by Dr. Luvelle Brown
Contemporary learners deserve learning spaces that meet their individual and collective needs. To meet this challenge, educational leaders must provide physical and cultural environments that are empowering and engaging.
Today’s learners have rendered the traditional classroom obsolete, since it oftentimes features students sitting in rows of desks while the instructor stands in the front of the room at a chalkboard or whiteboard. This traditional space must be replaced with one that is engineered specifically to support thinking, alter teaching practices and strategies, and increase student engagement and achievement. Classrooms that are adaptive while meeting student needs incorporate writable desktops and wall space, hands-on and eyes-on learning tools, flexible seating options, scaffolding knowledge charts, and other innovative tools not found in many traditional schools. Furthermore, there is no teacher’s desk at the front of the class and students are encouraged to move around the classroom to collaborate with other students on tasks.
The act of movement heightens student engagement and alertness. Students literally become active players in the learning environment, which is an empowering and exciting shift away from the passivity of sitting stationary at a desk for an hour. All aspects of the learning space described encourage activity, thinking, and learning.
Along with the physical space, the cultural environments in schools must be conducive to learners as well. Each learning space should capture a sense of love. Much deeper than the emotional sense, the loving environment that must exist in classrooms is patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated. In learning environments that reflect these principles, stronger relationships are built. Additionally, specific pedagogical practices provide relevance, offer clear distinctions, and spark thinking while taking into account their learners’ cultural backgrounds.
Today’s learners deserve schools that embrace the latest research and best practices with regards to the physical and cultural environment needs. The next time you are in a classroom, take the time to assess the atmosphere. Is the space truly empowering and engaging the learners?
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Dr. Luvelle Brown has served as Superintendent of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) in Ithaca, New York since January 2011. Prior to arriving in Ithaca, Dr. Brown served as a school CIO, Executive Director of the Division of School Improvement, teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Dr. Brown has received multiple national and state recognitions including the 2014 eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award, and was recognized by the National School Boards Association as a “20-to-Watch” in 2014. Dr. Brown is the co-author of ThinkTweets: 100 Transformative Tweets for Educators.
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