Imagining The Future…. (Of Learning Environments)

It is an interesting thing to try and look to the future. I often do it in terms of my personal life, and to some degree, my professional life. I haven’t given much thought to what education as a whole will look though. After watching Sugata Mitra’s TED talk though, I began to wonder.

To me, change is not happening fast enough in education. It isn’t for lack of trying. Our buildings, technology, playgrounds, politics and curriculum need an overhaul. People tell me to be patient, but that is not one of my best qualities. This assignment, however, is not for me to lament the present and the past, but to look to the future. I need to warn you that I am looking at this through the lens of an elementary school teacher, but I believe what I envision for my future students is applicable to all grade levels. Mr. Mitra comments, “we don’t even know what the jobs of the future are going to look like. We know that people will work from wherever they want, whenever they want, in whatever way they want.”(2013) He later asks, “Could it be that we don’t need to go to school at all?” (2013) Well, as someone who would like to keep her job, my answer is yes, we need to go to school. But what could that school look like? I had some fun last night, dreaming up a classroom I would love to have. This morning, I am looking at it, and I want to start over again. I wish I could spend time sketching and doodling out my dream learning space, but reality calls.  The image I sketched last night is here:

Image

What will future learning environments look like? Physically, I envision large spaces. There won’t be rows or clumps of desks, but tables, rugs and carpets for students to gather and collaborate at. Dr. Tony Wagner (2012) mentions collaboration “across networks and leading by influence” as one of his 7 skills that students will need in 21st century learning.  A learning environment where there is room to do this will be important for, as Dr. Wagner says, “Innovation is a team sport.” (2012)  I dream of a future learning environment where there are green spaces. Ideally, I would love for the students in my school to traverse through a garden path on their way in and out of the building. I see seating and digging spaces where children can get into nature and see how the natural world works and explore how it could exist in harmony with us.  Future “physical” learning environments, I believe, should have classrooms with loose parts, art supplies, music instruments, building materials, quiet corners, yoga mats, nooks and so much more. I don’t see a lot of textbooks, but print materials and online reading in my future environment.  I envision spaces with large windows where natural light can be used instead of the horrid fluorescent. I imagine fairy lights and lamps to provide different sources of lighting which can be controlled by the learners, and not by the district. I envision each classroom with access to technology, whether it is a class set of iPads or laptops in their classroom, not one set of 15 to be shared by 200 or more students.

I imagine learning environments in the future to be open.  I am not sure how this will work, I have thought about it quite a bit, as I continue to struggle with the “giving up of control”.  I imagine learners being asked the question, “What is your plan today?” when they walk in the room, but I am honestly not sure how that idea fits with curriculum objectives and societal expectations. Perhaps it is the age level I work with, but if I allow them to explore on their own, will they learn to read and write? I don’t know. I’m honestly too scared to try it and find out.  I suppose my future learning environment would allow me, the facilitator of learning, freedom to fail and to explore with my learners. I know we are heading toward a “curriculum of big ideas” (Mitra, 2013) in our province, but there are so many questions I still have. I see the “new” curriculum and love the ideas, but I also see the way that districts and governments wish to “control” the teachers, and I don’t see how it all meshes.  I suppose my learning environment of the future also contains employers and management who support the changes and the people implementing them.

                      Image

References:

Mitra, S. (2013, February). Build a School In The Cloud [TED]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud/transcript

Wagner, T. (2012, May 31). Play, Passion, Purpose [TEDx]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxNYED-April-28-2012-Tony-Wag

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One thought on “Imagining The Future…. (Of Learning Environments)

  1. Great Sketches!! I totally agree with your vision of more open learning environments that enable movement and flow. Change definitely doesn’t seem to be coming fast enough. Even when I try to attempt simple changes in my classroom, it often seems to be a financial problem that interferes with the change. I look forward to seeing how classrooms change in appearance in the next ten years. I think we’ll see far less desks and individual cubbies to keep supplies in. Less space for teachers desks and no ‘stage’ where the teacher stands in front of everybody to deliver a lesson. It’s exciting to imagine the future!

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