Future Learning Spaces is quite the popular topic these days. Steve shares his experiences over the last 6 months looking at the redefinition of learning spaces and the potential for concepts like Idea Paint to replace stagnant interactive whiteboards.
Over the last 8 months I've been involved in a project investigating the redefinition of learning spaces. If this was a hot topic back then, it's certifiably on fire right now. Every single day the Twitterverse seems to have someone sharing a view or concept on the subject.
The simple fact is that, as predicted back in 2011, mobile technology IS indeed changing the classroom dynamic. I remember sharing the amazing A Dau Made of Glass video from Corning at a convention in 2012 and watching the jaws drop. To me though it represented a future that was not only within reason but within reach.
In 2015, with iPad use embedded as common practice, questions that innovative educators have been asking for years suddenly seem more pertinent -
Does a classroom need a front? Are interactive whiteboards relevant any more? (and worth the cost?) Should students all sit separately? Does a learning space even have to be a room?
I am lucky enough to work at a forward thinking school and we have been trialling some new concepts this year. We have removed some of the interactive whiteboards completely and instead opted for projectors with the wall painted using Idea Paint.
For those that aren't familiar, Idea Paint essentially allows you to paint any smooth surface and turn it into a dry wipe board. It's not cheap but compared to the cost of an interactive whiteboard it's definitely a viable option for classrooms price wise. Some schools are even painting the desks with it which is another great idea.
Besides - what do you actually use your IWB for? I'd bet that the majority of educators use it for two things:
1. Displaying PowerPoint presentations or websites. 2. Using it as a digital note taking screen.
Does this justify the price that a decent SMART board goes for these days? The only real revolution in this technology has been to incorporate the multitouch facility but even that becomes redundant in the mobile tech enabled classroom as students all have their own devices.
We've tried two variations with the Idea Paint and they are quite distinct in approach. Both are serving as beta tests of sorts and feedback will inform future spending and classroom redesign.
TEST 1: AS A SECONDARY LEARNING SPACE. When we started looking at learning spaces of the future, I contacted my good friend, erstwhile mentor and iPad band pioneer David Kirtlan from Elsium Learning Solutions and asked his opinion on what the best choice of IWB was in 2014. He replied that the most innovative schools he'd been in had ditched the boards altogether and replaced them with multiple projectors and Idea Paint instead. I could see the logic as this would provide distinct areas around the room for groups to work at using their iPads.
It seemed like a petty funky idea, so our first test run saw two classes fitted with a second, short-throw projector, dedicated Apple TV and Idea Paint on the wall. They still had a SMART board at the front but this allowed for break out groups to lead their own learning, thinning the crowd for the teacher to focus on specific learning needs. Tasks could be set up via apps like Explain Everything and instructions placed around the projected screen directly on the wall. Alternatively, instructions could be on the screen and kids could work on the wall.
It's hard to put into words just how much kids like writing on the wall. I think it's the graffiti factor and slight feeling of rebellion that inspires them to love doing this when in reality it's little different to writing on a regular whiteboard!
TEST 2: AS THE MAIN DISPLAY AREA
I'm currently back in class covering a maternity leave, so we decided to try something a little different in my room. We ditched the IWB altogether and the old whiteboard too. In the place went a new projector and a whole wall painted with Idea Paint. The projector is central as you can see in the image, providing two large break out spaces for groups to work on. I've actually had the entire class of 22 working on it at the same time. The kids absolutely live this and the freedom of space is amazing.
Do I miss having an interactive whiteboard? Quite frankly no. What am I missing out on really. Some more skeptical colleagues have pointed out that I can't save annotations that I make on a document. I simply remind them that the iPad has a camera. Besides - how often do you return to those files?
To paraphrase Doc Brown from Back To The Future:
IWBs? Where we're going we don't need IWBs.
The title of the article makes sense now right? :)
Beyond the wordplay though, there is logic to my Back To The Future reference. We ARE somewhat going backwards in the use of tech to move forwards by losing the defunct IWB. If all they are being used for is substitution, then the SAMR model itself would suggest that this makes sense too!
We've paired this new set up with Air Server - now available for PC as well as Mac at last and ten times cheaper than an Apple TV. It also allows for multiple iPads to be projected at the same time, projects full screen and there's no lost time whilst you fiddle with connections/find that darn Apple TV remote that was surely designed to be lost! A definite winner and a valuable tag team partner for the Idea Paint wall. If your school has a robust wifi network and you haven't yet invested in Apple TVs, I definitely recommend Air Server as the option to look into.
With the right apps this also means that the whole loss of annotations "issue" is made redundant. Whether it be Explain Everything, Bai Board or Show Me, there are plenty of options for presenting, annotating and saving a document that you're sharing with the whole class. Personally I still keep going back to Zamuraias its infinite canvass design vibes well with the clean aesthetic of the Idea Paint wall. It's also so quick and easy to use and I can return to one document throughout the week to add further ideas and concepts.
I also taught a great little session on line graph design today using Alan Peat's iVisualiser app to allow the whole group to watch me construct my own graph (and annotate) live.
With this type of technology at our fingertips, why stand at the front of the room? I sat with the less able students so they could see it up close!
I'll let you go and compare the price of just these two apps combined against the typical IWB notebook software...
Next up in my room? Display Note. We'll be trialling this after the Easter break and it looks superb. Throw your screen to multiple devices and even capture images into their camera rolls for them! You can also use it to take quick polls and various other neat things. Look for a more in depth feature on this here at iPad Educators very soon.
Another thing we're looking at which really impressed me is the Node chair from Steelcase. These amazingly versatile seats are not only incredibly comfortable and feature built in storage but the built in tables rotate on two separate axes so that they can tessellate into a variety of seating plans with ease.
Ok so they're pricey compared to your bog standrad chairs but just think - how long have the current chairs been in your classrooms? If you divide the price by 10 even 20 years of use, the value is definitely there. I also really like that Steelcase have done their research into the evolution of learning.
As for the school as a whole, we'll no doubt look to expand the Idea Paint trial to a larger set of classrooms. I plan to return to this topic in about a year's time and fill you in on where we went with it all.
And if it all goes horribly wrong, someone in Dubai is bound to own a Delorean...
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Have you developed some amazing new learning spaces around the use of mobile technology? Get in touch with us @iPadEducatorsAE and let us know!