Choosing the tools that you use in a classroom is an important part of building the environment you hope to create. Just as teachers arrange desks and invest time in bulletin boards to create physical spaces, tech tools contribute to the digital space of a classroom.
My first principal once told me that you can learn a lot about a teacher just by looking at their classroom. I took that to heart and always tried to build a space that served my mission. I remember looking back on the wonder that was my 5th grade teacher. I can’t remember everything that I learned that year, but I loved walking into that room.
I think we can learn a lot about a teacher from the digital spaces that they create.
So I have been thinking…are we as careful about the way we are constructing our digital classroom? Do we vet the choices that we are making about digital learning spaces as heavily as we do those of our physical spaces, not just in terms of what they accomplish in terms of tasks but also in terms of them as a space that students inhabit? Are we concerned if they are warm and welcoming places as much as we are when students walk into our physical classes on day one?
Some time ago I started thinking of the classroom as a campfire. The campfire is a place where after a long day, people come together, get to know each other, celebrate and share experiences. Campfires draw people in and value sharing. Then, invariably they lead people to stare into the fire and reflect. I won’t belabor the analogy here, but there is a lot about seeing the classroom as a campfire that works. (Though I am tempted to point out that I have never been to a campfire gathering built on a lecture format.)
Another facet of the “Classroom Campfire” is “What kind of fire do you need to accomplish your task.” S’mores, cookout or bonfire, large group or small, you need to plan a fire that serves your mission. Choose wisely and build the right campfire. Tools are no different.
Classroom tools are not neutral, they complete a task but they also have a feel and make statements about what is important. Some LMS tools are sterile and cold while completing a task
well and making it easier for teachers to organize and distribute work. Some web tools are fun, but limit a classes ability to share reflect and return to the work later on. Some tools are powerful but are hard to get familiar (high cost of admission but the show is great.) None of these things are necessarily a problem, if you are constructing a digital classroom space thoughtfully keeping in mind the sum total effect that these tools have on the kids.
Are your students operating in a digital classroom space that is as carefully constructed as the physical space that you create for them? Are you proud of the digital space that you have created?