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Observations | Classrooms Then and Now



We’ve come a long way from the days when our science teacher would roll in a TV to play a relevant episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy. But though the screens in the classroom have drastically changed in the last 60 years, the basics of designing a classroom around a screen haven’t changed too much. Just take a look at Dave Chapman’s Design for ETV: Planning for Schools with Television, a study of classroom design for early education through higher ed side by side with some of Bailey Edward’s work for UIC and the similarities are eerily similar.

Most apparent of all similarities between Chapman’s ideal classroom and Bailey Edward’s super-sized learning environment is its shape. Just as Bailey Edward arched the students’ seats around the screen, so too did Dave Chapman. However, due to the limitations in technology, rather than have all students in one arch around one large screen, Chapman had several screens and smaller arcs to accommodate easy viewing for all students in the classroom.Comparison 1

Bailey Edward carefully considered the viewing angle of students when developing the Learning Hub, so too did Dave Chapman. But while Bailey Edward elevated tiers and rows of seats to bring the students to the proper viewing angle, Chapman raised and lowered the monitor to ensure all could see. Regardless, the 60 year-old diagrams look eerily similar to ours created much more recently!

Comparison 2

Chapman may not have been able to consider the many ways students can now collaborate with their screens, but nevertheless, his “flexible furniture” allows for the same group work as our custom tables, letting students move from rows to pods for easy communication.

Comparison 3

The modern classroom may have more dynamic technology that allows for greater collaboration and learning opportunities, but the same principals to best see, hear, and learn together have stayed the same. Thanks to the University of Michigan, you can download Planning for Schools with Television here for free!