Sunday, February 8, 2015

What's In a Classroom?

One of the major reasons college is costing more is the intrusion by those who "think" they know better. Take the recent UNH classes in Manchester. In a NHPR piece they laud the introduction of the best ideas in classroom designs.
Take the above classroom, at MIT. Yes they are my two grandsons, and it was a while ago, but the chairs were sitable  and there was no room for laptops, iPads, cellphones etc.

The NHPR pieces states:

“And then it’s learning by doing. So the instructor would walk through the classroom or the lab and listen to what’s happening, providing advice or when asked to, solve certain problems.” Sabin uses round tables she calls “pods” that seat a handful of students who huddle in front of their laptops and easily talk with peers. It’s an idea she got from other STEM studios in places like MIT. And other teachers are taking note.

Not clear where they walked through MIT other than a meeting room or cafeteria but learning by doing is called problem sets and homework. Lectures are learning by listening and asking. It is an iterative process. You learn a little, do a little, learn a little, etc.

The piece continues:

So for example, we have some faculty members who as soon as they get in to the class want to put the students in circles. We have other faculty who may start lecturing so the idea of that five rows works, but then want to get students into groups.” But to accomplish this, they need something as simple as better chairs. As part of a faculty-led design team, Gamtso organized a “sit test” in the library where students could try out dozens of chairs and provide comments. The crowd favorite? A chair with a larger table which can pivot for right or left-handed users and has storage space for bags. It even has a cupholder…

 How about a taxpayer favorite, a chair and table. I am always amazed that when a state owned institution hires an expert that all too often the expert recommends something "new" and all too often expensive.

Take the MIT Stata Center, the architectural monster which leaks and appears near impossible to maintain. Someone had the great idea that this would be a landmark, well it is, it is an eyesore! Perhaps these chairs will have an equal effect.