Classrooms of the future

13 November 2012 - 02:01 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Prof Charl Cilliers, director of the centre for student counselling and development at Stellenbosch University, in a simulator classroom
Prof Charl Cilliers, director of the centre for student counselling and development at Stellenbosch University, in a simulator classroom

South Africa's pupils and students could soon find themselves taking lessons while seated in moving chairs and surrounded by walls festooned with calming forest scenes - and even listening to brain-stimulating music .

This is all part of a hi-tech experimental classroom launched by Stellenbosch University yesterday. The simulator classroom is equipped with chairs with castors to allow pupils to form "smaller chat groups" to increase "social learning".

Charl Cilliers, head of the university's centre for student counselling and development, said this was part of an extensive research on "optimisation of learning".

"The simulator is a working classroom that can also be utilised as an experimental classroom for research on how to increase the creativity of both lecturers and students," Cilliers said.

"Apart from the technology used, we also employ various visual and audio elements to support optimal learning. The walls are painted in a specific green colour, and on one of the walls is a calming picture of a forest. Lecturers can also play special music to stimulate students' brain functioning."

Cilliers said chairs played a "huge role" in the success of presentations and conversation. The university is also planning to use the model in lecture halls. Each chair has a desk and space for a computer on the seat.

"The idea is that students can 'drive' around in class, from a more traditional lecture model to forming small chat groups or even a big circle. This can be achieved by moving around in class," he said.

The classroom is equipped with projectors, a television screen, a touch screen presentation computer and a set of tablet computers to be handed out to students so that they can participate in class. Presentations can be recorded and given to students. A small area outside the classroom helps students to relax while discussing their lectures. They also have a kitchen.

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