Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Negotiating Spaces

Increasingly, our classrooms are set up with a white board across the front of the room, and in front of that, in, say, the position of an altar, is a large "teaching station" set up so that someone can stand and look at a computer monitor. The computer, a nearby document camera, or other media thingy can be projected onto a big screen. About half of the screens are fixed in place, and about half can be pulled down or rolled up.

Sounds great, but when you sit down in the room, you realize that from any seated position (much lower than the "station"), the "teaching station" effectively blocks about one third of the board. It blocks a different third for some students than others, making about 2/3rds of the board space pretty ineffective.

And, of course, the "teaching stations" are tethered in place at the bottom by an umbilical cord of electronic connection things, so they can't be moved much more than two feet in any direction.

Ugh. Bad planning.

I write on the board a lot. Mostly, what I write is prompted by student questions, so I'm trying to respond at a given moment to a question with an illustrative bit of verse, a drawing, words, whatever. If I could see into the future, I could probably prepare powerpoints, but since I really try to make class responsive to student questions and issues, I'd have to make a ton of powerpoints and then sift through them, and hope I'd pre-prepared for every possible student question about every possible thing. But I can't see into the future, so I don't.

I've taken to using the document cam, but now I have to remember to take un-lined paper in and a thicker pen, because otherwise it's pretty unreadable.

I don't know how else to solve things, but planning for a less obtrusive "teaching station" and more board space would make me happier, for sure.


  1. See, this is why I hate these "smart" classrooms. And whiteboards! With the markers that always run out!

    I swear I'm not a luddite, and I know we can't work through the bugs without working through the bugs, but GAH these classrooms are on my last nerve.

  2. Well, we have to bring our own markers -- they are not provided in the classrooms. Seriously.

    What I hate is that if I'm showing slides (which I often do) the screen is in the middle of the board, and if the room is the wrong shape, there is no way of writing on the board so that everyone can see...

  3. And those document cameras make me dizzy.

    I agree, can we please have our chalkboards back?

  4. I find it extremely weird that so often we're hearing about changing up pedagogical practice -- and not simply lecturing to students. But at the same time, our schools keep building classrooms that are designed to prevent any sort of teaching beyond a lecture and a powerpoint.

    Then again, I'd be happy if the non-smart classrooms I teach in actually had screens and old-timey overhead projectors. It is not easy to talk about revising a paragraph without being able to demonstrate it ...

  5. I want a screen in the front corner of the room, so that it doesn't come down and cover my entire chalkboard. Crazy, I know . . . to think that I'd ever want to put up something visual and then put comments on the board at the same time.

  6. Arg! I came to share the same frustration expressed by Susan and Dr. Rural... I love to use PowerPoint for maps and such, but then I also want to write things on the board that relate to our discussion. In most of our classrooms, the screen is right in the middle of the board, leaving a tiny bit of usable space on either side... while if they'd put it to one side, you'd have a reasonable amount of board space plus the screen. But nobody ever asked me...

  7. I write on the board a lot, too, and the document camera experience isn't the same. Somehow the board experience is dynamic, with students giving answers or comments and me darting back and forth writing. The document cam experience is more like being a transcriptionist because you're tethered to one place.