My Favorite Creative Space

For my current assignment in my Creativity in Teaching and Learning course I  was asked to find a space that I find engaging and conducive to creativity. The space I decided on may be surprising as I chose my classroom. I’m fortunate to work in a relatively new school that is well lit, and at least for me, comfortable. I especially like my classroom and try hard to make it a comfortable space for my students as well. I’d encourage you to take a look at the photos below as I tried to capture the things that make it most conducive to productivity and creativity.

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This is a wide angle shot of my classroom. At first it may not seem particularly conducive to creativity (although my daughter jumped right in!). As you look at the photos below I’ll go more in depth about the aspects of my room that make it a space in which I enjoy creating. From a students perspective I hope that the room layout and design shows that I emphasize discourse, collaboration, problem solving, and ultimately learning.

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This is a shot of the windows in my room. I’d like there to be more windows but these are located right behind my desk. I enjoy the natural light that often shines on my work-space and being able to look outside. In any space that I create in being able to see outside is important. I like being able to stare at something other than florescent lights or the inside of a building.
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This is a shot of my work-space (slightly cluttered, I know). Between the computer, binders, and cabinets, my entire teaching world is there. Everything I’ve created in the last four years as an educator can be located in this space. When it comes to creating that’s important to me. Many times I’m building off of previous activities I’ve created or scrapping old ones and starting new and having easy access to it all makes for higher productivity and efficiency.
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Whiteboard markers! I try to keep many different colored markers on each whiteboard so that outlining, explaining, creating, and sketching is easy.
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Albert Einstein is one of my favorite people. He’s one of the most creative problem solvers in history. The book we are reading for class, Sparks of Genius by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, mentioned him on numerous occasions. What I try to emphasize to students is that, by his own admission, he was not a great mathematician. What made him special, among other things, was that he was able to formulate problems differently and consider creative approaches. I want my students, even if they don’t consider themselves “math people” (which isn’t really a thing…) to know they can still be great problem solvers.
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Technology! Obviously I can’t use all these computers at once, but they represent that I have lot’s of access to tech. These are student Chromebooks so if I create anything that students will be using the Chromebooks for I often have to test the activity on them first. In addition, I am usually working on my Macbook which is itself a powerful creation tool. I have my desktop computer which among other things allows me to print, have a second screen, and use Microsoft word. I also have a projector which is sometimes handy for testing student visuals before I run them in class. I guess what I’m saying is that my classroom is a like my lab. But it’s the best kind of lab because whatever I test here gets implemented here, making what I create more likely to be effective.
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I have a bunch of whiteboards in my classroom. I have ten of what I call “Mega-whiteboards” and three white boards on the wall. I think these are incredibly valuable. They make creating sketches or outlining ideas simple as you can write quickly and easily make edits. There have been countless ideas and activities outlined on the different whiteboards in my classroom. Any space that calls itself a “creative space” MUST have lot’s of whiteboard space.
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Last, any space that doesn’t have easy access to excellent coffee is essentially wasted space. I think this speaks for itself.

An article I read prior to working on this assignment was A room of their own by Mishra, Cain, Sawaya, Henrikson and the Deep-Play Research Group at Michigan State University. One of my big takeaways from that article was that in designing learning spaces teachers are often not a major part of the process. As a result, teachers often end up repurposing resources in creative ways. This is true of the whiteboards in my classroom. I had them cut out of showerboard (although I do admit showerboard wasn’t really designed for teachers). The cost for five boards and the duct tape was less than $15. These are a staple in my classroom. However I think the broader point is that when designing a space, for any purpose, it’s beneficial to include the end users.

Maybe a more effective way to design spaces for teaching would be for design teams to come into innovative classrooms and observe. For instance, if they came into my classes on days where we have multiple stations running they might see that furniture that moves easily would be more beneficial than the chairs and desks currently in use. The point is that the design experts could most efficiently  design a space by first looking at how the end users work within their environments and building on the current structure to make it more effective.

References

Mishra, P., Cain, W., Sawaya, S., Henriksen, D. & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013). A Room of their own. Tech Trends, (57) 4. p. 5-9.

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