Classroom Design and 1:1 – How Do You Make It Work?

My district is a rare gem; it is incredibly invested and personable, and it tries as much as possible to give us every opportunity to innovate. The support we receive from our district is why it is possible for us to be one of the top districts in our area, despite our very high FRL population. And while we may be a bit behind some districts in this regard, we are finally going completely 1:1 at the high school next year, which for schools in our area is a big deal (most high schools except the private or very rich schools do NOT have 1:1 and only implement BYOD).

Up to this point, we’ve been fortunate as a department of five teachers to share 15 iPads and 15 laptops plus some additional Surface tablets (which are awful and never work). When combined with BYOD or pairing students up, that means we can get access to full-class tech two times per week. We also have several computer labs as well as a stocked media center and two rentable laptop carts. This means that during most of the year, we do have some access to technology as we need it (the exceptions being state EOC testing windows, other testing windows, etc.). It’s pretty exceptional from what I hear in most public, low-SES high schools.

However, the way we use tech because of this is very different than it would be with a day-to-day implementation, which is why I am SO EXCITED about being 1:1 next year. We are finalizing which devices to provide for the entire school, we are upgrading our internet infrastructure and wireless access points, and this summer, I’m going to revamp everything about my practices and my Schoology classes to reflect this shift. I’ll detail more about my plans to implement tech in a later post.

In this post, I am considering how the heck to arrange my classroom to better accommodate 1:1 technologies and the accompanying challenges. I’ve had one class of students with 1:1 in the past at a previous school, so at least I have some conception of what I’m up against.

My first issue is and always has been the one piece desks. They are not geared towards a collaborative, flexible classroom, nor do they allow easy manipulation of the layout or group/partner work. Add 32 of these desks with my teacher work space, a built in counter and armoire that is not able to be removed, 32 laptops, and now 32 devices that will need to be plugged in at some point during the day (because I don’t know a single laptop that keeps a charge for 7 hours of use a day) into an already small-ish classroom, and crowded is the least of my concerns. I know that I’m going to move, reconfigure, and pair down my teacher work space for next year (into the “dead zone” at the front corner were students can never see the board or projector), which will also put my materials in easier grasp and remove other fixtures from my room. But what to do about the rest?

I’ve got permission to try something new, a limited budget (out of my own money) to bring some different ideas to my classroom, but I’m looking for suggestions. I’ll be building furniture, refinishing and repurposing items from donations/thrift stores/ReStore/my basement, so any and all ideas are welcome!

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