By Victoria Khaw
Knowing d.tech and it’s unique space, setup, and furniture, I thought it’d be interesting to know what teachers think about their rooms. Using a Google Form, I asked questions like: Do you like your room? Are you happy with your room setup? What does your dream classroom look like?
I also got in touch with Gensler Architects employee, Erin Cubbison, who did empathy work this year with d.tech teachers to make architectural improvements to the spaces. Her project was based on testing three topics: acoustics, lighting, and behavior connected to the space setup. Ms. Anderson’s room was tested for acoustics, Mr. Wall’s space for lighting, and the central area of the Hangar for behavior. Cubbison noted that the biggest areas for improvement were the rooms’ acoustics, organization, and availability of suitable work areas for different types of activities.
Not surprising, issues with noise and the need for a quieter space were trends I noticed in the teacher’s survey responses. Mr. Wilgus who referred to his space not as a room but a portion of what used to be an auto-body shop garage, says the space does not meet the American National Standard Institution (ANSI) acoustical standards for public school classrooms; so a ceiling would be nice. Mr. Cooley said he enjoys the energy of it all, but looks forward to walls so that he will not lose his voice quite as often.
Despite Cubbison’s efforts to improve acoustical issues in Anderson’s room by use of individual sound shielding and small group sound shielding, there was no substantial benefit. Without actual walls that close off from other spaces, noise will inevitably be heard – by playing videos or having loud discussions while other classes may be giving individual presentations. Nonetheless, Anderson describes her room as spacious with an awesome vibe that doesn’t have any “weird feng shui”. As an English teacher, she appreciates the soft spaces and reading nooks in her classroom. Before she had put time into making her room comfortable for herself, she described the space as “very much like a dude’s college dorm room.”
Mr. Wall’s space down in the back corner of the hangar was tested for lighting controllability. In the first test, the standard lighting was replaced with Philips Hue LED lights, that could be adjusted for brightness and warm/cool tone. Cubbison then gave Wall the ability to adjust to four specific colors: blue, green, magenta, and yellow (which proved to be effective, but less effective than the first round). In the survey I sent out to the teachers, Mr. Wall rated his room 5/5 – it being fantastic. He explains, “there is often an abundance of students doing cool things in my classroom” and believes his room fits his teaching style, because of its versatility.
The general area of the hangar was also tested for space setup for different activities. Cubbison first tested what she described as the “space reset” method, where students set up the space for their specific needs at the beginning of class, and at the end put the furniture away for the next class. The benefit of that method, was that students could customize the space for what they needed to do at that time. Some students liked it, but many complained about the amount of effort it required. The next modification was having a standing collaborative table, a mobile teacher podium, and cushions on chairs. All of those proved to be very successful, and can be seen still implemented. The last test Cubbison made, was having different zones: a collaborative zone (consisting of standing collaboration tables), a focus lounge (consisting of individual soft seating), and focus tables (consisting of the standard tables and chairs). This proved very successful, because students said the changes made them feel very productive.
Aside from room iterations from Cubbison’s project, the teachers’ dream classroom, not surprisingly, mostly corresponded to the subjects they teach. Biology teacher, Mr. Addicott, said he would like a fully-equipped lab space as Physics teacher. Mr. Wall mentioned wanting plenty of Physics toys readily available and well maintained. Ms. Anderson, on the other hand, said she would like lots of natural light, a jam area for lunchtime music playing, a spot where you can sit and read with house-plants or cacti, modern sculptures, a library with “amazing books to peruse”, a reading hammock, and perhaps even a tea area with tea cups and a kettle. English classrooms apparently beg for an elaborate setting.
Overall, teachers said they think their space is all right; not terrible, but not so fantastic either, given the circumstances.