University classrooms: Are they catching up with the times?

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I tried out this idea this evening, which turned out to be quite an interesting activity for the teacher-students.

I had always wanted to have students complete a creative task in groups during a class session and then display their work on the classroom walls for other groups to view. But this was technically impossible without damaging the walls. Ten days ago, I saw a new product, called Quickfilm, in a Commercial bookstore. It’s a kind of transparent film which can stick to a wall easily, be taken down, re-posted, and re-used. And it won’t harm the wall in any way.

Tonight, I gave it a try. It worked well, and the students could easily view other groups’ ideas. It was also an opportunity for them to stretch their legs in the middle of a 2.5-hour lecture.

Honestly, this is nothing innovative. But most university classrooms today are still like those in the early 20th century, with rigid rows of desks and chairs which are only suitable for one-way lecturing by the instructor. I have often wondered whether those who design classrooms today have any idea of the huge variety of learning activities that can take place in a classroom of the 21st century. We need furniture that can be easily re-arranged to suit different group formats. We need facilities for students to easily display their work. We need workstations where students can quickly produce something on the computer. We need equipment for students to orally present their work conveniently to the whole class. We need digital display boards. We need partitions to quickly create work booths … That is, unless we’re still holding on to the mindset that learning means listening passively to the professor for 3 hours.

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