Educators, administrators, and tech enthusiasts gather together every year at ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) to explore the latest education technology trends and take the next step in transforming their students’ education. This year, Chicago was chosen as the meeting grounds for this annual event and as attendees passed through the exhibit hall or whispered to their coworkers, one word continued to echo throughout the air: flexible.
As soon as I mentioned The Windy City, you might immediately start daydreaming of Chicago dogs and deep dish pizza, but stay with me here. In order to understand why we are embracing this new flexible learning initiative, and disrupting the traditional classroom that we have known for the last 50 years, let’s discuss what it means to be flexible.
Over the last decade, research has proven that students have different learning styles and receive knowledge in different ways. Some students learn best through play and movement, while others learn best through auditory instructions. If you are an educator and I asked you to think of a student who couldn’t sit still, I’m sure more than one student will come to mind. From a classroom management perspective, this can be frustrating. But if we look at the student holistically, I would argue this behavior is not an act of rebellion, but rather they were not given the proper tools they needed to be successful. We constantly discuss Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and how to reach all the needs of our students, so why should our classroom design be geared towards only one type of learner? Clearly, traditional classroom strategies no longer fit student needs nor work for the collective. But given the movement towards more flexible learning environments, students can now choose HOW they want to learn, WHERE they feel most comfortable, and WHAT options they need for that day.
Likewise, it comes as no surprise that today’s workforce is changing and the requirements and expectations of future jobs, some of which have not even been created yet, will be grounded in principles of flexibility, variability, and speed. In response, educators are doing their part by encouraging students to develop skills and competencies which demonstrate flexibility and to use those skills whenever disruptions to their typical day-to-day routines or activities take place. But beyond that, what is really needed are the right tools and resources to create the spaces that allow flexible learning approaches to flourish. In other words, we need to design and deliver future-focused learning environments that empower teachers to meet all needs and excite and engage all students. At ELB, we are committed to this cause and seeing great results!
During our time at ISTE, we had many teachers approach our flexible classroom-inspired booth not only to experience our education solutions, but to discuss this new teaching and learning reality. They asked questions about how other teachers have implemented the flexible classroom and how our education consultants would approach such a shift in the classroom dynamic. Our advice is simple. First, establish your why: (Simon Sinek, anyone?) Why are you starting this journey in your school? After that, begin the planning process. Find the best solution for your space and surround yourself with like-minded people who can help you establish a rollout plan to ensure a successful implementation.
At ELB Education, we are working to help define what a flexible future looks like, and to be your partner of choice by offering the right education solutions, services, and approach to ensure your transition to a flexible learning space is seamless. The first step is to implement Prowise interactive technology. The All-in-One Lift system makes it easy to use your interactive flat panel as a collaborative touch table, drafting desk or as a standard vertical screen at various heights! Additionally, the mobility of the panel allows teachers to freely move around the classroom, and to transition between whole group and small group settings with ease. The panel can be utilized in various ways, not just as a whiteboard! The second step is to incorporate flexible furniture into your classroom. With NorvaNivel furniture, your students can design and build a learning space which meets their varied needs while supporting the activity at-hand. Whether it’s the lightweight and innovative seating solutions, or the multi-purpose table solutions, NorvaNivel products allow you to cater to any classroom activity, student, or physical space in minutes. NorvaNivel’s founders believe that every student deserves a learning environment that meets their individual needs and prepares them with the skills they require for future success.
After exhibiting at ISTE 2018 and meeting with educators from all over the world, one thing has been made clear. Some would say flexibility is the latest buzzword in our space, but I would argue that it is the future of education. Flexibility is the first step in changing the way we impact our students and creating modern environments which enhance student learning is essential. Boiled down, flexibility means to mold to new surroundings and to be exposed to change. The era of desks in rows is over. As an educator, I am excited to see how this change will unfold and affect the learning of our future leaders.