The Global Challenge
Moving the Learning Environment Beyond the Four Walls
- By David L. Schrader
- January 1st, 2017
ILLUSTRATION © NATINKA
On a recent, rather lengthy car trip with my family, I noted that, while my generation would
have read a book or played the license plate game, my kids were surfing the Internet and watching
YouTube videos. My heavy contemplation of the financial benefit the cellular company was reaping
was easily broken by the information my kids started to share with me. Far beyond anything to which I,
as a 13-year-old, could have accessed, global experiences were streaming into our vehicle.
It struck me that technology has enabled an ease of connection with the world at large and created
a generation that will not see the world as we did. Through the simple touch of a screen, our children
become active members of the global society, whether sitting in an environment created for learning, or
engaged in moments of leisure. With this realization comes the understanding that our next generation of
learners has a particular advantage. As with each generation, we are given unique tools that provide us
with opportunities beyond that experienced by each prior generation. But this group, my children, have
the tools granting them the ability to be the mold breakers for global learning environments.
This recognition triggered a series of thoughts and concerns. What are the
implications of this worldly exposure? How will our children learn differently?
How will they experience relationships differently?
Can we guide global exposure that is positive and
beneficial? And how do we help them to
express themselves to other cultures in
ways that are well received?
The benefits of our
world connectivity are
virtually participate in
and engage with other
cultures. We can negate
cost-prohibitive travel expenses
via technological connections.
Public education, always the Great
Equalizer, grants educators in every
socioeconomic situation the opportunity
to provide the same level of connectivity to
the global experience for all children.
While differing cultural norms and traditions
and languages may present challenges
currently, we can expect that as communication
on the global stage becomes a new
norm, barriers will be minimized or eliminated
The design world is responding to the
wonderful new opportunities being presented.
Technology connections, wireless technologies
and distance learning tools are only the
first steps. Spaces to make and technologies
in the learning environment that
free the child from the walls surrounding
the space in which
they sit are becoming
And the walls that do exist in the learning
environment are becoming non-static elements
that provide for different levels of projection on all
surfaces. Higher education and corporate environments
are experimenting with three-dimensional
projection that allows us to “meet face-to-face”
with someone on another continent, without
leaving the room. Virtual reality glasses and other
projection devices are no longer just the stuff of
which movies are made.
In the year 2017, we must focus on how
we take the global learning environment to all
learners. Exploring ways to instruct, guide and
lead in this evolving climate will be challenging
and exciting. As planners and designers, we
must collectively re-evaluate what the learning
environment is, and how it can support the
new methods of global learning offered through
technology. By meeting these changing and
shifting needs and demands, we can seize a
golden opportunity to expand the learning environment
far beyond its four walls and deliver
the whole world to our kids.
David Schrader, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Association for Learning Environments, is the managing partner of SCHRADERGROUP architects in Philadelphia, PA. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.