The 21st century classroom requires the right head space

From the President to parents, there is concern and conversation about the changes needed to support proficiency in 21st century skills for our students. As described by national advocacy group The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “in a global economy that demands innovation, the U.S. education system must keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).” While leading districts and schools are already making changes to support these goals, everyone in US learning communities will need to shift to very different ‘spaces’ to thrive in our competitive, interconnected world.

The Physical Space
Though virtual learning is here and gaining traction at every educational grade level, there will always be a physical space where educators and learners work together. Whether physical learning environments are renovated or newly built, thought leaders, forward-thinking educators and architects are focusing on liberating the classroom from the rigid 19th century factory/teacher delivery model to individualize learning.

Just adding a bank of computers to the back of a classroom or buying a few cool gadgets isn’t the answer; the physical environment should be flexible enough to take advantage of tech tools for highly personalized instruction and small and large group collaboration. Student-centricity and collaboration should drive all design decisions, with configurations with flexible seating and even physical space that can expand to support interaction with other classes are being put in place.  Other considerations are adequate power supplies and connectivity for multiple technologies, smart/whiteboards and projectors, with dimmer controlled and directed lighting.

Despite the recession, technology friendly, ‘green built’ schools are being created by renovation or being built from scratch. The Architectural Record publishes a report and the latest thinking on educational space design every year to showcase the latest advances.  

Whatever it may be, the 21st century classroom isn’t a single room, particularly with out-of-class content taking hold. And in many ways, it’s not a room at all.

The Mental Space
The ultimate goal is to inspire children and nurture a ‘head space’ that holds the creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making prescribed in the Common Core State Standards. Rote-learning is not the future; instead greater autonomy to meet goals, and stressing the higher order thinking skills and a spirit of inquiry is what matters.  Engaged in their own learning, the student must go beyond memorization to understanding, whatever their individual learning style. The best mental space is one that is open to lifelong learning and the wide world of possibilities.

Learn how DreamBox is helping build a 21st Century classroom for a more personalized learning experience: