Classroom Furniture is an Instructional Technology

A definition of Instructional Technology
I set out to write this post, starting with a simple definition of instructional technology and then planned to structure my thoughts centered on this definition. Of course, me – not be able to just write a simple definition, I have spent literally HOURS reading how others have defined /are defining instructional technology. I was particularly amazed to find that in 2008, the AECT (Association for Educational and Communications Technology) sponsored a project to pen a whole book on simply the definition of the field of instructional or educational technology – Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary. Needless to say, part of me is stunned. The other part of me says – of course there is!

Anyway, this post is not about the definition of instructional technology. It is about how I feel classroom furniture should be viewed as an instructional technology.

Classroom furniture = Instructional Technology
A part of my work that really energizes and feeds me is thinking about how we can reform our teaching and learning spaces into spaces that are inspiring. That are welcoming. That are flexible. Spaces that you might actually want to TEACH in – let along LEARN in.

uwb-classroom

A classroom at UWB

However, as is evidenced in many of our classrooms at our colleges and universities, they are many times the least inspiring. They are unwelcoming and inflexible. Many times they are simply 4 white walls (with maybe a sign instructing you NOT to hang anything on the walls) with rows of immovable tables and chairs. I need not go on. I know you are envisioning such a space.

I find it ironic that we have 3-year cycles for computer replacements – and that we spend thousands of dollars creating virtual environments for our online and blended students. While our classrooms sit with years of deferred maintenance. This could change if our institutions (1) had a clear understanding of how space can shape or reshape teaching and learning (2) began to see classrooms as a way to reflect their campus’ missions and visions for teaching and learning and (3) invested in space design and redesign as it does in other technologies across campus.

Back to the AECT. In their 2008 book, Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary, the authors define educational technology as “…the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (p. 1, 2008). They go on to break down this definition word by word in the first chapter – so you can go after it there. However, I want to spend a few moments connecting the dots between this definition and classroom furniture.

The literature is rife with pieces exploring definitions of technology, and I’m not going there. I

Active Learning Classroom

Bowling Green State University

think it is safe to say that on our campuses, technology is probably defined as something that needs to be plugged in or that has alternate power source. It is electronic. However, per the definition from the AECT, classroom furniture also has the ability to facilitate learning and improve performance. This has been shown in much of the recent Active Learning Literature (see a few references below). Included in this literature is a piece that discovered that active learning can help disadvantaged students.

Now, I understand you can teach using active learning techniques without flexible furniture. However, how successful have you been doing a jigsaw in a tiered classroom with tab chairs bolted to the floor? Just as technology has continued to be refined, so has teaching and learning. Just as the tech industry is designing their devices using a policy of planned obsolesce, so should we when it comes to classroom furniture.

I am sure someone else has written about this. If so, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to read their work and gain further insights.

9x9x25 Reflection
I’m such a sentence counter! I find myself, midstream or mid-thought, counting the number of sentences I’ve written. Then trying to figure out if I should stop writing long sentences in order to reach the 25-sentence minimum faster. Why is that?!? I know I will meet the 25 sentences, so why can’t I just let myself write?

Wow. How our students must feel when we give them a writing assignment with a rubric. I used to be a proponent. Should I rethink that? Is this how our students use a rubric?

References
Januszewski, A., Molenda, Michael, & Association for Educational Communications Technology. (2008). Educational technology : A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Eddy, Sarah L., & Hogan, Kelly A. (2014). Getting under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structurework? CBE – Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 453-Life Sciences Education, 2014, Vol.13(3), p.453-468.

Active Learning in Higher Education: http://alh.sagepub.com/content/by/year

Journal of Learning Spaces: http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls