I was reminded by a colleague today that the most important technology in a classroom is the classroom itself. She had taught in overcrowded classrooms where you couldn’t walk between desks, and lecture classrooms where it was nearly impossible for students to collaborate without throwing their back out.
This year she lucked into a classroom with mobile furniture that could be reconfigured with ease, in a classroom that was not overstuffed with desks. She was amazed. She could engage with her students separately or as a group. She could easily reach students in the back that needed assistance. She could walk around the classroom while talking and make eye contact with everyone. Like most people that have taught in well-designed flexible classrooms, she said the difference was night and day.
I’ve told people that my vision of educational technology’s future is to make the “clicks more click and the bricks more brick” — that is, to use the particular affordances of face-to-face and online education to better effect by recognizing and promoting their distinct bu complementary strengths. Just as online classes are moving to finally make more and better use of of the networked nature of the internet, face-to-face spaces have to make better use of the emergent & immediate interaction that they provide. They have to foreground that and enable it in ways that many classrooms don’t. That’s why while I’m a huge believer in online classes, I’m also incredible excited with technologies like rolling tables, movable screens, and extra space. And it’s why the digital technology I most want to see in classroom is the digital overhead projector, because unlike Powerpoint, Prezi, and all manner of smart tools, the digital overhead enhances the feeling of presence in the classroom, the feeling of immediacy — and it does that while promoting the sort of emergent, physical interaction that only physical space can provide.