On About.com, Jackie Craven has an interesting piece about the integration of technology in buildings traditionally considered archaic–schools. (At least they were in my day; we didn’t even have air conditioning!)
Designing a technologically rich school for the new century means more than simply plugging in the equipment. Computer networking, video conferencing and new approaches to learning make traditional classroom configurations impractical. The schools of tomorrow may take on shapes that will seem foreign to us today.
Some of the most interesting predictions:
•Students no longer need to face a podium, teacher’s desk or writing board. Learning stations are distributed along walls, in island clusters or in zigzag patterns. Rooms are wheelchair friendly with wide, unobstructed passageways and low handles and switches.
•Classrooms will resemble a television studio with two monitors, three cameras. and related equipment. One of the monitors displays presentations broadcast within the school building, while the other displays students and teachers at other locations — anywhere in the world. Bright overhead spotlights enhance the quality of video transmission.
•Flush mounted microphones on student desks assure that everyone can hear and be heard. Materials used for walls, ceilings, and floors are especially chosen to optimize voice clarity.
•There are no computer labs with rows of monitors and miles of tangled cables. Electrical outlets and communications ports are strategically located throughout the building. Wide conduits inside walls and beneath floors accommodate wires and cables.
•School design is modular. Rooms are reconfigured as the curriculum changes and technologies evolve. Portable carts allow computers to move freely throughout the building. Movable partitions permit teachers to shift from small to large group activities. And, since furniture design is standardized, work stations may be moved and reassembled anywhere in the building.
Craven also describes two “dream schools”–
The End of Walls: Virtual Visions Academy
This “high school without walls” began as a pilot charter school in Blairstown, New Jersey. The main facility has a large computer lab, six offices, a teleconferencing classroom, and a reception area. However, students attending Virtual Visions Academy receive the majority of their instruction and assignments over the Internet, through ITV connections or via email.
Solar Powered: Four Oaks Elementary School
Located in Johnston County, North Carolina, the Four Oaks school building has vertical view glass and south-facing roof monitors, providing indirect daylight in every room. Properly sized overhangs shade the vertical glass during warm months, while passive solar gain boost the heating system in the winter.