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I really enjoyed this blog

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I really enjoyed this blog post because it gave simple ideas that will help foster collaborative learning and critical thinking. I thought the 'tinker station' was a great idea to incorporate STEM concepts throughout the curriculum. Regardless of the grade level, learning needs to be hands-on and interactive and allow for valuable discourse with peers.

Professor, San Jose State University

One solution to noisy

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One solution to noisy classrooms is to convert the school library into a Learning Commons that combines books, information resources, the best technology, and space into this noisy creative space where classroom teachers, teacher librarians, teacher technologists, and other specialists from the school collaborate on the types of projects described here. this type of environment can not only be a physical space, but it can be a virtual online course space as well.

Principal Christ Cathedral Academy

Let the noise commence

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Hello Jennifer,
I'm actually glad you wrote about this. When I was a VP for a school we had a very creative teacher and her class was always quite vociferous. Many of the teachers that had been there for several years and even some of the staff would close her doors and complain to me that they were out of control. However, when I walked in the room I saw learning happening. Students were engaged, some were working on the floor, others were in small groups and I could tell the students were excited about their learning.

As I walked by other classrooms it was so quiet. Students sat at their desks facing the front of the room and were reading books or listening to the teacher. I finally got to the point where I said that the noise was the one thing that let me know the students WERE learning. I had more concerns for the quiet classrooms than the one in which noise was happening.

I'm sorry to hear that it is frowned upon where you work, I think that's the case for the majority of schools. We need brave teachers and thoughtful administrators to take a stand and put the students first. I hope you can get your administrator to come on board because the best learning I have witnessed took place in some of the loudest classrooms.


Grade 8 Learning Leader and Humanities Teacher, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Make Space

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If you're interested in the physical construction of space, I highly recommend the book Make Space, put out by the d school at Stanford University. It's a book designed to help people think deliberately about how we can organize our space to encourage creativity.

I also love the K-12 Lab put out by the d school as well: There's a crazy amount of fantastic exercises you can do to encourage design thinking in your students.

Whether there are ideas, there will be noise

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This blog was inspiring. Nowadays with all the technology available to us, classrooms become perfect settings for project-based learning, where students can think and work independently and move from activity to activity. The problem I find with projects is the noise-level. Ah, the noise-level. It's something frowned upon where I work and have-worked in the past. Maybe a louder classroom isn't necessarily a bad thing. It seems like people in the building always judge if the classroom is "working" based on the noise coming out of it. No noise = good class. A lot of noise = bad class.

I have found that with the "rowdier" groups that I have had (seventh graders truley are something else), that PBL can be quite successful and can actually play into their strengths. "Conversational classrooms" may be the way to go with these groups, as the conversations are already going on. If they want to be heard, give them the platform on which to do it.

I also appreciated the comments about "checking-in" because it gives us, as the teachers, great one-on-ones that we can never get when we lecture, lecture, lecture. These one-on-one times I have found are the most valuable and can provide great brainstorming activities between the teacher and the student. Though it appears that PBL moves the students away from the teacher, I believe they actually bring them closer in a way of greater depth, rather than just "I talk, you listen" scenarios.

Fostering Creative Thinking

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An environment such as the one discussed in this post is ideal for developing independent and innovative thinkers. Unfortunately, the reality of most classrooms in America is in direct contrast with this kind of environment. The first problem being the space available; since very few classrooms have the space necessary for fostering a creative environment in which the arrangement of the furniture and materials is conducive to creativity. Another problem is the pressure that school districts have to meeting benchmark on standardized testing. This perhaps has been the most influential factor in lack of creativity in the regular classroom. Many teachers feel stifled and fear there is no time during the day to present lessons in more creative ways; instead, ensuring that students learn or in some cases, memorize what they need to pass standardized testing is what's more important.
The reality however is that standardized tests are not going away any time soon. Therefore, teachers need to be able to plan around them, paying close attention to the desired outcomes for each unit and lesson, but applying more creative approaches to teaching the content and skills. Problem-Based Learning can take place regardless of what the subject matter, objectives, content, or skills being taught.
The post really appeals to me because I am strong supporter of student interaction and problem solving. I believe that by providing students with opportunities to tackle problems that require the application of critical thinking skills, will enable them not only to learn the desired content well enough to pass standardized tests, but will allow them to understand it to a degree in which they can delve deeply into it and apply it across subject matters. I highly value an environment in which students practice making choices, engaging in problem solving, and collaborating with others to meet desired objectives. An environment in which students can move freely and interact with each other as they engage in seeking new knowledge or finding new solutions.

Instructional Interventionist in Norfolk, Virginia

Creating thinking spaces

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Creating thinking spaces creates a learning environment. Many times our students are so wrapped up in the instant gratification that our society has produced that they forget how to think and be creative. Forming a space that allows creativity to be fostered helps to expland the mind and explore different ways of thinking.

Looking at the classroom as more than a building/structure and using the space to promote thinking, creativity, and collaboration will help to support student learning. Creating thinking space as your classroom will also help students to understand more about themselves, others, and how ideas, dreams, and aspirations are fostered and florish.

We see many of these examples of thinking spaces in magnet and performing arts schools. Who's to say that these environments won't benefit the disadvantaged. It doesn't have take an entire school to make a difference, it can start with a single classroom.

Rethinking Space

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This is an incredible resource for rethinking the classroom space. I visited an unconventional school in Pittsburgh and heard the founder speak on why the space was organized and decorated as it was. The school is in the middle of the poorest part of the city, but it is beautifully clean, colorful, noisy, and full of engaged students. The founder shared that poverty is like a cancer, and it's cure is beauty. By creating a learning environment that was beautiful, the school could start to cure the underlying poverty. And it was working!

I loved this blog post because it gave some very practical ways to convert our classrooms from sterile, factory-like environments, to ones which encourage creativity, problem solving, and love of learning. Learning is an interactive process and creating a space that is naturally and organically interactive is a wonderful thing!

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Suzie Boss Journalist and PBL advocate

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