How Do We Build the Classroom? // All About Craig Kemp

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a bit of a gem: An entire blog dedicated to classroom innovation. Since 2011, Educator Craig Kemp has been publicizing his personal, innovative teaching style. Since 2014, he has spoken at conferences ranging from Singapore to New Zealand; sometimes in-person, but often over Skype. He has also co-founded #whatisschool, a trending twitter ed-chat that encourages educators to ask and answer questions about schooling. The chat goes online every Thursday evening, at 7pm EST.

Through one of his most recent blogging series, Ultimate Learning Environment – Encouraging Student Voice in Classroom Design, Mr. Kemp publicized an in-class experiment: He encouraged his students to design their own classrooms. The experiment allowed the students to decide what was necessary in the classroom and what was not, and by extension, gave them power over what they learned at their school, and how.

The ULE experiment started with a list of ideas: The students recorded all the things they thought would be useful in a learning environment. Then, they separated the list into categories, organizing it into more manageable sections.

Once the ideas were manageable, the students came up with a number of plans. First, they connected to the world: Using Mr. Kemp’s Twitter Account, the students consulted the #AGSLE (School Letters and Learning Environment) Twitter hashtag, which linked them to educators and classes around the world. They then asked these sources questions, sharing links and ideas between them to encourage the birth of new ideas – ideas they then brought back to their own classroom design.

The conversations the students had online can now be viewed via a Storytime the kids created afterwards. The Storytime documents the rest of the design process after the children connected to Twitter.

Their final classroom design was never published, and I suspect it’s because they never finished it: If I were to guess, the classroom is one that moves and reshapes itself with the tasks at hand.

Despite this, different classroom ideas were presented to the students through the Twitter handle. The images for these classrooms are below.

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Created by students, with old furniture
Created by students, with old furniture

The students and teachers involved with assignment managed to learn a lot about the learning environment. According to Mr. Kemp’s blog, one of the most valuable things the students learned was the importance of creating a space that suited a the diverse needs of students. Mr. Kemp’s exact quote is below:

The students learnt that Modern Learning Environments are all about suiting the diverse needs of learners and they have a unique opportunity to voice their feelings and create a learning environment that suits their needs. They learnt how a variety of levels:
  • Low – e.g. bean bags, low level benches
  • Medium – desks, tables, chairs
  • High – high counter tops etc.

You can read the final post regarding the experiment here.

Mr. Kemp’s experiment is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it tells the story of a teacher who gave his students power over the classroom, and managed to turn the experience into a successful lesson. Secondly, it taught the students themselves what would be important in the classroom; a lesson they will (hopefully) remember for years after school ends, and use to construct more successful educational institutions for their children in the future.

 

Want to hear more about innovative educational institutions? Follow me on Twitter @faria_lila, to receive updates on my most recent blog posts and discoveries.

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