If you head over to Pinterest and do a search on “classroom decorations” or “classroom bulletin boards,” you’ll see some beautiful inspiration photos. And if you start to scroll through the results, you’ll quickly notice that the images all start to look the same.
In a recent episode of Personalized Learning with Matt and Courtney, Lori Phillips and Robin Kanaan, directors of teaching and learning with KnowledgeWorks, ask an important questions about Pinterest-ing your classroom. It makes things pretty, said Phillips, “But in service of what? It feels as though we’re missing an opportunity to use the classroom environment for teaching purposes and to be that third teacher.”
What’s the third teacher? Good question. Introduced in The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning, by Cannon Design, VS Furniture and Bruce Mou Design, the third teacher speaks to how space to support learning. This aligns perfectly with one of the core tenants of successful personalize learning implementation: a flexible learning environment.
“Part of the thinking behind a flexible learning environment is the power of how the space helps facilitate the learning,” said Kanaan. She and Phillips are careful to explain that they aren’t knocking Pinterest or teachers’ attempts to make learning spaces warm, welcoming and beautiful. Far from it! But, they stress that the focus needs to stay on the learning.
Matt shared an example from Design39 in San Diego where students arrived at school on the first day to an empty classroom, with no furniture and nothing on the walls. “Their first design thinking challenge was, ‘How do you want the room to be set up that will support your learning?’” Those students chose to decorate the room with student work.
“How does that impact learning?,” asked Phillips. “That intentionality to bring students into the conversation about how does our environment around us impact how we learn and how we learn best.”
Kanaan stresses that there is still room for teachers to decorate classrooms but offers that maybe instead of doing it with Pinterest boards pulled up on your screen that you try decorating the room alongside students.