For the very last assignment for my master’s in educational technology course, I am asked to redesign my classroom to best fit my students’ learning. This assignment comes at the perfect time, as I start school in just two weeks and four days! (ah!!!) I think I need to do some work in my classroom to get to my ideal classroom space. I teach Spanish, so there is a big emphasis on classroom community and communication. I want students to feel comfortable with one another, to lean on each other when a concept is difficult, and to speak Spanish with everyone around them. Currently, I have my desks in two big groups of rows. The rows are on angles to face each other and the front white board with an aisle down the middle. Originally, I designed it this way so students could see one another easily during full group discussions. However, the focus was still on the main white board and me, the teacher.
After reading Colleen Lee’s article “What Your Classroom Setup May Be Saying to Students” and Thomas L. Friedman’s article “It’s P.Q. and C.Q as Much as I.Q.,” I thought about what the learning I wanted to accomplish in my classroom looked like. I want my students to engage with the Spanish language and to use it as much as possible. To do this effectively, I should not be the focus of the classroom. Students should be focusing on one another, learning and communicating with each other. My desks should not be in rows where the whiteboard and I are at the focus of students’ attention. Instead, desks should be in groups of four to allow for student collaboration. As Lee explains the best scenario is “pods of 4 desks – a partner to talk to beside them – and pair across the table for broader consultation/interaction.”
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In my school district, all students in the middle school have their own computers they bring with them to class everyday. These can be BYOD or rented from the school. These computers add so many technology resources to the class already that I wanted to focus on sharing these tools with others in the classroom rather than directing students’ whole focus to their own computer screen. My students are hyperconnected, where my students have access to new information and technology at their finger tips everyday. I need my students to also be hyperconnected to one another. Learning Spanish is to learn to speak and use the language, not learning how fast Google Translate can (most of the time- incorrectly) spit out a Spanish sentence. In groups of four, I want students to collaborate and push each other further, not separate themselves by rows of computer screens. Of course, the computers are a HUGE asset in the classroom. These computers offer technology tools that are great to discover Spanish culture and connect to students in Spanish speaking countries. However, as the TPACK framework shows, it is how students use technology in the classroom that matters. Students should be using these computers to enhance their Passion Quotient (P.Q.) and Curiosity Quotient (C.Q.), where they learn something new and share it with their group members. The more interest students have in Spanish, they more they will research and dig deeper on their own.
Thinking back to my own learning, it was the Spanish language and experiences abroad that captivated me. In Mexico City, my P.Q. grew as I talked with native speakers in Spanish. I carried this passion back to the classroom where I was eager to learn new vocabulary and higher grammar. My C.Q. developed when I not only want to learn the language, but the culture and people who spoke it. This curiosity lead to a study abroad. My P.Q. and C.Q. led me to where I am today: a middle school Spanish teacher. I want to unleash this passion and curiosity in my students, which will (hopefully) lead to them learning more outside of the classroom. By having students in groups of four, the focus becomes on them. Their seat partners are a new source of information they did not have before when I was the focal point. In groups, students can easily share and look on to other students’ computers which could tap into more curiosity and passion. Now, I can repurpose technology we already have available so students can collaborate with one another and use the Spanish language together to create something great on the computer.
Friedman, T. L. (2013) It’s P.Q. and C.Q as much as I.Q. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html
Lee, C. (2014) What Your Classroom Setup May Be Saying to Students. Edudemic. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/classroom-setup/?fb_action_ids=694559880791&fb_action_types=og.likes