One of the more popular educational catch phrases today is "The 21st Century Classroom." Over the past few years and more recently in the past few months I have been exploring this idea in more detail. The intriguing part of this is that we are more willing to listen to salesmen than to look at research and use common sense. I have narrowed this down to some key ideas to consider for the 21st Century classroom.
Technology: As I have recently discussed in previous post (Amazon Schools, What would a kid do?, The Technology Revolution) technology has been a status symbol for districts and schools. "We have smart boards, we are a 1:1 school", are all popular battle cries for highlighting schools. In reality schools may need less technology and instead put in place ways to adapt quicker and use technology. The single biggest issues schools should focus on is bandwidth and connecting devices. As technology continues to change quicker and quicker we must be able to adapt quicker. Schools have been conditioned to look at technology on 5 year commitments before upgrading, that is not acceptable. By focusing on infrastructure it enables teachers and students to quickly continue moving forward. It also helps connecting to outside experts much more readily. Be weary of the next great tech idea. Flipping the classroom can open up new ideas but it can just as quickly have students spending more time sitting. Professor Reis presents some powerful ideas on some serious limitations of video that all educators should watch. Technology is an integral part of school but we must get past the status symbol of having this device and focusing on what do we want to do and how many different devices can make that happen.
School campuses must be re-imagined with the idea of using the entire area. Imagine park trails that just had a sign at the beginning with all the info as compared to the trail that has signs and stories along the way highlighting the features of the trail. Which one would you rather hike on? How easy is it to re-imagine current school campuses. It is as simple as creating multiple sharing spaces. White spaces on outside walls, random space that can be drawn on and potentially creating a WiFi infrastructure that reaches the entire campus. Walking classes would help alleviate lots of school discipline issues as well as creating an open environment where students and teachers can easily see and hear what others our doing. In the back of my mind is the MIT building 20 that has lead to many great new inventions of our time as well as the Google 20% model. Freedom leads to greatness.
Collaboration: If we see what is going on we can build and build. Of all the skills we need to teach students, collaboration might be one of the greatest and with that how many teachers can say they lead by example? We need to have an environment where we continually see what everyone is doing and ask the question how can that apply to what I am doing.
Failure: The environment, collaboration and easily adaptable environments allows us to create a safe place where students learn the power of failure. Pondering the many great points from, Where good ideas come from, as well as looking at game research that highlights that players fail more than 80% of the time they are playing has pushed me to consider the idea of can we create an environment where we measure failure as a way to grade success?
With limited cost, schools can be redesigned but the question is do we have the courage to do it. If we could get half the time students spend in school transformed from sitting time to mobile learning time that could be a great start. And what if the school isn't redesigned can you redesign your classes...I hope so. I am! I hope we get the move on!