Futuring the Classroom

[What kind of cheese would you like with your Wii?,      is a positive view of the technology enhanced classroom. This is not to say that there is not a need for a balanced curriculum using a variety of tools and resources for instructional purposes; there is! Yet, in light of the social context and new media, how do we incorporate expectations for the physical, intellectual, social and virtual well being of our children? Curricula will require concrete, 'hands on' experiences to build concepts, skills and new tools for learning. However, to maximize each child's learning we will need to learn about their personal learning styles, their multiple intelligences (see HYAST below). "It is not how smart a child is, it is about how each child is smart." As a result, the 'personalization' of learning will highlight our instructional actions and programming during the next millennium. As we move from traditional skills to 21st Century skills, from paper to screen environments, from 'text centredness to image centredness', we will be rediscovering new ways of learning and communicating. On a personal level, Twitter is changing my conception of how knowledge is shared and constructed. The educators I am following, in real time, are my 'content curators'. I thank them for my evolving understanding of how education is changing.

Additionally our learning spaces will change as we move from an industrialize education model to a post-modern information society.  Our society is becoming more and more digitally 'mediated' and the impact on the Net Generation cannot be ignored when many students are connected to media for upwards of 8 hours per day. As students move through their day, 'ubiquitous, pervasive, and ambient technology' surrounds them. For how long can we ask students to power down when they walk through the classroom doors?! Models that are addressing content, pedagogy and advancements in digital technology are evolving rapidly (see TPCK below). And what effect will augmented and virtual realities have on our models of learning? 

What follows is a snapshot of a possible classroom scenario during the first part of a morning. The following article does not suggest that every classroom will be technologically mediated in the same way as cost, replicability and sustainability would all be of concern. Spaces will need to be shared as they evolve from single use to multi-functional. However, from these evolving digital tools we will need to determine a suite of resources that are essential for learning in the context of the 21st Century. This blog attempts to rethink some of our practices as move from older formal physical structures to new spaces that involve the 'personalization' of student centred learning. Whether that learning will be based in formal or informal learning spaces is a trend we will be watching. In FutureLearning, how much instruction will take place in the bricks and mortar classroom? One can access a remote expert just as easily from the home as one can from the classroom! Will new technologies will require new pedagogies?

The classroom is evolving and present day 'literacy is a perpetually moving target', so stay tuned, and in six months time, as I will be addressing the second part of the morning, in 'futuringtheclassroom', Part II...]

What kind of cheese would you like with your Wii?
I greet my Grade 3/4/5 students as they enter the classroom on this Monday morning. I ask Lukka and Karema if they have forgotten their homework. Lukka tells me that he has uploaded his video presentation to the class website. Karema informs me that her connection was down last night. Then she tells me to relax as she smartly waves her ‘terabyte of memory’, USB key at me. I am so relieved that we still have the ability to use physical media to store our files. Sophie and Rehan, two of my students, mention that they are off to the office, for morning announcements. I bid them well…

My classroom is located between two other Grade 3/4/5 classrooms in a short corridor. Once they have entered the room, our class of 24 morning scheduled students, self manage their attendance and sign into  their electronic Personal Organizer Mentor (ePOM). This automatically updates the school database and activates each individual child's responsive avatar-mentor. It will also track the student's morning activity and will provide feedback on instructional actions from his or her previous activities to inform future decisions. The ePOM also looks after each student's digital footprint making sure that the Internet profile is both accurate and current.

Thanks for coming to Class!
Attendance will soon become more dynamic and immediate as it will
include GPS tracking. It will provide us with information about location as well as student authentication. As the students' icons pop up on one of the classroom's multi-screens, I am informed that five students are absent. We know that Sophie and Rehan are present and on duty. Joanne, we know is in the hospital and two of my students will be ‘skypeing’ her later in the morning to fill her in on the day’s activity. Mira is traveling in India and is enrolled in our Board’s virtual online course that has been developed with iNACOL principles in mind (2009). Finally,
Gurpreet has contacted the latest global virus and is at home. I will be checking out his writing exercise on our wiki after the class completes the Gardner's Multi-Intelligence Circuit also known as the How You Are Smart Trainer [HYAST].

Hyper-Mediated Learning Spaces are Coming
As the morning's opening exercises begin, we stand at attention. A three dimensional hologram of the national flag ‘waving in the breeze’ is generated at the front of the classroom. It is followed by some images of the national geographic landscape and 3-D photos of our community that we have taken on our artifact walk in the neighbourhood. One student mentions that he doesn’t even have to wear those funny glasses to see the flag waving in 3-D. Her friend mentions that it would be ‘sweet’ if the teacher could use this technology to teach 3-D shapes in the unit on transformational geometry. Another student looks out the window and sees the Googlian flag waving on the school's flag pole; this is a school using Google suite of tools and is under the Google 'cloud'. The same student ponders why her brother's school flies the Yahooligan's banner on its flag pole.

After the national anthem the students seat themselves on different types of furniture [a rug, mats, body pillows, foam sphere seats

(preferred by ADHD students) and a couch] in the lounge-like area of the classroom. As we seat ourselves in this informal learning space, we hear two familiar voices wafting through room on our surround sound audio system. The students start snickering as they watch Rehan and Sophie, on our visual screen displays, as they read the school news events of the day. Unknown to them, Rehan’s and Sophie’s parents, have booked and online appointment, on Doodle, to visit the school, and watch their children on the video kiosk in the front entrance of the school. Rehan and Sophie will be posting a vodcast of their news reporting experience on their personal blogs, so their parents, family and friends will be able to view them. The daily news readers love to use the school office's mini video recording studio; their images and voices are streamed into every classroom in the school for morning announcements. Conversely, the students throughout the rest of the school enjoy watching their schoolmates narrowcast using the Board’s Intranet. Additionally they broadcast out to their twinning schools, one in Sierra Leone and one in Equador. Many of the students will be sending off follow up questions relating to this morning’s announcements to these budding web journalists. My pupils mention how easily Rehan’s and Sophie’s voices can be heard. The speaker system in our sound enhanced (see photo below)  improves the signal to noise ratio. I reflect on a conversation that I had with a Kindergarten teacher earlier in the morning. He said that, over the course of a school year, Kindergarten children often suffer from multiple ear infections that severely impair their listening skills.
A sound system can be an assistive device used to support the auditory modality. When it is time to begin the morning activities, the teacher routinely wears a mini transmitter to send sound wirelessly to the speakers. Students also have access to a wireless mini microphone or ‘talking stick’ to amplify their voices. It is important for children to hear their ‘voice’; it builds confidence and oral presentation skills. As I speak to my class I am careful to accentuate all the verb endings for my ELL students.

Personal Explorations, The 'Personalization' Trend
After the announcements students quickly flow into their independent reading and/or inquiry activity to practice last week’s reading strategy, mini lesson or explore their a research question respectively. As part of their balanced reading and media program, students find comfortable and informal spaces to begin to read and do literature searches. Some have borrowed books from the classroom or school library and they are placing paper stickies on significant parts of their books where they are involved in inferential thinking. Additionally, some students choose to access reading material on their iTouch, SmartPhone, Kindle or any one of hundreds of newly created eReader tablets, where they can equally highlight their inferential thinking using digital ink. Others enjoy reading the daily newspaper on the digital epaper.

Irlen's Colour Theory
Some students prefer their eReaders and the ability to control the digital ink within a screen environment [for an example of this level of control check out Readability for online text matter]. Fortunately they have access to the Board’s eBook repository from home so, at no cost to the family, they can download reading material. At the present time, approximately 50% of the students read traditional print media texts and the other 50% prefer digital screen, oriented media texts. The students seemed to be fully engaged; the reading process transcends the device. One student subscribes to Helen Irlen’s colour based theory and is using different figure and ground colours on his tablet (2009). For the foreground text he prefers a dark blue and for the background he prefers a light turquoise.

He is disoriented by the high contrast of black on white; the ability to customize his reading environment supports his learning preferences. One student is seen using an online dictionary with voice recognition capability. Another is wearing ear buds to hear an online translation, in her first language, of a ‘read aloud’ book that the teacher is sharing with the class.

The MID is Here to Stay
Apart from the wireless microphone, students have any one of a number of encoding devices from microphones attached to ipods to a variety of digital recording devices. In addition to tablets, students can input information into MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) with browser software. These devices can now be authenticated by the board servers to prevent security issues from arising. Students use paper and electronic devices seamlessly to store information. The MIDs with their enhanced battery life have freed us from the limitations of stationing computers around the outside of a room. Desktop computers used to be placed exclusively around the perimeter of a room because that is where electrical circuitry was buried. With wireless technologies this is no longer the case. Furthermore, architects are now designing learning spaces where the electrical outlets can be easily accessed by all learners.

Student is Afforded Control of the Technology 
Soon it is time to move into a Multi-literacy/Medialiteracy language block that activates both traditional and digital literacy skills (New London Group, 1996). The theme for the unit is Responsibility, in keeping with the school’s and Board’s character education initiative. Prior to the language activity the teacher and a co-presenting student will provide input for the daily activity block. The teacher and the co-presenting student each move to an electronic display device. To encode information students have a variety of concrete tools: markers, pencils, pens, and a broad array of art and printmaking materials. Additionally during group co-operative learning activities the teacher can designate one of the Interactive  White Boards [IWB] as an activity centre for students.

Annotated Pen Technologies and Digital Ink Features
However, at this instance, they will be using digital pen annotated technologies or touch finger capabilities to encode information digitally on the classroom’s IWB. These innovative touch screen technologies eliminate the need for external input devices, mice, pens and keyboards. Touch technology provides for a more authentic and immediate interface between the person and the device (Bolter 1999). After the teacher provides lesson input the student then demonstrates, to the rest of the class, some Level 4, best practices on how to add sound to an animation in order to create a multimedia presentation. The student uses an LCD panel that has been converted into an IWB. By using a protective overlay, one can turn a flat panel screen into an IWB with touch screen capability.
My co-presenter prefers to use touch [haptic] actions to annotate the screen’s visual images with digital ink; her instructions allow students to see the steps in the procedures and to retrieve quickly the main points of the lesson (Wolfe 2002). During their presentations both the teacher and student refer to a third screen that has a slide with a step by step progression of the tasks for each activity centre. This is an important accommodation, as students process information at different rates. This fixed slide allows all students to have an overview of all the activities at all times. This addresses the ephemeral nature of a slide during a digital presentation; once you move to the next slide the previous slide disappears.
A second screen can provide a framework and context for the lesson. Some students are surprised at the number of screens in use, however, as Gunther Kress states, the screen is becoming the dominant site of representation (2003). Will it be the dominant site of learning in the 21st Century? Here is an example of how mediated technologies can create a virtual experience that parallels the authentic. The use of multiple screens will enable global virtual reality journeys without needing to leave the classroom.

A Time for Structuring the Formal Learning
Through the use of an online scheduling system, e.g., Doodle, the classroom teacher(s) and students are able to schedule their groupings,  creativity blocks, individual explorations and community based apprenticeships. Through tracking resources of this type of software students can ensure that they have opportunities to work with a variety of participants in the classroom, in the grade level, within an interest group, external experts or any community resources that will help promote their social and academic learning goals. Wherever possible the learning will be cognizant of the principles suggested by Educon 2.2. The learning should be: inquiry based, network supported, innovation oriented, student centred and pedagogy driven.

Character Education Themed Module - "Responsibility"
Examples of possible explorations follow:

Creating mind maps, using Tony Buzan’s iMIndMap, Inspiration or SMART Ideas software to create an idea map on Responsibility. Students are encouraged to think about collaborating online to share their idea maps.

Creating a storyboard for a writing piece on Responsibility. Students complete a writing framework to scaffold their ideas, then “zoom in on a ‘frozen moment’ and capture that moment with action, dialogue and thought sentences. Students are encouraged to decide on what sound effects and background music using GarageBand or Audacity would best support the frozen moment on a podcast or vodcast.”

Drawing a comic strip using an eight panel framework. Students are then encouraged to scan or import their artwork into Comic Life to create a comic strip or a short graphic novel about the topic of Responsibility. Students are encouraged to think about text features of graphic novels from their work during the unit. After students share their comics with a Kindergarten students they can then post their comic strip on one of the many visual literacy repositories. Additionally student are able to add musical accompaniment to the images.To see the multi-media potential of this tool please view the Don't Laugh at Me anti-bully culminating task in the Something from Nothing project.

Building an interactive narrative within an online community. Students will collaborate using the Write On Project, a collaborative writing project involving other Grade 3, 4, 5 classes from each of the continents from around the world. This activity was developed by Ann Carnevale in 2010. Students will explore ways to demonstrate responsibility within the community with an eye on creating a cross community Public Service Announcement [PSA].

Creating a stop-frame-animation movie (I Can Animate) using student constructed plasticine modeled characters that illustrate responsible decision making. Students are encouraged to think about using GarageBand or Audacity to add a voice over to the stop-frame-animation story. Students are also encouraged to think about how they can turn this into a game to teach Grade One students about Responsibility.

Creating, designing or building a machine to help 'green' the environment, e.g., The Stapleless Stapler. Students can search Goolge Machines portal or visit BrainPOP Science or netTrekker to do some research on a machines. Once they have completed their literature and image search as well as an example of a design process the can begin to build the machine out of concrete materials or they can use Scratch to build a virtual environmental machine. Students are also encouraged to think about how they can share their invention, with other students, through a vodcast outlining the steps in their creative process. Ultimately students can use a 3-D scanner to create a 3D schematic of their invention, send it off to a manufacturer and then have it built as a plastic prototype. This is in keeping with the 'constructionist' movement encouraged by Michael Resnick and Gary Stager.

N.B. The next unit module will extend the students' reach i.e.,"Responsibility in a Global Context"

Creating Media Texts and Building Social Skills
The students have a great deal of experience with open source software and the schools commitment to Google Docs provides them with a familiar suite of tools. Although students are provided with software to complete the assignments, they are encouraged to think about the best tool or piece of software for the task. The software and hardware are important; however, ‘headware’ as Ian Jukes points out, is what allows us to function and make informed decisions in a digital culture (2009). Through these activities the students are encouraged to be producers of media content. By creating their own media texts students can develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of media in popular culture. Furthermore, each of the activities has a significant element of co-operative group learning strategies embedded within the learning process. We are finding that children are learning to collaborate in online virtual environments using social media; ironically, there is need for robust instructional practices to help students collaborate in face-to-face situations. The face-to-face core element of a co-operative group learning lesson comes into play as educational practitioners struggle to create a new model for Co-operative Group Learning Strategies in eLearning contexts. There are many factors that will impact upon our instructional decisions and actions. What will guide us? I would suggest that the

instructional Pedagogy: A Technological Framework for Curriculum Design [TPCK]
The Technology Pedagogy and Content Knowledge framework [TPCK]  would be a helpful model with which to begin (Mishra and Koehler, 2008). The focus on these three key areas or domains, Technology, Pedagogy and Content, should help inform teachers and others of the nuanced nature of teaching and instruction regardless of the decade, century or time period in which we live and learn. The diagram above represents an example of a project that I recently completed using Reading Recovery inspired methods, emerging literacy and technology. Soon this model will be adapted to address a 21st Century skills curriculum. For more information see a posting in the new year.

Learning Spaces and Informal Learning Gain Respect
Normally the students sit at six communal tables within the classroom; however, the individual groups can rearrange the tables as needed. Ultimately teachers and students can create the spaces that match their instructional actions and energy levels. In this classroom all the tables are on castors (lockable) allowing a variety of physical arrangements. Tables can be moved easily to support and reflect the learning. As some students prefer to work in different positions, music-type ‘stands’ are available for students to work with in an erect position. The work of researchers at the Mayo Clinic support the theory that some students need to keep active when learning. See Can You imagine a classroom without desks? and Examples of Different Learning Spaces. Or why not just have learning spaces and fitness spaces in the same place as one school in Toronto has created?

Built Pedagogy: Soft Walls and Swiss Cheese Boundaries

After an hour work session, the Flash animated stopwatch on the IWB chimes. As this is Monday, a Daily Physical Activity program [DPA] is scheduled. As teachers and students prepare themselves for the DPA, the walls between the classrooms begin to unfold.

The future classroom has architectural walls that have moveable interlocking panels suspended from an overhead tracking system (or view these learning spaces designed by Jurgen Bey and photographed by Eric Klarenbeek). This will allow schools to be flexible and efficient around the responses to shifting teacher/pupil ratios and the spaces required to deal with the changes. It will also allow teachers to create learning spaces to meet their curricular expectations and collaborative practices. DPA is about to begin. The walls [on tracks] have been slid open, the tables [on castors] have been rolled to one side and the chairs [all stackable] have been mounted to one side. The space we have created has resulted in a common area for multiclassroom participation and learning. Students from the different classes begin to mingle and fill up the new space. Learning seems to have transferred from formal spaces to informal spaces as a number of students rush up to Rehan and Sophie to discuss their morning news reports. Openings now exist, between classrooms, where once there were walls and it reminds me of a Taoist dilemma. “What makes a room useful?” An appropriate answer in this case is, ‘The Space!’ We watch the three groups of students use the space effectively and energetically. As we view the space and the back wall of each classroom, we are amazed at the amount of light that streams in from the, floor to ceiling, glass windows.

So, not only are we able to physically remove classroom walls, but we are also able to see completely though the classroom’s glass walls to the community and the outside world. Coupled with the advances of modern wireless technology, we are also able to move information around the world invisibly and instantaneously. We communicate asynchronously. Multiple barriers have been removed. Time and space do not matter to the same extent. And the classroom’s walls are open, porous and penetrable - just like Swiss cheese.

Welcome to the Swiss cheese classroom!

Daily Physical and Social Interaction, Keys to Growing 
The DPA ends 20 minutes later and the students are completely bushed; yet they are asking for more. Why? The students have been in constant motion playing a virtual tennis match on the Wii; after that they each mimicked, in another Wii game, the movements of a symphony conductor orchestrating a popular movement from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The entire program DPA is mediated by visuals flashed up on every screen in the classrooms along with the high quality sound. This rich media environment creates a hypermediated ambiance that stimulates the learning and activity (Bolter 1999 and Rudd, 2008). Predictably, once the DPA ends the students want to play a different Wii game. "Can we play another game?" they plead.

“Well, that's for another time and space.” I say. "We can do a group poll later on to decide which game you would like to play. Besides it is recess and the weather is perfect outside so don’t forget your cheese snack on the way out.

So how would you like some Swiss cheese with your Wii?

By Leon Lenchner

With help from Tina Ginglo, Ard Hesselink, Zach Lenchner, Andrew Schmitt and Heather Lotherington in our wiki collaborative space. Additional thanks goes to Flick Douglas and his conception of the personal mentoring tool.

Additional Citations are in the progress of being added. Thank you for your patience.

Bolter, J. D., Gruskin, G., (1999). Remediation Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press.

iNACOL, The International Association for K-12 Online Learning). Retrieved on November 28, 2009 from http://www.inacol.org/about/

Irlen, H. (1998) The Irlen method - helping children and adults with processing problems. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://irlen.com/index.php

Jukes, Ian. (2009) Literacy is not enough: 21st Century fluencies for the digital age. Retrieved November 29, 2009 from http://committedsardine.com/handouts/presentations/LNE.pdf

Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London, Routledge. Mishra, P., Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: a framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 6, 2006, p. 1017-1054 New London Group. (1996) A Pedagogy of multiliteracies: designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, Volume 66 Number 1, Spring 1996, Retrieved on June 16, 2008 from http://wwwstatic.kern.org/filer/blogWrite44ManilaWebsite/paul/articles/A_Pedagogy_of_Multiliteracies_Designing_Social_Futures.htm

Lotherington, Heather (citation in progress)

Rudd, T. (2007) Interactive whiteboards in the classroom. . Futurelab, Innovation in Education. Retrieved on December 14, 2008 from http://www.futurelab.org.uk/events/listing/whiteboards/report

Wolfe, Joanna, (2002) Annotation technologies: a software and research review. Computers and Composition; v19 n4 p471-97 2002

The photo in the mast head is of the British Museum Reading Room.

The photo of these sculptures is from Wiki Commons. It has been cropped at the upper boundary. For original please navigate to

The photo of the Multiple Intelligences is a Creative Common Photos from the photostream of ~C4Chaos from Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/coolmel/408367909/

The Black and White Photos in the Built Pedagogy: Soft Walls and Swiss Cheese Boundaries 
are from the ROC Project. Photos used with the kind permission of Studio Makkink & Bey,  www.studiomakkinkbey.nl with the cooperation of Eric Klarenbeek. Photographer: Eric Klarenbeek. Retrieved on February 04, 2010.
from http://www.dezeen.com/2007/09/30/roc-apeldoorn-classroom-by-jurgen-bey/ 

1 comment:

lizv said...

Hey Leon,
Great article. Certainly makes for an intersting future, doesn't it?! Cheers, Liz