I was asked by NEA Today to provide a short response to the question: "What role will/must architecture play in the future of public education?". A great question since I've found that the opportunities for encouraging change in education are most apparent during the educational planning process where the community is looking at future desires and expectations for education. When we look forward, we give ourselves permission to imagine how things could be - we dream of a better future. Often, the opportunity to use this visionary thinking to inform our here and now decisions about change implementation is lost when time schedules, budgets and politics get in the way of what we know we aught to be doing for our children and youth.
This teacher collaboration area at the new Robert Dean Centre at Scotch Oakburn College (High School) - Tasmania, Australia illustrates transparency of teacher and student workspaces
Here is how I respond to the NEA Today's segment on "The Next 150 Years" of education:
One might argue that today’s “Twenty-first Century Schools” model 1950s architecture, use 1990s technology and deliver 1960s curriculum. What could we then expect from Twenty-second Century schools? For many well-intentioned reasons, public education has coped with a confusing mix of Agricultural and Industrial Age models making it difficult to conceive of what a New Conceptual Age Paradigm school might look and feel like.
However, there is reason to be optimistic. School designers are rapidly innovating to not only support, but also encourage change in teaching practices to accommodate not only collaborative, project-based learning, but also personalized, self-directed learning.
Imagine variable sized spaces that make it easy to support several learning activities and even encourage co-curricular activity.
Visualize, individual student workstations that can be personalized providing a sense of ownership, modeling responsibility for one’s own learning.
Picture teacher team spaces with adjacent material preparation areas and meeting space that encourages interdisciplinary teaching, mentoring and collaboration. Informal presentation spaces for individuals and teams to demonstrate their learning and share knowledge acquired with the larger learning community.
Other ideas being built today include student work galleries, classrooms better thought of as ‘learning studios’; the ubiquitous use of laptops, PDAs and other technologies unburdened by wires; informal café/common social gathering spaces that double as assembly spaces for group learning and project-work; student study spaces, lounges and outdoor spaces that provide areas for socializing, and serendipitous meetings that can foster creative thought and solutions to problems; and collaborative idea generation space to support creativity, teamwork, prototyping of concepts which can also encourage the involvement of local employers in the development of projects.