Building a self-organizing classroom means less focus on the hassles of organization and more focus on what truly matters—meaningful learning.
A classroom’s goal is to benefit its students first and foremost. Yet, it doesn’t hurt if it helps the teacher do a better job. The only way a classroom can achieve this dual goal is by having an environment in which both the learners and the teacher can contribute to its organization.
Working and maintaining a self-organizing classroom can be a little tricky, but with the right tips and tricks to get your classroom set up, it will be running smoothly in no time for the entire school year.
It’s more of a mindset change in how classrooms are operating in this modern era of technological advancements.
With that, here are the 5 best ways teachers and learners can create a self-organizing classroom that benefits everyone involved.
Keep the Classroom Environment Simple
By keeping your classroom simple and streamlined, it’s a much more inviting space for the kids to learn in.
When your classroom area is too cluttered and distracting, it’s going to interfere with proper learning. That’s just a simple fact.
Think of it like the Feng Shui of your classroom, with everything in its optimal place for an environment that truly works with the students, not against them. That means ideally no sharp corners or edges on desks, comfortable chairs that are easily moved around for group activities, and enough space for everyone to be in without overcrowding.
Rethink Seating Strategy Permanently
Sometimes the old way of seating doesn’t compliment students working together.
Shake it up a bit for a more collective seating arrangement, where the students will be able to collaborate on projects easier.
They enjoy teaching each other, which is the key foundation of your self-organizing classroom.
That was the lightbulb moment that educational researcher Sugata Mitra figured out. He actually won the 2013 TED Talks prize for his ideas about learning and students in his “Build The School In The Cloud” talk. His idea was that students can explore and learn from each other better than in a formal classroom setting. The results were what he calls the SOLE classroom, or “Self Organized Learning Environments.”
He picked up this information by studying a group of children from India back in 1999. In his experiment, he dropped off a computer in a poor urban area of New Delhi, complete with Internet connectivity. Then he set up cameras to watch what a group of children did with this technology that was totally foreign to them. The brilliant result was that the children then worked together to figure out how the computer worked and the Internet as well.
He called it the “Hole In The Wall Experiment.” Now he assesses that the information revolution enables children to learn in minimally invasive ways, like never before.
Have Group Classroom Goals and Rewards
This not only encourages good behaviour from the entire class, but allows them to be accountable to each other.
“One bad apple” won’t spoil the whole bunch if all the students are working together to attain a common goal. Instead, they will cheer each other on.
A group reward system also creates a feeling of unity in the classroom setting. You can have a goal at the end of the week, month, or quarter for larger, more significant rewards such as a pizza party, movie day, or even extra field trips. Have the students themselves work out what the goals will be to work towards their good behavioural practices.
Make Sure the Technology Is Working Effectively
Having the right tools and technology working effectively is another key to a self-organizing classroom. As the teacher, you'll need to make sure that all technology is up to par and running correctly.
Technology in the classroom has allowed strides in learning to happen like never before. Ideally in this setting, every student would have a laptop, but if your school budget isn’t quite there yet, having one laptop per every four students is fine.
In addition, make sure that your Internet doesn’t have a bad lag time that makes researching ideas more difficult. Obviously, as a teacher you have the power to fight for better technology in your classroom. It may just be a simple solution of fixing network speeds. Whatever the reason, lobby if you must for proper connectivity for your students.
Having a strong school IT department also helps, and you should build as much rapport with them as possible. They are your lifeline when things go wrong.
Give the Students More Power
By giving the students a clear direction and then allowing them to proceed with building on the answers and working together, you are empowering their education.
That’s why a self-organizing classroom is so vital to their growth. They are energized by knowing their part on getting educated is just as important as the teachers they share their classrooms with.
Sometimes it helps to appoint a student leader to monitor the progress of all groups in this type of learning environment. Change up that student leader often, so each student gets a chance to fulfill this important role.
Students are pulled in a million different directions in this new era.
Having a self-organizing classroom is one main method of keeping them more engaged and excited about their learning. Plus, your spark as the teacher will make this new classroom idea a reality when you initiate the SOLE plan.