The traditional image of a classroom is one teacher with about 20 students lined up in neat little rows of desks. A chalkboard is prominent in the front of the room, while students attentively scan their over-sized textbooks for information. Recent technological innovations are rapidly changing the landscape of the classroom, already replacing many chalkboards with interactive whiteboards and giving more students access to computers. With all of these changes occurring rapidly, what does the future of the classroom look like?
Net Zero Campuses
Alternative energy is hot, and schools are looking to reap its cost-saving benefits. Susan Smith, vice-president of the architectural design firm Corgan Associates, reports that more schools are turning to alternative energy, like solar and wind, to power their schools. Individual classrooms will become more efficient and greener, having fewer outlets and using more charging stations. The classrooms will be equipped with sensors that modulate light, based on how much natural light is coming through the windows. Geothermal heaters will warm water in bathrooms and the cafeteria.
The Journal envisions spaces that could quickly be adapted to meet the needs of individuals, small groups and even several classes of students. Classrooms will have move-able walls to accommodate several instructors and as many as 60 students. Traditional desks will be replaced with learning pods so that students can embrace a more project-based curriculum.
Interactive white boards (like Smart Board) have already found their place into many classrooms, and they will be even more prevalent in the future. Rather than single, stationary boards positioned at the front of the classroom, the longest wall or multiple walls will be interactive for teacher and student use.
The reality is that most textbooks are cumbersome, pricey and become outdated quickly. Some schools are already using iPads and netbooks, and these devices will become more popular in the future. Students will use tablets to access their textbooks, complete their homework and submit their assignments. Paper will be obsolete, as students will take their quizzes and tests on their mobile devices. This will also make it more difficult for students to “misplace” their homework.
More students will take online classes, if not receive the bulk of their education at home via their computer. Virtual learning (or Hybrid Learning) will also have a more prominent place in traditional school environments, offering students electives that they would not normally be able to access, like instruction in Chinese. Virtual field trips will transport students to faraway places in real time, like the Congo or Stonehenge. Who knows, maybe they will see it all in 3-D? Virtual learning does not mean that education will be less hands on. Technology will enable students to engage in more simulations — after all, why dissect a real animal?
A Global Education
Technology can connect us to almost any part of the world, bringing us closer together, which presents some remarkable opportunities for the classroom. Students can learn together in Afghanistan and Oregon, breaking down ethnic divides and encouraging students to become more open minded and worldly. There will be no more “us and them,” because the globe will become one giant classroom.