Editor's Note (The View From Here)

A Long Time Coming

For a long time, changes in teaching and learning styles were happening slowly, and in some cases, not at all. This is no longer the case. The way teachers teach and students learn is changing — quickly.

This last week, I attended the EDspaces 2015 in New Orleans. The conference focused on forward-thinking sustainable design and the impact of environments on learning. The exhibits showcased products and services that mirrored the drastic changes we are seeing in today’s classrooms. There was so much more to see than a new palate of colors on the same type desk and chair. It was as if in the last few years, when business was slow, these companies took advantage of the time to develop the type of furniture that truly enhances the student’s desire and ability to learn.

No more desks in straight rows… no more looking at education through an old lens… no more assuming that learning could only take place in a formal location. Attention was definitely paid to the latest research on how todays’ students learn. The furniture I saw was designed for maximum flexibility and an easy transition from small group, to large group, to individual learning spaces. Not forgotten were soft furnishings designed specifically for the usually ignored areas where informal communications and self-organizing groups could meet and collaborate. The integration of technology into the space was no longer an afterthought and is now a given and an integral part of the classroom and furniture design.

There were discussions about Student-Centered Active Learning Environments (SCALE) and Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms, along with the improved student gains when compared to traditional instructional environments. Spaces for innovation, discovering and experimenting were showcased in the designs for STEM/STEAM classrooms, Fab Labs and makerspaces, along with the needed work surfaces, storage and display spaces, and utility infrastructure to make these spaces work. The new furniture designs shown could be the difference in how a classroom works and how a student learns.

Change is something we often discuss, but rarely do. It’s not easy or quick. But with a new breed of student, the integration of technology into the classroom, and what I saw this last week, our educational facilities and everything in them are about to see a big change for the better. It may have been a long time coming, but it appears we have finally overcome inertia. Our job now is to keep the ball rolling!

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of School Planning & Management.

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