Educating our youth has come a long way from the colonial one-room schoolhouse days. Back then, the requirements placed on the classroom were simple: keep the students dry and, if possible, warm. Now, studies have shown that the classroom itself has a strong impact on student grades and learning outcomes. Beyond the goals of delivering educational content, there are important classroom requirements to provide an overall aesthetic environment; one maximally conducive to student learning.
In the agrarian days, educational “technology” was limited to books, slate, and chalk. The scarce resource was the teacher and, as demand for education grew, school designs became efficient at fitting ever-more students in the room with the teacher. By the advent of the industrial age, classrooms consisted of rows of students seated at desks; each classroom nearly identical. Gradually, technology began making its way into the classroom, in the form of filmstrips, phonographs, movies, and even TV and VCRs for occasional directed group activities.
In the sixties, after the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik, our whole style of education was re-examined. We needed to catch up quickly and that required new, innovative thinking about teaching and pedagogy. The UK had been using a concept called the open classroom with “open teaching”, which would purportedly spark creativity and enable students to proceed at their own rates in their individual areas of interest. Especially appealing to tax-paying decision makers was the fact that open-style schools happened to be lower cost to build. After a brief bubble, and in spite of its noble aims, this teaching style was perceived as noisy and distracting, and as a result was short-lived. The country would need to get more serious about thoughtfully designing effective and practical classroom spaces.
Classroom technology has progressed enormously since the days of chalk and slate. Digital content, in the form of digital text books and streaming video, is pervasive. PCs and tablets not only provide the interface to the Internet, but are also the platforms for digital learning tools, online assessment, and student collaboration. It is now possible, even mandatory, to facilitate remote learning; whether temporarily due to illness or disability, or ongoing to interact with people of different geographies and cultures.Today, educational technology is migrating from simply enhancing traditional teaching to transforming it with full integration with the classroom and into the student’s learning process. Educators are faced with extending our contemporary classroom designs into the age of the converged classroom. To accommodate the diverse ways that individual students learn, universities and K-12 school districts are providing new and different styles of teaching. With continuing pressure on educational budgets, classrooms must be easily reconfigurable; capable of changing between group lesson format and individual projects. The teaching environment should be comfortable and conducive to learning. And very importantly, the classroom needs to readily accommodate and adapt to new and emerging learning technologies.
Central to enabling classroom technology is the intelligent infrastructure. To function smoothly, the school must provide flawless wireless connectivity in all student and faculty spaces. This provides the basis for connecting not just tablets and PCs, but also the next generation of wireless projectors, whiteboards, sound systems, clickers, and mobile communication devices. The wireless connectivity must be backed up by a rock-solid and secure core network that interconnects the school’s servers and the Internet.
To learn more about the design of state-of-the-art global classrooms, tune in to the upcoming free webinar The Converged Classroom – The Key to Implementing Innovative Learning Environments on April 18.