New classroom design helps students, teachers do more

New classroom design helps students, teachers do more

Monday, February 17, 2014

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Normally, its a new type of class that gathers attention among students, but this time, its a new classroom that has everyone talking at OTC.

The classroom is located on the second floor of Information Commons West and is used for English classes.

What makes it different is the moveable desks and the computer monitors, which are mounted on the walls instead of atop conventional fixed-in-place desks.

The redesign was the idea of the English department. The desks are mobile and slide across a room easily. The worktops can be flipped and turned to accommodate a left-handed or right-handed student. There are even cup holders in the desks base.

"The value of the classroom is the flexibility it affords both teachers and students, as well as the interaction it promotes teacher-to-student as well as student-to-student," said Richard Turner, chair of the English department.

No longer are students blocked from each other and from the teacher by monitors in their faces. Instead, they are free to arrange themselves in a way that best promotes engagement and learning, given the needs of the lesson at the time and the individual student.

Jennifer Dunkel, who teaches developmental English in the classroom, praises the advantages the room gives her and her students.

"My favorite part of the new classroom, by far, is the new desks. The mobile design allows us to move from lecture to small-group activities to large-group discussions with ease," she said.

"One of the problems with the old set-up of the class was that the computers sat on top of the desks. It is no exaggeration to say that I've had classes where I could only see my students eyebrows and tops of heads."

In the new classroom, Dunkel can move in and around the students without being blocked. She can ask students to cluster into small groups to discuss study topics or prepare presentations.

"Mobile desks give students control over their environment. They can move around to any part of the room. If students can't see the board, they can move their entire desk up to the front without having to pack up and relocate from one fixed desk to another," she said.

Ethan Schlesener, a student in Dunkel's class, said he liked the new classroom design.

"The chairs are pretty sweet," he said. "You don't have to get up to throw anything away."