Imagine the feeling you get when you walk into a trendy coffee shop or a new space in a friend’s home. You can imagine yourself being productive, losing yourself in a book, or on an endless internet search for something that’s piqued your interest.
There’s a near-certain chance that this desk was not part of your ideal space.
I was out at High Tech High back in March and the classroom space is awe-inspiring. I’m here again this week for their Winter Residency and there are some design features worth sharing. As we plan for the fall rollout of Innovation Lab, we hope to propose including many of these same ideas in our own classroom redesigns. A big term we heard a lot is work time, similar to our own studio time. It’s time students have to work on their projects. Students told me this time is more than 50% of their overall experience. You’ll notice students below working at tables, on couches, at breakfast bars, etc.
Work time represents a bit of a departure from your typical view about engagement in a classroom. Students are engaged – they have a task, they’re working, they’re asking the teacher if needed. Some students have headphones in and, yes, there’s the occasional check of a text message. A high school sophomore talked of the respect they have for teachers and teachers have for them in this environment. A high school teacher described their work time as similar to our own work environments – as teachers, we will be very engaged in planning a task or meeting with a team. Later, we might be more relaxed and listen to music or check a message as we work. He noted that at any office, one wouldn’t expect 100% total engagement and no distractions for an entire work day. His opinion when pushed about students misusing technology? What they’re doing at school needs to be exciting and meaningful enough for them to be as engaged as us. This is a shift from our own traditional thinking of what a classroom should look like.