By Kerry Kong
Four walls, a blackboard, desks and chairs. What is missing in this traditional classroom? Much, according to graduate student Irfana Steviano.
As an Indonesian native studying computers and education in the College of Education, Steviano originally created the model for his Leadership and Professional Development in Technology class, using constructivist theory as a framework. Extensive research, including 10 hours of video instruction, inspired his finished product.
The difference between Steviano's contemporary design and the conventional classroom is its integrated use of technology -- most notably, a feature that allows a teacher to change the theme of the classroom to match the subject being taught. Steviano's vision is that teacher would be able to select the setting of the room through four HDTV projectors and screens as big as the walls.
Although he wrote the proposal and designed the model for schools in the United States, Steviano hopes some day he will be able to apply his ideas to classrooms in Indonesia.
"What I need now is to find grants or sponsors to build the school in Indonesia," Steviano said. "I also hope to continue to improve my skills and my understanding of the concept of constructivism -- an area that I want to master someday."
Steviano recently sat down with Outlook to discuss the project and his hopes for education.
Q: Why is space important in education?
A: It is amazing how the design of learning space can influence the way students learn and the way teachers teach. It not only improves the instruction, it helps students.
Q: What's wrong with the way space is treated in today's classrooms?
A: Today's students are digital natives, but not many contemporary classrooms are prepared for them. Because digital natives think, learn and socialize in different ways, special environments are needed to support them.
Q: How should we be building classrooms?
A: The building must be flexible so that it can adjust quickly to meet the teachers' needs. It can easily be switched to accommodate a large group of students. All the furniture should be movable so that it can be rearranged for each lecture. Technology will be provided to help students create, edit and share content. We must also consider the lighting of the building; I suggest either using direct lighting or bounced lighting. Cables and wires must be well organized. There should be comfortable seating, color coordination and individual thermostats in each classroom.
Q: Why aren't more classrooms being built this way?
A: Besides the money issue, I don't think many people understand the importance of a well-designed environment. People tend to neglect design of the classroom, which is most important for learning.
Q: What difficulties did you encounter along the way?
A: Learning the 3D software "Google Sketchup," and getting into the details of building a room were the two most difficult parts. I had to watch many hours of tutorial videos online, and at the same time, I had to think about cable and wiring for the building.
Q: Is Indonesia in dire need of better classrooms?
A: Most of the good classrooms are in the private schools, where not many Indonesian students can afford to go to. If I can find a way to build this space as a public school in Indonesia, it could lead to great changes.