Monday, February 14, 2011

Tech Requirements of a Decade Two 21st Century Learning Space

One year into decade two of the 21st century and sadly school doesn’t look much different than it did when we were in school.  The world outside of school has changed dramatically, yet the world inside school seems preserved in time, disconnected from reality.  I was recently asked what should the tech requirements be for a 21st century school.  When considering this, it is important to remember that the physical space of school is just a part of a student's learning environment.  The reality is that to live is to learn.  School should be an extension of life with the same tools and access.  With that in mind, here's what I came up with. Do you agree?  What would you add or change?  


  • Laptop
    Teacher can control image and use for personal and professional use.
  • WebcamTeacher can connect with the world as well as stream and record lessons on a site like uStream
  • Projector With replacement bulbs
    • Do not purchase interactive whiteboards.  They are a misuse of funds.  
  • Internet access
    Dedicated Ethernet connected internet. Unfiltered.


  • Internet access
    Completely open, high speed internet access in each classroom and all open spaces.
    • This can and is being done at many schools who are truly devoted to supporting 21st century learners.  Examples “The School,” “The Science Leadership Academy,” “Arapaho High School.”
    • Parents and community should be invited to use “common spaces.”
    • The internet should not be filtered beyond porn.  The world in school needs to match the world for which we are preparing students. 
    • This is a non negotiable in decade two 21st century.
  • Internet enabled device
    Each student needs an internet enabled device that has a QWERTY keyboard.  Devices do not have to be the same nor does the image.
  • The PODs are here
    PODs are personally owned student devices.  Schools must stop banning and start embracing the technology students already have and own.  Not only will this save schools millions of dollars, it allows students to use the technology they are already comfortable with for learning.  It also eliminates the often lengthy process of distribution and collection of device.  Another benefit is tech issues are minimized because generally people can troubleshoot their own devices.
    • For students without internet-enabled devices, schools will partner with companies to provide purchasing plans for students or equipment will be donated to the student, just like textbooks have been in the past.  
    • Here is a policy that a school that allows PODs uses.  
    • Here is a presentation explaining the necessity of PODs in school.

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  1. I second all of that. Plus I would add that schools should not pay for proprietary software unless it meets a specific function that can't be met by freeware. For example, if schools replaced Office with Google Apps, consider not only the savings they would incur, but also the impact on collaboration and communication for ALL learners, not just students! It would also speed up hardware and increase the (in my opinion) non-negotiable need for bandwidth.

  2. Such a fantastic point Michelle. It is definitely something I should include in the list. We waste way too much money on unnecessary software that can be done for free (or at very low cost) with even more effective tools than the often non-authentic educational software that kids can't take with them when they leave school because of subscription fees.

  3. I like it. I would suggest that both the student and the teacher have tablets not traditional laptops and that both allow wireless connection to the projector and that the projector is on a swivel or even a moving device kind of like a dog chain that moves along a tow rope kind of thing so that it can move around the space easily. I would say lots of open-ended cloud based tools, mostly the ones that haven't been invented yet. And I think there's a robot like Watson (the new supercomputer that just played Jeapordy) that is the assistant teacher and programmed by the students and the teachers. The walls and furniture and the windows and the entire environment is energy efficient and changeable because it's all modular moving pod-like cubes that also have computers attached so they can be programmed and moved and redesigned according to how the students and teachers decide. Impromptu working environments are created as needed. There's a corner also with new exercise furniture for students and teachers.

  4. Enjoyed your ideas, Lisa. The only thing I would add would be elements that would reinforce that the place where students go 8-3 from Sept-June is just ONE learning space -- and it should be designed to augment all the other spaces and where students can learn (e.g. the walk/ride to school; summer or any vacation -- or any time they are in a different space).
    I also couldn't help but notice that you substituted the phrase "21st C classroom" for "21st C learning space". Easy to do, but I believe it immediately, and unconsciously drags all the old concepts of "school" and "classroom" and "course" and control along with it. I'd say the term "classroom" tends to de-legitimizes other spots from claiming to be learning spaces (G). Just an editorial view.
    Of course, all the things that you have put into your learning space are true learning space elements.