‘Classrooms of the Future’ are a beautiful symbiosis between space and technology, where learning will flourish, where educators are not confined by location or physical space and where learners are catered to on an individual basis. With technology and connectivity constantly improving, the educational landscape will continuously be altered and transformed, creating the world of adaptive learning, becoming a blend of human-to-human and human-to-technology interactions. Therefore, the physical space needs to evolve alongside the technological advances.
In a study conducted by the Herman Miller Company (2011) on adaptable spaces, the outcome reflects that adaptable space makes it easier to engage students by allowing for the quick and simple configuration of classrooms to facilitate various other learning activities. Learners, who took part in classes designed around flexible spaces, reported being 24% more engaged in class and 23% more likely to feel that communication was better facilitated. Educators described how it was easier to integrate learning methods (22%) and simpler to use technology while delivering lessons.
Let’s take a closer look at how some institutions are already integrating technology into learning environments, and are transforming the traditional physical space:
The founder of Steve Jobs Schools (SJS), Dutch market researcher and entrepreneur, Maurice de Hond is revolutionising the traditional method of classroom teaching through embracing technology, giving learners the freedom and flexibility to learn at their own pace, and by applying the creative philosophies that have made Apple one of the most innovative and successful companies of the modern world.
De Hond believes that the three pillars of the Jobs philosophy on business, design and life revolved around self- actualisation and when applied in conjunction with the advantages of technology could help learners discover their hidden aptitudes and potential.
The school’s innovative approach is that each student begins with an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which is evaluated and adjusted every six weeks by the learner, their parents, and the coach. Based on the outcome of the each 6 week evaluation, the learner is given new personalised learning challenges and instructions to choose from. Learners are equipped with iPads, fully loaded with different apps to help guide their individualised learning, ultimately giving the learner the choice to curate their own education paths. Learners will also learn important social skills by collaborating with other learners on group projects and knowledge sharing through group presentations.
By implementing this approach the Steve Job Schools hopes to equip children now for the world of tomorrow. The schools are currently operating in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and South Africa.
Billionaire businessman, Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor teamed up with design firm, IDEO in 2011 to provide middle-class kids an alternative between expensive private schools and destitute public schools, thus the first Innovo School was born and soon blossomed all over the country.
The high quality learning environment applies a blended learning approach — a hybrid of education that uses technology and guided independent study. The infrastructure is designed to support the methodology, consisting of group learning, individual learning, sporting areas, and fully equipped labs to foster learner innovation and creative skills. It also has a separate space designed to meet the requirements of early childhood learning. The school days are split into two halves, where for the first half, the learners spend their time in smaller classes that are focused around critical skills like problem solving and collaboration. The other half provides the time for independent learning using digital tools. Teachers monitor students’ work online, identify knowledge gaps and offer personalised guidance, whilst parents can view and keep track of their children’s progress.
“I was blown away by Innova,” stated Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy. “Inspiring to see such an affordable school deliver a quality of education that would rival schools in the richest countries.”
The Innovo model has been given their due reward by being recently awarded as a top prize winner at the International Design Excellence Awards.
Finland is currently undergoing a radical and ambitious transformation in the educational space following the introduction of a new national curriculum that was introduced in 2016. The Kastelli School and Community Centre has traded in traditional walled-in classrooms and formulated rows of desks for a more flexible, multi-purpose open plan layout where different age ranges gather to share their learning. The Finnish understand the importance of how integration and shared learning is pivotal to a successful education. Part of this centre’s success is the use of spaces throughout the centre, allowing children of all age ranges to congregate in the various open corridors or free-form lounge spaces and lobbies – whether whilst working or socialising.
The many users of the Centre include the comprehensive school, upper secondary school for youth and adults and a library. There are also facilities for adult education and a youth centre. The variety of sport halls of different sizes serve various athletic clubs after the school day. The largest sports hall which seats 800 seats, is also used for floor ball, basketball and volleyball games at a national league level. The more traditional style classrooms are situated around open corridors, in which small alcoves provide areas for cross-curricular learning. Kastelli puts its focus on teaching the younger generation, life and social skills through a physical and social landscape construct, helping integration across subjects and age groups.
Equally, special attention was paid also to the design of the outdoor space. To enliven the yard, and bring about a sense of playfulness design elements such as; outdoor furniture, play arenas, small niched areas, planting groups, green mounds, and comprehensive colour design and asphalt paintings. To mitigate the disturbance in this space from the noise pollution from the nearby traffic noise barrier, special landscape architecture was implemented.
John Seely Brown, Independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge sums it up perfectly in his statement ,“If you can design the physical space, the social space, and the information space all together to enhance collaborative learning, then that whole milieu turns into a learning technology, and people just love working there, and they start learning with and from each other.”
With the shift towards this tri-factor approach in the educational space, we look forward to see the evolution that is much needed to provide optimised learning environments to equip the learners of today with the skills of the future and hope to see many more educational institutions following suite.
Author: Kate Atkinson