Discussion Forum: A Ramble on Glass in Classrooms

Lifted directly from a discussion forum with my architectural design class on the topic ‘Life lessons and learning environments’, these are some brief anecdotes and interesting resources about the use of glass in classrooms.

On the topic of glass in classrooms:

The newest classrooms blocks at school were specifically made with large glass windows, that looked out onto the covered balconies that connected the classrooms (like an open corridor). The intention was to create a more ‘contemporary’ learning environment that matched the school’s progress, with a sense of openness and transparency. It was actually quite nice – a lot of light came into every room, and you could glimpse the grassy field outside. As students, you were at first distracted by, but quickly got used to it, and it meant there were few surprises when someone entered the classroom. There was never a sense of being enclosed or trapped in the classroom (on the contrary, when walking outside you felt very exposed, with class after class being able to see you). This, for me, was successful use of glass, and I could see how its function supported the general reasoning for its own implementation.

[Responding to specific comments made by Classmate]: I found that you didn’t feel fazed by the ‘glass box’ classrooms really interesting – I don’t think I would have the same feeling of ease. With the classrooms I outlined above, the glass led out into a space connecting with the outdoors. We also had a music room with a large window – the difference was, it led out into a small, dark hallway. The window didn’t do much in the way of letting in light, leading the music room to be dark; the room itself was very small, so one was closer to the glass at all times (than, say, in the classrooms). Anyone passing outside could look in and be physically in close proximity to those inside; everyone in the corridor could hear the sounds being produced. It was aptly nicknamed the ‘Fish Bowl’.

I know many students who didn’t have a problem with it, but I always felt very uncomfortable, especially if in there alone. I didn’t really feel like I could be musically creative without feeling self-conscious, like being constantly under surveillance.

[Classmate’s point]: “Actually the more ‘enclosed’ classes were allocated to the second storey and was used for science, technologies and arts (specialist), whilst the bottom story (glass boxes) were used for maths, english, history, geography etc.”.

I wonder if there is a case to be made for surveillance inhibiting creativity, and thus not contributing constructively to these learning processes, while with the like of maths, english, history, etc., and the more ‘traditional’ ways the classroom is often run a sense of being monitored… Helps? Or perhaps this is being cynical in regards to how these latter subjects can be taught and the information learnt, as more relaxed discussions can often be just as effective.

Some different perspectives on glass in classrooms:

Image from article below – students in a school in Auckland, New Zealand, seem to have a positive experience in the new glass classrooms being pushed by the Ministry of Education

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/73042309/ (Links to an external site.)

Written in 2015, this is one is particularly interesting. “In the past five years, the Ministry of Education has spent $517 million on the open plan classrooms which include glass, natural light, moveable walls, breakout spaces for groups, and moveable furniture that includes couches and beanbags” to allow students to work in ‘hubs’, individually or in groups. “Every class in the country will have to meet the specifications – dubbed Innovative Learning Environments – by 2021″.

The pedagogy they are hoping to encourage sounds very familiar, tending towards a Montessori self-directed learning philosophy. Others are arguing this will pull attention away from the teacher, resulting in chaotic, less-directed lessons, and that students’ ability to effectively direct themselves is being overestimated.

A glass Montessori classroom

https://thelostteacher.com/2017/08/13/the-inspiration-of-a-glass-classroom/ (Links to an external site.)

And this post directly links glass classrooms with a Montessori education system! In 1915 a glass classroom was presented at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition, and Maria Montessori taught 30 children there for four months to demonstrate how it worked – it was this that kick-started the spread of the Montessori pedagogy. The author of the post continues on to discuss in a very positive manner how she plans on applying the concept of a ‘glass classroom’ to her own teaching.

Finally, this author feels glass classrooms to be downright Orwellian and humiliating: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/11416115/Spare-me-the-shame-of-glass-classrooms.html

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