Patterns and Design
Many years ago, someone told me this anecdote (if you've heard this story and know where it comes from, please let me know): A child was brought to the school psychologist because she was always using dark colors in her drawings. Her teacher was concerned that the child was depressed. After talking to the child, the psychologist decided to come to the classroom to observe the child at work. In short order, the psychologist discovered the reason for the girl's choice of colors. The crayons she used were stored vertically on shelves by color. Black ones at the bottom, then grey ones, then brown ones, then lighter colors farther up. Because the child was so small, she could only reach the darker colors.
The moral of the story is that physical layout is an important part of the total picture of work that goes on in classrooms.
I am reviewing books and articles that discuss the architecture of Montessori schools, including a thesis by Raquel De Jesus, (De Jesus, 1987), and articles by Victor Sidy (www.victorsidy.com) in the NAMTA Journal (see, for example, Sidy, 2003). Montessori and other have also written about the proper layout of the Montessori classroom. These writings will be included in my literature review.
In my field work, I am interested in the structure and layout of classrooms as they support or present obstacles to the work of the children and the teacher.
Specific technology-related questions will include: Are there computers in the classroom? If not, is there a separate location for computers (e.g. computer lab or library)? If so, how many computers are in the classroom? Where are they located? Where are printers located with respect to computers? Are any of the computers connected to the Internet? How does the layout of computers, printers, and internet connections help or hinder the flow of work for the student.
For example, if the student has to leave the room to use a computer, what kind of permissions are required from classroom teacher? What kind of arrangements must be made with the adults that are responsible for the computer in the other room? If computers are located in the classroom, are they placed in a particular area of the classroom (e.g. math, language, sensorial or practical life)? If so, does the student tend to associate the computer with that area (e.g., if the computer is in the language area, does the student only use the computer for preparing written documents)? If there is no printer located near the computer, or no internet, or if there is a printer or internet connection only on some subset of the available computers, how does this affect the flow of work?
How does the layout of computers, printers and internet connections affect the work of the teacher? How does the teacher observe student work in order to provide needed support or ensure appropriate use of the computer? How does the layout affect teacher presentations?
What are the benefits and challenges of working with laptops or wireless networks, which provide the affordances of portability that are common in other Montessori materials?
This line of questioning could lead to (1) a set of recommendations on layout of hardware, (2) a set of design constraints to consider when developing software and (3) a set of environmental design patterns that could inform the design of computer-based learning environments.
The following quotes were found at https://www.moteaco.com/quotes.html. Haven't confirmed the first two yet.
"There is only one basis for observation: the children must be able to express themselves and thus reveal those needs and attitudes which would otherwise remain hidden or repressed in an environment that did not permit them to act spontaneously. An observer obviously needs something to observe, and if he must be trained to be able to see and recognize objective truth, he must have at his disposal children placed in such an environment that they can manifest their natural traits."
"The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult. "
"A child is an eager observer and is particularly attracted by the actions of the adults and wants to imitate them. In this regard an adult can have a kind of mission. He can be an inspiration for the child's actions, a kind of open book wherein a child can learn how to direct his own movements. But an adult, if he is to afford proper guidance, must always be calm and act slowly so that the child who is watching him can clearly see his actions in all their particulars."
"But in those countries where the toy making industry is less advanced, you will find children with quite different tastes. They are also calmer, more sensible and happy. Their one idea is to take part in the activities going on about them. They are more like ordinary folk, using and handling the same things as the grown-ups."