Deconstructing 21st-Century Learning Environments

By Katie Ash — January 27, 2009 1 min read

I’ve been back in Portland for a few days, but I have one more post I wanted to write about FETC. During the conference, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills released a white paper (PDF) about 21st-century learning environments. The paper addresses more than just what the architectural structure of a school should be (although it does address that topic as well), but includes suggestions on the kind of technological and community infrastructure schools should have. The paper also emphasizes that learning environments are no longer confined to brick and mortar school buildings anymore. The idea behind a 21st-century learning environment is to break down the barriers between education and “real life,” educators and the communities they serve, says the paper.

I won’t repeat everything that the paper suggests, but I would like to touch on a few important points that were made. One is flexibility. As I talked about a few days ago, having the flexibility built into a technological infrastructure to adapt to new technologies is essential for keeping up to speed. The paper also talked about the need for the actual physical school building to be flexible, suggesting that classrooms be equipped with movable furniture as well as movable walls so classroom size and structure could be adjusted.

Another key component of a 21st-century learning environment is community involvement. According to the paper, community input into school construction decisions is important, and schools should think of the building as a public space that could be used for many different functions in the community, such as a daycare or senior center.

And one last point I wanted to talk about, just because it comes up so often, is the importance of making sure that technology is fully integrated into both the school building and the curriculum. Without the proper implementation, technology can become more of a hindrance than a help, and fully integrated technology into a school system takes effort from administrators, teachers, community members, and students.

There’s a lot of information in this paper about all aspects of learning environments, so check out the whole paper (PDF) if that’s something that interests you.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.