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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Flexibility of the School Building

The potential for the use of technology in schools has grown very quickly. Today’s children are experiencing a world very from different their parents. We need to use our imaginations to tap into all the new resources.

School buildings should be built for flexibility and for use the year round. This may require air-conditioning. Rooms should have the possibility of being small or large depending on the activity in progress. Classrooms should open out into courtyards or gardens and have windows placed in such a way that children can see the changing seasons. Classrooms for the very young preschool children could be modeled after a room at home rather than one at school. Why not make it look like a living room rather than having desks and chairs? There should be space available for animals and growing things.

The middle of the building could house the supply, media/computer center and library. The teachers could share materials rather than each teacher having all the supplies and books he or she needs for the year in the individual classrooms. Sharing is a much more efficient and less expensive way of using materials. It also provides the opportunity for teachers to interact with each other by being involved in the decision making process of deciding how the budget should be spent on needed books and supplies.

The Media/Computer Center should house computers not just for the students but for teachers’ use of record keeping and other administrative details. There should be enough work stations so that a group of children could cooperate on a project. The use of computers should be scheduled in such a way that they would be available all of the time as part of the curriculum. For some children, the physical dexterity needed for a keyboard develops earlier than needed to grasp a pencil. Use of the computer for these children often facilitates their learning of reading and writing.

The center should house DVDs and equipment for the use of individual students and classroom groups. A rich literature mixing language and math skills with vivid images should be used. Small groups of children might view such skillfully prepared media as their needs and the requirements of the curriculum dictate. The use of media fills two needs in the classroom. First, since teachers are not experts in all areas, the use of media helps teachers to expand curriculum beyond their areas of expertise. Second, since children in any class develop at different rates, the use of media enable the teacher to individualize instruction to a greater degree.

Groups of the more advanced students could use skype to interact with a teacher who would be teaching simultaneously a group of students in several schools.

Schools would run on a twelve month schedule. Grade designations would be discarded. Students would not be required to know a certain amount in order to pass on to the next grade. Instead students would be given programs geared to their learning styles and would continue to the next step in the program when they achieved mastery. The grouping of children would be flexible and fluid in order to accommodate the needs of the individual children.

The vacations of children and teachers would be staggered during they year so that full use could be made of the school facility. Teachers would be permitted to have flexible schedules so that they could accommodate to the needs of their families, their professional development and the school. In some cases, one class might have two teachers, one who works in the morning and another who comes into the class in the afternoon. Teachers would be expected to take time off to further their professional development. They would not have to take a whole year off but due to flexible scheduling could take advantage if educational opportunities as they present themselves during the year.

With a little imagination we can all come up with suggestions for positive changes in our schools. I encourage you to make up a list and share it because with the proper mix of adventure, critical evaluation and determination, we can make our schools better.

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