A systemic discussion about the space of the hybrid mathematics classroom: a spatial opportunity for interdisciplinarity?
Date and Time: 14/10/2022 (10:00-11:45)
Andreas Moutsios-Rentzos
Keywords: interdisciplinarity, mathematics education, hybrid learning environment, space, architectural educational planning

In this theoretical paper, the notion of space in the mathematics classroom is re-visited. The ongoing pandemic has violently imposed transformations across different aspects of the teaching and learning phenomena with respect to the broad implementation of digital, synchronous and asynchronous, teaching and learning means, thus creating digital or hybrid learning environments. Educational research has attempted to identify the implications of those transformations with respect to the students’ learning in general and specifically about mathematics. In this paper, I concentrate on the notion of space of such hybrid learning environments (in diverse digital/analog configurations), with a particular focus on the opportunities for interdisciplinary mathematics teaching and learning, which seems to be at the crux of official reports of various organisations (e.g. UNESCO, OECD etc). Hybrid learning environments appear to be a strong choice in the current educational era, realised through diverse online platforms. One radical transformation concerned the core of what constitutes the official classroom and who is spatially present. In a traditional format, the mathematics classroom is geographically defined by a type of walls, while its functional affordances are the result of the intentional, unintentional, or emerging organization of diverse elements, including the various architectural and technological fixtures (2D & 3D shape and dimensions, windows, doors, lighting, Wi-Fi, etc), of the various pieces of furniture and equipment (desks, whiteboard, smartboard, projector, audio systems etc), the used materials and their sensory/embodied experience (across time, use etc), the broader physical environment (the school building, the school yard, the surrounding environments etc) etc. Within the traditional mathematics classroom, the immediate presence of two protagonists is usually acknowledged: the teacher(s) and the student(s). Following a systemic perspective, the space of the traditional mathematics classroom is expanded to include the mediated spatial presence of various protagonists, which may or may not be officially documented to be included in the school unit system. For example, the mediated presence of various protagonists is acknowledged: the fellow teachers, the school principal, members of the school board, the parents, members of the family, peers, the shadow education system etc. However, the employment of both online and offline teaching and learning interactions transforms the spatial characteristics of this novel hybrid learning environment: the mathematics classroom is not defined and restricted by the physically constructed walls. The educational protagonists interact in virtual rooms that are geographically defined by the affordances of the application/software within which they exist. Such transformations radically re-define crucial topological and geometrical aspects of the learning environment: inside/outside, proximity, distance etc. Importantly, the topological and geometrical characteristics of the space within which the educational protagonists interact affects their conceptualization of the affordances of this space: movement, sitting, entrance, exit etc. Furthermore, the broader embodied experience and construction of the space of the mathematics classroom is socially negotiated, in a communication space with expanded, altered, sometimes non officially prescribed power relationships. At the same time, the spatial characteristics of the hybrid mathematics classroom may render the system boundaries permeable to communicational interactions with the learning environments of courses of other disciplines. Thus, it is posited that such hybrid learning environments may constitute the communicational space that may act as the learning bridge that is essential for the interdisciplinary thinking/teaching/learning of the various protagonists to emerge. Following these, in this paper, I discuss the spatial characteristics of the hybrid mathematics classroom that may be exploited to facilitate interdisciplinary teaching and learning, as well a set of principles for the architectural and educational planning of such hybrid mathematics classroom.

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