THE CLASSROOM, published in 2010 features an essay "Connecting Learning and Learning Environments". Through the article, Peter Brown establishes a precedent for intertwining education and design, then illustrates ideas shaping the next generations of school design based on shifts that are occurring within the current educational landscape. The book is available from WASMUTH. This post is number six in a series of seven.
In the coming years, the integration of technology has the potential create fundamental changes in the relationship between learning and learning environments. For the first time in history, at a large scale, technology allows for students in the classroom to connect with resources outside of the classroom. Additionally, resources that have historically only been available in the classroom are available anytime and any place, and lessons can be extended to occur outside of class time. Access to online course work allows content to be customized for individual student abilities, preferences, and pace. Real-time assessments inform teachers of daily progress of students.
The availability of content resources in and out of class time provides opportunities for significant changes in activities during the day as well as the utilization of spaces within a school facility. In Sweden, Kunskapsskolan (or Knowledge School) provides a highly customized education for students in the middle years through high school. Entering students set educational goals, which start at the desired end result and are factored into yearly goals, semester goals, weekly goals and daily goals. The core content is delivered through a digital portal, allowing students to move through the curriculum at their own pace to meet individual goals.
At the beginning of each week, students create a weekly plan that organizes individual educational goals and related time schedules. Each student in the school has a personalized, individualized schedule based on their individual goals. Teachers post weekly lecture schedules and work with students both formally and informally. In additional to traditional classroom and lecture spaces, the schools incorporate many places for individual and small group work. Corridors are eliminated in favor of formal and informal work areas. At any given time, students are completely utilizing the building, either in formal teaching spaces or informal learning groupings, teams of students working together to solve problems. At Kunskapsskolan, the digital portal allows a structure for course work that provides a great freedom in choosing how time is utilized, spaces are utilized, and teacher-student relationships are enhanced.
While technology is changing quickly, there are known elements that can be used in planning: We know that technology is continually faster and smaller. Small technology has much less of a spatial impact on the design of facilities than operational impact. The human component of education also provides known elements that can be used in design. Students need places for academic work and activity work and for working in groups and individually. There are some elements in planning for technology that are not known and that need flexibility for change as educational models transform: What does it mean to be networked to resources outside of classrooms; How to manage content and educational relationships that occur outside of the classroom; How to structure time and space to accommodate individual student pace; How to individualize content for student ability and interest.