After reading and discussing Walls, Schopieray, and DeVoss’s Computers and Composition article about hacking spaces, I’ve been thinking a lot about the spaces we teach in. In our FYW classrooms, the space is not so great. Yes, we can move desks and chairs; however, this process is often loud and disruptive.
Additionally, the lack of electrical outlets severely limits students in their ability to use digital technology in the classroom. This is becoming a larger problem, especially when we consider the benefits of incorporating multimedia and other multimodal assignments into our curriculum.
This situation leaves composition instructors with a tricky dilemma. Many of us may want to follow the trends of our field and invite our students to engage in design work with digital technologies, but we don’t have the resources or classroom spaces to make that happen. For example, we looked at Aimee Knight’s “The Classroom Revealed” blog post, where she’s posted photos of a collaborative technology classroom at Saint Joseph’s University. The spacious room has collaboration tables with accessible power outlets, big screen televisions and monitors for collaborative design work, move-able white boards for invention purposes, sound domes to localize sound, and open lounge spaces perfect for collaborative discussions.
The room is great! There are countless possibilities for teaching in this space or using it for a writing center; yet, at an institution like EMU, the chances of gaining access to a room like Knight’s is lower than hell freezing over. It becomes a question of funding and space. And, when income from FYW courses are not going back to the FYWP, but instead to athletics or some other purpose, it’s challenging to foresee more of these rooms being built. And if they are built, who gets priority access to them?
There are a lot of complex, dynamic questions and problems associated with classroom space design. Until we see a shift in the primary model of education and a shift toward more technology in the classroom, I (unfortunately) doubt that we’ll see significant progress in space design for higher education institutions–yet alone in k-12 schools.