In the summer of 2015, the teachers of Paragould School District in Arkansas presented Technology Integration Specialist Matt McGowan with a challenge: transform 1960s-era classrooms to meet the technology needs of 21st century learners. With the help of a little unexpected inspiration–a visit to Edmodo headquarters–he came up with a creative and cost-effective solution. Here are the foundational design principles.
- Write on (almost) every available surface: At Edmodo, at least one wall in each conference room has been coated with whiteboard paint. Product specs, marketing strategies, and engineering puzzles clutter the walls. Matt observed this phenomenon first hand, and the creative potential resonated with him. When performing the classroom facelifts, he recognized that students needed more space to document their thought processes and tried to squeeze as many whiteboards as possible in every classroom. To do this without exhausting their budget, the IT department used dry erase paint to fashion DIY whiteboards and even painted directly on some walls.
- Mount multiple monitors: In each classroom, Matt and his team mounted four 40-48 inch TVs, hooked up to both an Apple TV and Chromecast. The purpose of these screens is flexible: both teachers and students are able to display content on the screen depending on the needs of the lesson. Because each monitor can operate independently, groups of students can work on different activities. This allows for teachers to easily differentiate instruction and transform a single lesson to meet the needs of multiple learners.
- Upend traditional classroom layouts: There are no longer individual teacher and student desks in the updated classrooms. To maximize space and mobility, the IT department did away with cumbersome teachers desks. Rather, teachers can use the whiteboards and monitors to conduct a lesson from anywhere in the room and find new ways to present information. Students sit at tables, which serve the dual purpose of limiting student interaction while supporting group-based work. With students facing in every which way, the notion of a “front” and “back” of the room has been turned on its head, and teachers can easily interact with the different groups. In this environment, teachers move into a facilitator role, fostering collaboration among students.
So far, Matt and the IT department have updated nine classrooms, five in the elementary school and four in the high school. By fall, the entire elementary school will be redone. Edmodo’s take: while we typically inspire teachers in the virtual space, we are thrilled to play any role in meeting the needs of increasingly creative teachers. If you would like to check out our whiteboards for yourself, contact support to arrange a visit!