What is the Classroom of the Future?
In a time where education has undergone so much change, we’re exploring how to move forward.
Before the age of 18, young people spend up to half their lives in school. These days, classrooms have become bedrooms, kitchens, a parent’s office or anywhere with a solid wifi connection. Traditional classrooms haven’t disappeared, though. It’s just that nowadays they stand more and more in contrast to the reality we all live in. With the digital and global evolution of society, a rigid structure is no longer an environment where students see themselves or their needs reflected.
ThoughtMatter is dedicated to education and exploring what’s needed for it to improve, adapt and stay current to the needs of our ever-evolving society. That got us thinking about environments that encourage better social interactions and could be better homes for learning. The physical and digital spaces where education takes place have lifelong psychological impacts on students’ ability to feel safe, welcome and absorb knowledge, as well as how they behave, learn and relate to each other. As we look to the future, we must reconsider and rebuild educational spaces to be accessible to all; to meet students where they are and easily flex to new and changing needs.
With that in mind, we asked our staff, their partners and their school-age children about what they envision for the classroom of the future. A lot of the answers dealt with the presence of technology, arts education and creating community. However, across the board almost everyone mentioned the importance of an agile curriculum that can adapt to each student’s individual needs. Read for yourself:
Jessie McGuire, Managing Director // Hawk (8) and Millie McGuire (4), Jessie’s Children
Jessie: When I asked Hawk and Millie what they thought their classroom would look like in high school, they said they hoped high school would be out in the open and not in a classroom. And, that the question was wrong. Ha! What was most fascinating about their answers was the absence of any technology. I asked about computers, tablets and screens, and they both said that for high school they hoped they would be with people. This little generation will be so fascinating.
· A big room with books everywhere
· A pedestal where the teacher sits and speaks to the students individually
· Big windows are a must
· Space to make work, perhaps sculpture or robots
· A place where I can take care of dogs (because I like dogs and high school should be about what I like)
· Lots of time to do arts and crafts
· Supplies must not be missing, because when you are in high school you need lots of paper and art supplies
· Really all I need is a book and a sharp pencil
· There must be pencils, like good pencils, because how else will I write and make important work?
Scott O’Donnell, Teacher // Husband of Kalina O’Donnell, Human Resources
I envision the classroom of the future to be an open, collaborative workspace where students are experimenting and theorizing with hands-on projects connected to their daily lessons. Students in the future will be directing their own learning with their own lines of inquiry, utilizing technology to troubleshoot, problem-solve and discover. It’s not enough to sit students in front of different pieces of technology and devices. That does not engage them and only adds to increased screen time where their minds are idle; what so many parents often worry about. The classroom of the future should have 25 students potentially working on five different, but related projects at the same time in an open floor plan. This allows for differentiated instruction, puts students in the driver’s seat of their own education and fosters collaboration and creativity among peers. So many students are afraid of failure and risk-averse, often becoming passive in the classroom. However, when they can witness ingenuity alongside and from their classmates, it welcomes them into an environment where they discover new insights about the taught material and themselves as thinkers.
Tavishi Sahu, Digital Designer
My vision for the future classroom is an atmosphere where each individual feels accepted and valued. Teachers need to discover ways to make learning innovative, enjoyable, creative and rewarding. To discover strengths, then use them to empower students. Students are invited to explore through doing and socio-emotional learning that helps them understand life’s daily battles. The classroom should:
· Be inclusive of genders
· Focus on learning disabilities
· Teach everyone to code, especially women
· Teach sex education through in-depth discussions
· Give every child a little garden. Not only will they learn how to grow plants, but also develop a nurturing attitude.
Sam Barbagiovanni, Design Director
My vision for the classroom of the future would be one that addresses the digital world without losing sense of more tangible skills that make us human and not robots. It’s both exciting and terrifying that a children’s book for coding popped up on my feed the other day. Would I love my niece to be able to code? Sure! But I also want her to communicate in all other forms as well. My vision for the classroom of the future uses technology as an additive tool, not as a replacement. It is experiential on screen and IRL across all subjects.
Dylan Stiga, Senior Strategist, Integrated Marketing
Students should be given the chance to share and build upon ideas that make classrooms better to satisfy their needs and the needs of those around them. Shifting the way we think about incentivizing kids — from gold stars for good behavior or getting 100 on test, to rewarding them for contributing to the greater good — can help create better spaces and instill better skills and lessons for their future. This would give them a sense of ownership, pride, confidence and accomplishment over the classrooms they spend so much of their life in, while gaining an early understanding of the diversity of thought, values and cultures that surround them.
Miles Holland, Designer
The classroom of the future is a space where we acknowledge different learning styles, skills and needs. It’s important that classrooms are individualized because once we start separating kids by learning levels or abilities, we create a culture of shame and a social hierarchy at an extremely young age. Moving forward we need to consider what an equitable learning environment looks like. Instead of testing kids and separating them based on the results, we should figure out how to give kids what they each need to ace the test and, in turn, give them access to the same opportunities.
Wednesday Krus, Design Director
· More equitable funding
· Cross-school, cross-district and cross-country resource sharing and pooling by exchanging and crowdsourcing curriculum, supplies, tutoring, after school programs and other resources between well-funded and less-funded schools
· Required art & music history sections
· No standardized testing
· Physical class spaces that are outfitted for children who learn in different ways and at different paces
D’Angelo Heyward, Junior Designer
The classroom of the future is a place where technology supports learning and its various styles. Antiquated curricula and philosophy are no more. Instead, lessons reflect the progressive and inclusive world we are working towards. Young people need access and exposure. If children are spending most of their time and development in educational settings, let’s truly prepare them for the “real world.”
Alyssa Gerasimoff, Junior Strategist
A classroom of the future would follow an overall shift in the education system giving students more liberty to define their own educational experiences. Traditional subject instruction will transition into a digital space, where students can connect with teachers and other students from all around the world. However, I think it will be important for young people to continue to have physical gathering spaces to build relationships within their own communities. But “school spaces” might only act as gathering hubs, facilitating the learning of social skills, rather than desks facing the front of the room. I imagine, and hope, that as a society we would transition into an educational system that values hands-on and arts learning. These subjects would be primarily taught in person, in inspiring classroom spaces where students feel safe and proud to discover their creativity, push boundaries and experiment.
Martha Kirby, Client Services Director
My vision for the classroom of the future first focuses on the individual needs of the students. Ensuring that tech and curriculum can be tailored to different styles of learning without excluding students who may need specialized attention. If funding was what it should be, this would look like a low teacher-to-student ratio to ensure personalized focus and state-of-the-art tech beyond desktop computers — AR, VR, globally connected meeting rooms to enable children around the country and world to meet and collaborate. Classrooms should be comfortable and accommodate all abilities, body types and sensory considerations. Remote learning should be optional for students who may need to stay home for extended periods, so they aren’t left behind and expected to catch up. And lighting and temperature should be adjustable.
Phillip Lauria, Strategy Director
I wonder if age will be less important in terms of how people are organized, and a shared interest or ambition will guide the makeup of the classroom. I think and hope subjects will be much more interoperable than they are now. Who says mathematicians can’t be artists or vice- versa? Technology will play a much larger role in the classroom and will do wonders for connecting people across the globe to world-class educators. At the same time, I think the IRL learning experience will continue to trade at a premium. For adult learners I think the future classroom and the future workplace will converge in some ways. I wonder if continuing education and personal development will follow a similar path to that of gaming; from pay-to-learn, to free-to-learn, to earn-to-learn.
Nicole Duval, Senior Design Strategist
For the newborn Alpha, the classroom of tomorrow will be a living, hybrid, virtual space. You will navigate at your own rhythm through the plural identities of your avatar connected to the coaching network chosen by algorithms of affinities. The architecture of the school will be transformed into an open and luminous breathing structure, where the modular walls match the evolutive organization of the day, from small interactive groups to the think tank communal agora. Body and mind will be enhanced for cognitive development from an early age by morning meditation, gardening for the vertical school greenhouse food system, and experimenting in a biology lab in connection with artistic exploration of your choice. Nature will be integrated in the school space as islands of balanced ecosystems to nurture and sensibilize hands-on scientific learning. The Alpha generation will not be conditioned by grades or the competitive mindset, but rather will learn to collaborate with the ambition of solving real global issues. The Alpha generation will be exposed to an open learning system that offers the opportunity to adapt in a changing economy and actively participate in the civic ecosystem of society.
This post was written by Brianna Jacobson with thinking contributed by the ThoughtMatter staff. ThoughtMatter is a creative branding, design and strategy studio in New York City’s Flatiron District. Find us on Twitter.