Can 19th century classroom design be the best way to prepare students for the 21st century knowledge economy? Now that would be amazing. A few classrooms, however, are escaping the educational equivalent of a land time forgot. You’ll find these innovative spaces at well-known schools such as Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and Stanford University, as well as at small community colleges you may not have heard of before. These schools are reconsidering the relationships between classroom space, furniture, technology, and pedagogy and seeing great results.
Many educators say it’s about time. “A lot of classrooms, in terms of flexibility, ease of use, comfort, proper lighting, I’d give a failing grade,” says Dominique Laroche, director, Office of the University Architect at Arizona State University (ASU) and a faculty associate with the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. “Technology is light years ahead of us. The infrastructure and the classrooms are lagging behind.”
“Students today are far more connected, far more facile with technology than students 30 years ago, but schools haven’t accommodated what kids can do, or adjusted what we try to do with them. You see students using laptops or other devices, but the instruction often isn’t designed to take up on the fact that they’re coming to class with those tools instead of binders and pencils,” says Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan (U of M) and a prominent researcher in effective teaching methods.
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