Report: From Temperature to Lights, Classroom Design Issues

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From lighting to temperature, a new report takes a detailed look at the aesthetics of school buildings and their classrooms and the effect they have on student learning.

The report details key findings for building improvements to promote student success that could be most beneficial for students of low-income families.

Students who are in a learning environment that includes natural lighting perform at a higher level than students who do not.  However, 16% of permanent schools and 28% of portable schools do not have enough natural light, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The optimal temperature for the highest level of learning ranges between 68 and 74 degrees.  The report found 16% of permanent schools and 12% of portable schools to not have proper levels of heating to facilitate student success.

The report also detailed symbols found within classrooms that inadvertently place more value on certain sets of students.  For example, the report suggests featuring objects that promote the achievement of groups who are traditionally disadvantaged in education, such as women scientists, to help instill the idea of success.  Also, “token” symbols of certain ethnic groups, such as American Indian mascots, may cause those groups to hold lower self esteem.

“This research should be used in developing and implementing education policy for state-level boards, local school boards, school and program administrators, and teachers. Organizations that promote standards for certification and accreditation might encourage training on classroom environments. School administrators might provide venues for teachers to share information on school environments.”

A separate report suggests four changes to make to design classrooms that better promote learning as technology continues to progress.

The creation of creative spaces such as flexible seating arrangements, which allow for easy transitions throughout the day, will offer more comfort and flexibility to learning spaces.  The room also needs to maintain a space for small group collaborations.  In order for this to succeed in the future, which will certainly include using the Internet, outlets need to be placed throughout the room to allow for different room configurations while still being able to plug in laptops and tablets for charging.

“The room needs to be outfitted with a lot of outlets that aren’t just for regular plugs, but also for USBs.” And planning for a 1-to-1 environment is not enough, said Erin Klein, a second-grade teacher and technology and design consultant. “Eventually, it’s going to be a 1-to-3 or 1-to-4.”

Students need to be able to connect to the Internet without issue, and older school buildings have trouble keeping up with the higher bandwidth requirements.  While sheetrock and glass allow for a better signal, older buildings made of brick and mortar make obtaining a usable signal a challenge.

Schools need to hire full-time employees devoted to the training of teachers for the successful integration of technology and education, with the goal of “blended learning” to become a thing of the past, as technology becomes more and more integrated into classroom use.

Above all, the classroom of the future must promote teaching students.

“Ultimately, you really need to think about the design and layout of your space and how that can support your curriculum, Then you can start thinking about how to outfit your infrastructure and what devices you might need to enhance the curriculum,” said Klein.

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