Celebrating flexible seating, the paperless classroom, and an authentic learning environment

  flexible classroomWhen you walk into room 207 in John Jay Middle School, there’s a lot to look at. A knight stands in one corner, by the American flag, and a stuffed bear in the other. Then you might realize that there are no desks. There’s a small dining room table surrounded by lime green chairs, a tall table with wobble stools, a low table with pillows, and an orange swivel chair.

This is Marcia Daley-Savo’s 6th grade classroom. She produces most of the plays at the middle school—thus, the props. She’s also an advocate of the active learning environment. This is a flexible seating classroom—it offers students choice, sets the stage for collaboration, and encourages community.

To a large extent, Daley-Savo’s classroom is also paperless. 

“Three years ago, I began a pilot with my then sixth graders to see if we could transform our classroom from a heavily dependent paper curriculum to a paperless one,” said Daley-Savo. “It was successful beyond my wildest imagining.”

The Katonah-Lewisboro School District provided thirty laptop computers and Microsoft One Note which became the students’ digital binder. Since then, students do the majority of their work using this and other tech tools.  The work led to her being named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert in 2017 and 2018.

This spring, Daley-Savo received a TELL (Transforming Education through Leading and Learning) Award for Outstanding Innovative Teacher from the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Information Center. 

“Recipients of this award demonstrate an outstanding, innovative, and strategic approach to technology integration in their classrooms,” said Dennis Lauro, Executive Director of the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Information Center, who presented Daley-Savo with the award.

“Marcia is resourceful and eager to educate not only her students but her colleagues,” said Lauro. He cited the example provided by Sue Reiss, a French teacher at John Jay Middle School whom Daley-Savo helped shape a lesson grounded in student directive and relevant media. In a unit on clothing, students choose from a selection of  French YouTube clips on current fashion, then discussed and formulated questions using the vocabulary in the video.

“The learning environment in my classroom is entirely different this year as a result of Marcia sharing her vision for education,” he quoted Reiss as saying. “Since the students selected their own content, they were more likely to engage in sustained authentic conversation than if the topic was selected by the teacher.”

 Daley-Savo has led many workshops for teachers and initiated and organized the first Edcamp in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. This year her focus has been on integrating technology with Breakout EDU to enhance student engagement, Inquiry, and active learning.

“The five Cs drive all of my decisions in the classroom,” said Daley-Savo as she received the award. “In order to be successful in college and career and beyond, the students of the 21st century must be able to collaborate, communicate, think critically, think creatively and understand content.”

After the TELL Awards, the forty 6th graders had lunch with the recipients and school administrators and teachers. Their conversation touched on favorite classroom activities.

“I love Breakout EDU—it teaches me that cooperation and communication are key to solving any problem.”

“I like using OneNote because it collects my notes—I don’t lose them.”

“I like using Padlet because it’s a fun way to organize my notes.”