Change Practice, Not Buildings

Change Practice, Not Buildings

Want to transform learning? If your school has or can raise $20 million dollars, build a new set of classrooms.  Lacking a profound and sustained commitment to changing mindset, pedagogy, and program in how to USE those classrooms, you have just made a enormously wasteful decision.

Want to really transform learning? I repeat several of the most impactful. least expensive, or cost-savings changes that truly help develop deeper learning.

No teacher owns a classroom: Classrooms in which a teacher lives, sometimes for decades, are filled with teacher desks, cabinets full of books that are rarely read, and, in younger grades, shelves and walls filled with “stuff” that is rarely touched and could be just as easily stored in a closet.  Most teacher-owned classrooms have at least 15% less usable space than classrooms that are community-owned, space for students to move, own, and use when they get up out of their seats. And maybe knock down a couple of non-load bearing walls because you won’t need to same number of small, isolated classrooms.

Writable surfaces: When those students DO get up out of their seats (frequently or most of the time!), the walls and windows are not covered in stuff. They are available for writing, working, and creating.  And when the students are seated, their desks and tables are also writable surfaces for frequent collaboration and demonstration of work. White board paint is cheap.

Moveable furniture: No matter how creatively you use fixed furniture, it is prison-like in its rigidity. When you and your students can move the furniture as needed with little waste of time, you have freed yourselves from a collectively fixed mindset about the space you inhabit for as much as 50% of your waking day. Moveable furniture does not cost much more than static furniture.

Get rid of textbooks: There are so many quality open educational resources available today that throwing money away on publishers is lazy at best.  Private school families are taxed as much as $1,000 a year for textbooks; public schools have less flexibility but should use every bit they have to shift to OER. Our continued use of these “one-size-fits-all manuals of assembly line training” is downright medieval.

Go BYOD: If your school is 1:1 or planning on it in the near future, stop buying and handing out computers. With no textbooks, all of your learning resources can be in the cloud, students can bring their own devices, and you can create some budget to hand out Chromebooks to students who cannot afford one The teachers will stumble and have to grow a bit, but the kids won’t bat an eye and you will all save a ton of money.

There.  With all the money you just saved, increase your budget SIGNIFICANTLY for professional development to support teachers in a deeper learning pedagogy and practice. It is the one budget line item that is going to need to increase dramatically, because these very simple changes aren’t even a tip of the iceberg of how schools are actually going to need to change in the years ahead.


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