Comments on: How 1984 turned out like 1884 Unconferences, peer conferences, participant-driven events, and facilitation Sat, 21 Mar 2020 02:12:32 +0000 hourly 1 By: Adrian Segar Wed, 13 Oct 2010 17:27:59 +0000 In reply to Linda Perlstein.

Linda, I’m honored you’ve replied to my post and the comments. Thank you!

I’m sorry I mischaracterized your article as saying that redesigning the classroom is the answer to our educational system’s woes. That was a flip, unfair summary, and I apologize.

I, too, want our classrooms improved, if that was the only option. If, however, I had the authority to spend enough money to either materially improve our classrooms or to implement other ways to change our educational system, I’d probably choose to put the money into approaches that educated and empowered teachers about ways of teaching that don’t require all-eyes-to-the-front strategies. If successful, I think this would naturally lead to schools changing their classrooms over time to implement the resulting changes in teaching styles.

By: Linda Perlstein Wed, 13 Oct 2010 16:51:42 +0000 Hi Adrian,

Thanks for writing about this. Great photos. I don’t think that redesigning the classroom is “the answer to our educational system’s woes.” Not even close. In fact, there is no convincing research linking school design to academic achievement, as I mention in the piece. Does that make it not worth considering? I don’t think improving school lunches is the answer to our educational woes either, but I still want it done.

The Slate project will include a piece next week arguing that there is no reason to change the classroom. Certainly that argument has merit. Still, it’s weird that people HAVE changed the way children are taught, yet nothing about the room has evolved. (Not even slightly more comfortable chairs!) It’s worth discussing.


By: Adrian Segar Wed, 13 Oct 2010 01:26:50 +0000 In reply to Carlee Mallard.

Hey Carlee, fellow (and veteran) PechaKucha Night organizer, thanks for dropping in here! I have to disagree with you about seeing the interrelationship of the teaching modality and the teaching environment as a chicken or the egg issue. I think the modality spawned the environment. After all, people learned stuff from each other long before there were classrooms, or any human buildings for that matter.

At Conferences That Work sessions, I might use chairs in a circle, chairs in a horseshoe, chairs in concentric circles, chairs in rounds, chairs in chevron, or no chairs at all. It depends what we’re trying to do. There’s no single fixed seating arrangement that is optimum for every learning situation!

Give the same classroom to traditional teachers and they’ll set up the chairs like the photos above. It’s all they know! To improve the physical learning environment, we have to broaden the perspective and knowledge of the folks responsible for the learning. Otherwise, the potential of flexible layouts will simply be ignored.

By: Adrian Segar Wed, 13 Oct 2010 01:07:05 +0000 In reply to Jenise Fryatt.

“…the classroom set up is a symptom, rather than the cause of our education troubles…”: nicely put, Jenise. Yes, while the teens of 1884 are obediently reading their books, today’s teenagers are hooked into a world much bigger than their classroom. And today’s conference attendees have terrific resources available outside the conference rooms; they don’t need or want talking heads at their events either.

By: Carlee Mallard Wed, 13 Oct 2010 00:54:09 +0000 I see what you’re saying about the environment isn’t the cause, but I also see it sort of as a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” problem. Does the environment define the school, or does the school define the environment?

Personally I think that environment and situation plays a huge role in learning, because changing even one small element of the environment has the potential to alter a students’ moods, behavior, attention, engagement, or even their personalities. I think that’s already proven.

So no, just moving some desks around (or even getting rid of desks) won’t improve education alone, but I would definitely argue that altering the classroom feel would be a step in the right direction. If students should be helping or teaching one another and if teachers should be spending more one-on-one time with some students more than others instead of lecturing to all the students (even the students that would be better off teaching themselves), then it just doesn’t make sense to arrange desks in rows facing the front. That’s just the easy way to do it. It’s the most “factory efficient” way to do it.

By: Adrian Segar Tue, 12 Oct 2010 17:39:24 +0000 In reply to Alli Gerkman.

Thanks for your perspective Alli! I agree with you that shifting the physical setup of a classroom or conference room is likely to change the way people interact with it and within it. But is making such changes what we want to concentrate on in order to improve our ability to learn at a school or an event? If teachers choose to teach the same old way when when moved into a “modern” classroom, the money spent putting them there is going to be wasted. Implementing conference designs that lead to better ways to learn requires us to change our physical learning environment, and that’s what we should be focusing on, rather than changing our learning spaces and hoping that educators will take the hint.

By: Jenise Fryatt Tue, 12 Oct 2010 16:50:37 +0000 Adrian, Thanks for this insightful post. While I agree with you that the classroom set up is a symptom, rather than the cause of our education troubles, those pictures make a powerful point. Fill those 1984 seats with today’s teenagers and you’d get an even clearer picture – cell phones, computers, iPods all beckon today’s young people to interactive experiences in which they can learn what they want when they want. A teacher employing the traditional talking head lecture to pontificate on a subject of little value to their daily lives (just how many times do we need to learn about the American revolution?) not only can’t compete, but may be just an obstacle to learning.

By: Alli Gerkman Tue, 12 Oct 2010 13:31:36 +0000 Thanks for pointing me to the Slate article. I think shifting the physical setup (whether of a classroom, an office, a highway, or anything) changes the way people interact with it. Removing familiar physical dimensions could very well lead to new formats we couldn’t contemplate. In that way, I think changing the design will, in fact, shift how we learn, teach and share.