Schools of the FuturePosted: November 27, 2013
Rows of metal desks with children seated in alphabetical order. A musty cut-out carpet square that serves as the story time area. Building blocks of wood and Legos stored in plastic containers along the edge of the classroom. This is the typical classroom you may have grown up with. As technology evolves, the needs of students grow, and the educational climate changes, the design and planning for schools need to be able to keep up.
We began to wonder, “How ARE schools going to keep up?” KI, Inc., a leading furniture design company, and one that we have worked with ourselves, posed a question in a recent piece titled The Learning Environment Sweet Spot: Elevating the Education Paradigm; what will the school of the future look like? This was such a good question, in fact, that we asked the followers on our social media site what they would like their school to look like in the future.
Most of our answers were based on personal experiences.
“Rotating white boards would be helpful. I don’t have to spend time erasing or worrying about getting cut off. Plus, the kids think they’re awesome.”
“I think computers built into desks are definitely possible…pretty much necessary at this point.”
“My school has those really ugly beige walls that I end up covering with colored paper and pictures. It’d be cool to have different sensory experiences built right in the classroom.”
KI’s research suggests that to determine what type of facility you would need, you have to understand what kind of students you have. They discuss Generation Z, a generation of students who rely heavily on technology, feel the need for constant connectivity, and even learn better when technology is used in combination with books. These are the students of the future.
An emerging trend that is helping schools prepare for the success of Generation Z is Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). These classrooms cultivate problem solving, more participation, and students and teachers learning together. Specifics of an ALC depend on the curriculum and what subjects are being taught. In the past, education has focused on several main subjects – Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics. Recently, however, more emphasis is being put into topics like health and the arts. Arts includes things like language, literature, history, and sociology.
How do we integrate technology into a classroom that has multiple, such diverse focuses? KI suggests that classrooms of the future must facilitate problem solving, enable project demonstration, as well as have multiple work surfaces to support and inspire dynamic exchanges. Space planning needs to compliment varying group sizes as well as interdisciplinary learning.
Every school is going to be different in the future. To figure out what kind of school you need, take 3 things into consideration: Who is learning and how, who is teaching and how, and what is being taught? When you can answer all of these questions, you have figured out your “sweet spot.” Those answers will help you design your school without putting anything down on paper.
In the past, we have learned that schools who take their students and teachers needs into consideration are those that have successfully fostered a healthy learning environment. For special needs students, like those that attend Cerebral Palsy League School in Cranford, NJ, REDCOM designed the hallways of the school to represent a downtown area so that the students could replicate daily activities of non-special needs students. For larger schools like Midland School, REDCOM designed building additions to match their existing structures for a cohesive look.
In any school system, the students are the most important asset. Therefore, their learning environment should reflect as such.