Re: What's new in classroom configurations

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Mon Feb 28 2005 - 17:49:55 PST
and various on
At 07:03 PM 27/02/2005 +0700, you wrote:
>This is a rather interesting idea - changing the spatial characteristics
>of the classroom and and removing some of the constraints on movement. Has
>anyone here any experience of this sort?
> Sunday February 27, 2005
>The Observer
>In this school, the classroom revolution is now a reality - all 360
>degrees of it
>Teachers circle the room in an experiment that could change the shape of
>education. And the pupils love it. Vanessa Thorpe and Anushka Asthana report.
> Inside a dingy-looking prefab hut near the Toxteth area of Liverpool,
> an experiment is determining the shape of things to come; or at least the
> shape of the world as British schoolchildren will know it.
> A new teaching system, revolutionary in more than one sense, has been
> developed and tested in secret. Known as the 360 degree flexible
> classroom, it challenges the techniques used by teachers down the ages.
> Although the year eight boys of St Margaret's High School in Aigburth
> look conventional enough as they file into class in their ties and
> blazers, they are effectively entering a Tardis full of futuristic gadgetry.
> When their afternoon maths lesson begins, far from having to keep
> themselves awake by flicking elastic bands at each other, they are
> careering around the room on wheels.
> Instead of simply standing at the front, their teacher, Tim Wadsworth,
> circles them on a curved 'racetrack', occasionally taking up a position
> on a podium in the centre of the room. No longer can reluctant students
> skulk at the back of the class or plant themselves on the periphery of
> the teacher's field of vision.
> To the outsider the scene looks chaotic, but for the designers of this
> prototype and the children who have studied in it for seven weeks now,
> the classroom is a hit.
> Twelve-year-old pupil Daniel Pinder, who has maths and German lessons in
> the new round room, explained the benefits of the pilot project. 'We do
> much more group work now - it is better because of the shape of the room.
> If the teachers ask us to get into groups of four we just take the brakes
> off our chairs and move,' he said. His classmates sit at their own
> Q-Pods, special table and chair units on wheels.
>During a typical lesson last week the boys sat in sets of four, hunched
>over large white boards, discussing work and gripping thick marker pens.
>As Wadsworth circled his pupils, one boy chucked a board cleaner at a
>friend, while another drew round the shape of his hand, but most were
>clearly engrossed in their tasks. It may have been a maths class but it
>could easily have been an art class, to judge by the level of physical
> The white writing boards fit back on to the walls of the classroom so
> the class's work can be discussed. To see this, the boys swivel round on
> their seats, before swivelling back into a semi-circle around the teacher
> to examine a diagram.
> The wall boards can also become screens for computer projections, while
> the temperature and light in the room are electronically controlled.
> Mirrors mounted at three points serve as eyes in the back of the
> teacher's head.
> Thirteen-year-old Anthony Robson is impressed. 'In a normal classroom
> they cram everything on one board and you can't see it. The only bad
> thing about this classroom is its location - if the teacher is late we
> have to stand in the rain,' he said.
> The flexible classroom is one of 10 Design Council learning campaign
> projects set up in schools around Britain. Constructed last year, it has
> been in regular teaching use all this term. Now the Design Council hopes
> the project will influence the way every school is built, ahead of a huge
> national education investment programme.
> The government is to spend 5.2 billion on refurbishing and building
> schools in the first major investment for three decades. On top of this
> sum, each year over 1bn is spent on furniture, decoration and
> maintenance. The Design Council team believe this money should be spent
> with imagination, rather than just copying the old fashioned classroom
> blueprint.
> 'When schools are given money they think, "Great, we can have a new
> computer lab," but they do not really think about the environment,' said
> Toby Greany of the Design Council. 'This classroom works so well because
> the racetrack around the room means there is no back of the class. There
> have been some teething problems but this is only a protoptype.'
> Consigning the teacher to a desk at the front is thought to stop him or
> her thinking freely, while the cheaper chairs commonly used in schools
> can cause back pain over the 15,000 hours spent sitting down in an
> average school life. The round classroom also eradicates the so-called
> 'attention zone', a triangle immediately in front of the teacher which
> inevitably receives 90 per cent of his or her attention.
> David Dennison, headmaster of St Margaret's, said he had been unhappy
> with traditional classroom design for some time. 'I felt it didn't suit
> modern teaching,' he said. 'That doesn't mean we don't use modern skills
> here, but it involves moving a lot of furniture. So we were completely
> sold on the idea of classroom that would operate in many ways at one time
> - for role play and for projecting on to a number of surfaces.'
> Thirteen-year-old pupil Phillip Harper agreed. 'It is much better than
> other classrooms, the chairs are better, you can spin around and see the
> teacher.
> 'It is also much more fun. We get the boards down all the time and work
> together - before we would work more on our own in maths. This has made
> maths much more fun than it used to be,' he said.
> The Department for Education and Skills has supported the scheme and
> watched with curiosity. Mike Gibbons of the department's innovations
> unit, which also supported the Joined Up Design For Schools project now
> on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, has been impressed.
> 'What you need is as much flexibility as possible when building
> schools,' he said. 'What you don't want to do is to trap yourself into
> one design. The 360 degree classroom is wonderful. It offers maximum
> flexibility.
>Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61) 03-9380
Nancy Fraser Australian Tour 26 July-7 August 2005,

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Mar 01 2005 - 01:00:04 PST