Educational futurist David Thornburg calls for redesigning classrooms in his new book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck. Learning environments should provide Campfire spaces (one person lectures), Watering Holes (classmates converse), Caves (for quiet reflection) and Life (places where students apply what they’ve learned).
Thornburg created an “educational holodeck,” inspired by Star Trek’s simulation space, he tells The Atlantic.
. . . we’ve taken a good-sized room and covered the surfaces, no external light coming in, and in the front of the room put a large projection screen. . . . On the side of the room, there was an interactive whiteboard and around the periphery, personal computers. Kids come into the room to go on a mission.
One that we did was a mission to Mars, to let kids explore whether Mars has or had, life. There are challenges when you’re taking off in a spaceship, and they have to solve problems. It’s very interesting, because it’s an immensely interactive environment, and after a little while they almost feel like they’re there.
A year after their holodeck mission, students knew “much more” about Mars than they had at mission’s end, says Thornburg. “They were so interested in it that they continued to study the topic on their own.”
In a painting of a classroom from 1350, “students are talking to each other or falling asleep while the teacher drones on,” Thornburg says. (But none are checking their smart phones!) Why do teachers still lecture?
Henry of Germany delivers a lecture to university students in 14th-century Bologna
Teachers often use technology to do the same old things, Thornburg says. Interactive whiteboards often are used “to replicate the full-frontal model of teaching by having a big board in front of the room that the teacher uses.”
E-books have advantages, but they also let people say, “Well, to change my teaching, I’m using new technology. For example, our kids have e-textbooks.”
You’re still doing the same old thing. Maybe we should be doing other things with these tablets and other technologies. You can create your own movies, write programs and applications, things like that. That’s taking new tools and using them in powerful new ways.
Good classroom design makes sense. But every teacher can’t be holodeck designer, writer, movie maker and programmer . . . It’s too much.
Ann Althouse thinks flipping the classroom is for teachers who think their students can’t or won’t read.