Passion, Curiosity, and their Manifestation in Classroom Design

Our final task in my Master’s in Educational Technology course was to consider what Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, wrote in this article. We were asked to think about how our passion quotient (PQ) and curiosity quotient (CQ) are manifested in our professional practice. We were then asked to design a classroom that reflected our PQ and CQ. It took a fair amount of reflection but I decided that my PQ and CQ are what drive me. My IQ is like the back end of a server. Everything the PQ and CQ contribute rely on my IQ but my IQ is not what drives me on a daily basis.

First I want to consider passion. For me, passion is essential and likely what got me a job. I distinctly remember saying that, given several applicants for the position, I could guarantee that I had more passion for teaching. And that was true. I picked a career that I could pour myself into. When I have free time I’m often thinking about teaching, learning, and the like. I love most aspects of this profession and can think of nothing I’d rather do. When Friedman talks about passion being more important than it used to be I think I agree. We live in a time when careers that are low skill and well paying are disappearing. Ideas, creativity, and collaboration are what is often rewarded. It’s difficult, at least in my mind, to be driven to collaborate and create in an area that your are not passionate about. Employers want thinkers and innovators, and I believe ideas and innovation stem largely from passion. If you are passionate about something then you pour yourself into it and are much more likely to develop quality ideas.

Second, and equally important, I want to consider curiosity. Curiosity drives my desire to learn. I’m curious about learning and how people learn. I often reflect on things that I learn and try to determine the means by which I learned those things. I’m incredibly curious about mathematics and I work to instill that curiosity in my students. Beyond my own curiosity, I think that curiosity drives learning for everybody. Students that we have in class today are likely to change careers several times over their lifetime. This makes lifelong learning vital to success in life. If this is the case, and learning stems from curiosity, then having a high curiosity quotient is also incredibly important.

I want to mention one more aspect of curiosity that I don’t think can be overstated. Curiosity is a significant motivator. If you, as a teacher, can create curiosity for your subject area in your students then motivation (and learning) will likely follow.

My Learning Space

As I mentioned above, my task was to design the ideal learning space. You can see the video below for details, but I want to highlight a few of the major components. First, it’s designed to be comfortable and functional. Why do many of us like to work in coffee shops? It’s because they often have comfortable/functional furniture and an inviting atmosphere. I also wanted to make my space inviting. You’ll notice comfortable furniture in the back of the room, desks in pods (as opposed to rows), a maker’s space, and my desk wedged into a corner with chairs specifically for conferencing with me. The idea is that students feel like this is a safe environment but focused on learning.

It’s also designed for collaboration, with individuals in mind. There are several groups of desks, but the comfortable spaces can work for groups or individuals. I think it’s important to understand that not all learning is collaborative. There must be a balance between collaboration and individual work time.

As far as technology is concerned, this classroom is pretty well equipped. You’ll notice several television screens, not designed for watching T.V. but for connecting students laptops to share students work and ideas. Being able to share and discuss students ideas in real time is incredibly valuable. Each student would have access to a laptop but wouldn’t necessarily use it everyday. In addition there is technology that doesn’t require a battery. I tried to put several whiteboards throughout the room. In addition to the white boards on the wall, students would always have access to collaborative whiteboards (2′ by 3′ boards you can see on the desks). The balance between low tech and high tech is important as, especially in math, sketching ideas via whiteboards can be invaluable in the learning process.

One feature that I really want to incorporate someday is a maker’s space. This would be equipped with several different maker materials (circuits, a Raspberry pi, an Arduino board, a Makey Makey, etc.). In the future I want to find connections between my standards and making, and then incorporate making activities into my class.

Overall I went for a relaxed and open classroom design. Students should feel comfortable collaborating, participating in large group discussions, conferencing with me, researching, working on projects, and solving problems. I truly believe the way a space is organized can contribute to how these activities manifest themselves in the classroom and that this design contributes significantly.

(Some furniture for the design was borrowed from templates created by users voguesketchup, sketchup, Tom Wright, AJ Lawn, and Craig Berwick from https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com)

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