leaders at every level to better-inform policies that support a whole child education for every student.
“Educators must make their voices heard at all levels—at the local, district, state, and federal levels—to promote equal access to educational opportunities for all students,” said Deb Delisle, ASCD Executive Director and CEO. “The last year has demonstrated that uniting together and advocating with one voice can make a difference. Only when educators stand together do we influence decisions that are being made are in the best interest of our youth.”
The legislative agenda is created annually by the ASCD Legislative Committee—a diverse cross section of ASCD members from the entire spectrum of K-12 education—and outlines the organization’s legislative priorities for the calendar year. ASCD’s recommendations fall under three key areas:
Resource Equity—The college- and career-ready expectations for students have never been higher, while the needs of these students—the majority of whom now come from low-income families—have never been greater. Growing income inequality has only exacerbated educational inequities and disparities among communities of haves and have-nots. It is crucial that adequate investments be made to address these realities.
Professional Development—Educators are the lifeblood of any knowledge economy and the embodiment of lifelong learning. Teachers and school leaders are the two most important in-school factors for student achievement. Policymakers must recognize and value the expertise of educators by providing them with the professional development and leadership training opportunities and resources they require to meet the ever-changing needs of students and the profession for the careers of tomorrow. Moreover, educators should serve as positive change agents for students and for their local communities to support the successful and comprehensive development of youth.
Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community—Educating students is the essential function of educators, yet it is neither solely their responsibility nor their only mission. Just as all community members share a larger duty for the security and prosperity of the neighborhood in which a school resides, families, businesses, and communities play roles in providing a safe, healthy, and welcoming learning environment. Such conditions must also include a rigorous and personalized academic experience that provides a well-rounded education and the necessary wraparound services for each student to succeed.
Educators who want to stay informed about education policy and politics that influences their day-to-day work can join ASCD’s Educator Advocates program. The program empowers educators to work together in influencing decision makers, and ensuring they make informed decisions that will improve education in schools and for our students. For more information on ASCD’s Educator Advocates program, visit www.educatoradvocates.org.
The complete Legislative Agenda is available at www.ascd.org/legislativeagenda. Visit www.ascd.org to learn more about ASCD programs, products, services, and memberships.
Integrating technology into today’s classrooms offers students experience and knowledge relevant for today’s working world while simultaneously giving parents confidence that their student is receiving a high-quality education. While new technology can be enthralling for students and staff, it can be unnerving if not properly integrated and supported in the classroom. To properly supply students with a modern education experience, it’s important not to overlook the learning spaces as well.
When adding new technology to the classroom, first think about the technology itself. What level of support will teachers need to use the technology effectively? What would benefit students the most? What educational technology (Edtech) would move the district towards bettering the educational experience as a whole, and have an end result of student success? Adding technology to a school is a very individualized experience as each district will have their own desires, goals, support systems and needs.
Once the desired classroom technology has been chosen, the next step must be to focus on the instructional design. One of the very first questions to ask would be, “What does our district want out of instructional technology?” Once you know the skills and competencies you want for your learners and the learning experiences that will help develop those skills, you can begin to integrate specific technology into your plan that will enhance those experiences.
An equally important question to ask is, “How can our schools effectively integrate the chosen technology into learning spaces?” Each type of Edtech introduced requires a different type of supportive environment. It’s important that school districts don’t build an environment around any one type of technology due to the rapid pace at which Edtech is changing. Rather, each school’s instructional design should fit current needs as well as the changing needs of the foreseeable future to prevent future space issues.
Not only are aligned instructional practices and technology important, but classroom furniture is an important tool as well. Education is moving away from front-facing, lecture-heavy teaching to a more modern, collaborative, student-centered learning environment focused around relationships. Proper furniture choice becomes vital to the classroom as furniture that is easy to move determines the success of a classroom’s ability to collaborate in different ways. The right environment can allow students to seamlessly move from group to individual work and gives the learner the opportunity to control the time and pace at which they learn. This mobility allows students to create a space that helps them learn best.
Today’s technology is growing and changing at an incredible pace. For schools, this fact can be both exciting and daunting, leaving questions on how to effectively integrate technology into learning spaces, and what benefits it will have on student learning and the school environment. To properly integrate technology into learning environments, start by focusing on the desired learning experience. Finally, make certain to design supportive spaces that will provide for the experiences and results you seek. Properly integrated and sufficiently supported technology is the key to success.
Brandon Hillman, ALEP
MeTEOR Education VP of Sales, East Region
MeTEOR Education is a leader in instructional design. We keep learning and relationships the focus of our work. We strive to help schools design spaces that allow for effective utilization of today’s technological and instructional needs, while simultaneously creating the flexibility needed to support future Edtech and instructional delivery methods.
Brandon Hillman is a passionate industry thought leader and education advocate with over eight years of experience in creating High-impact Learning Environments. He has been with MeTEOR Education since 2013 and in that time has worked with districts across the country on transforming their learning environments in a planned, progressive, and programmatic manner. Brandon is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP). This is the Association for Learning Environment’s (formally CEFPI) most comprehensive professional program in the educational facility industry. It is therefore the top industry standard for all professionals engaged in planning, designing, operating, maintaining, and equipping learning environments at all levels of education. His greatest joy comes from spending time with his wife Meghan, and their two sons: Easton and Jameson.
If you’re not sure about the answer, there are a number of ways to have your voice heard by education policymakers at the local, state, and national level. One of those ways is to join ASCD’s Educator Advocates program (http://www.ascd.org/public-policy/Educator-Advocates.aspx). As an advocate, you’ll receive an e-newsletter that provides information about federal education policy and politics, opportunities to provide policymakers with your input on education issues, and access to the ASCD Action Center where you can learn about legislation and contact Congressional representatives. To help you understand and carry out your role as an education advocate, ASCD conducts an annual Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy. This year’s event is January 21-23 in Washington, DC. Here’s the link to registration: http://www.ascd.org/conferences/LILA/home.aspx.
ASCD also develops policy recommendations for the federal, state, and district levels (http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/policy/2017-ASCD-Policy-Recommendations.pdf) as well as policy positions http://www.ascd.org/news-media/ASCD-Policy-Positions/ASCD-Positions.aspx. For 2017, there were recommendations in the areas of ensuring equity, promoting excellence, and supporting educators (http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/policy/2017-ASCD-Policy-Recommendations.pdf) and positions related to standards development and implementation, educating students in a changing world, the whole child, health and learning, closing the achievement gap, and multiple measures of assessment. For questions or more information about education advocacy at ASCD, contact the ASCD Government Relations Team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
CO ASCD’s efforts to support teacher voice in education decision making include hosting online conversations with policymakers (see Education Issues in Focus at www.coascd.org), conducting policy summits, inviting policymakers and educators to write policy-related blogs or articles for our newsletter, connecting with other organizations in the state that promote education advocacy (for example, Commissioner Anthes’ Teacher Cabinet http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdecomm/teachercabinet), providing information about policy priorities in Colorado (for example, State Board of Education priorities (http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeboard/sbe2017legpriorities), and participating in ASCD education advocacy activities.
This column will be a regular feature in our quarterly newsletter. We invite you to contribute or respond to the column by writing about how policies have affected your classroom or by sharing your ideas about existing or needed policies. We hope you’ll participate in our other advocacy activities as well. If you would like to play a leadership role by becoming a member of CO ASCD’s Advocacy Committee, please contact Jill Lewis (email@example.com).
Education Issues in Focus:
A Conversation with Policymakers was a Success!
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
This Event Featured:
Katy Anthes, the Colorado Commissioner of Education
and David Griffith, ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy
also, included our guests of distinguished panelists:
Jane Goff– Colorado Board of Education
Brent Kinman– Operations Director, Colorado House Minority Office
Julie Duvall, State Director at U.S. Senator Michael Bennet
Senator Cory Gardner (via pre-recorded video)
Sean Wybrant– High School Teacher (Colorado Springs) and 2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year
Anita Gandhi– Middle School Teacher (Colorado Springs) and Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers 2017 Best of Colorado
Debra Norby Colgate– Elementary School Teacher (Salida)
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner's Pre-recorded Responses to Questions from Education Issues in Focus
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This is a pre-recorded video segment created by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and his office for CO ASCD's Event, Education Issues in Focus: A Conversation with Policymakers. CO ASCD unfortunately didn’t have success in playing the Senator’s video during the LIVE webinar. This is a video of his pre-recorded responses to the questions posed to panelists, and includes his response to a third question, which CO ASCD also, didn’t have time to get to during the livestream event. A very Special Thank you to Senator Cory Gardner and his staff for their time and participation in this CO ASCD event.
Thank you! To all who participated in our Education Issues Live Event!
CO ASCD | P.O. Box 7851 | Broomfield, CO 80021
Phone: 720. 884. 6567