by Tracy Geraldez
How can a physical space support teaching? Beyond that, can a more efficient classroom lead to greater student inspiration?
At MK Think, we have a lot of interest in how a building can function as a teaching tool – can we create spaces for collecting and collaborating?, Or, can we provide areas conducive to science experiments? In addition, we also consider how the functionality of a space, or the lack thereof, can affect the teaching process.
One of the greatest teaching assets that designers and architects can provide is simply the time that a teacher has with their students. When a space significantly lacks functionality, teaching time is interrupted while the teacher (or a proactive student) has to do things like adjust blinds, change light settings or fiddle with a thermostat. We always encourage people to make the necessary environmental adjustments to maximize comfort, as a method of making sure that learning is not inhibited. However, we should also be considering ways to minimize the time that users need to spend in making these adjustments, particularly when the user is a teacher and that time is class time.
Initially, we may think it trivial the amount of time that a teacher must allocate to adjusting the blinds or curtains. But doing some quick math, we can see that spending only three minutes a day (for three or four adjustments) can add up to 585 minutes, or almost 10 hours over the course of a (195-day) school year. This is the loss of more than an entire school day — from only one minor environmental adjustment that teachers have to make. (And before questioning the need to constantly combat glare by adjusting blinds and curtains, one should consider the ever-increasing use of computers and electronic tablets in schools.) However, a classroom that either has presets to make adjustments extremely easy and quick, or better yet, automates these adjustments to window treatments, temperature and lighting, can reclaim that time for teaching. 10 hours gained could mean a lot to a school district facing stricter spending and hiring. 10 hours gained could also add to the conversation for or against longer school years. And just think – how much learning, interaction, and hopefully inspiration could happen in the 10 hours gained?