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Tomorrow's Schools

How will architects design tomorrow's schools?

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One-room Schoolhouse

One-room schoolhouse in Wyoming: the arrangement of the seats still looks familiar.

~ Photo by Jack E. Boucher, Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: HABS, WYO,7-SOPAC,19-6

Computers are revolutionizing the way we teach and learn. Will they also change the way we design our schools?

The scene is familiar: A teacher stands at the front of a room. Children sit in the center, their seats arranged in rows or semicircles. There is a chalkboard, a wall map, and a globe. This could be a classroom in 1995... or 1895, or even 1795. Although the details may vary, school design has seen few changes in the past two hundred years.

What happens when you add a computer to this scene? A printer? A scanner, a video monitor, a telecommunications system? Designing a technologically-rich school for the 21st 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.

What will these new schools look like? Architects, engineers and educators describe exciting possibilities.

    Did you know... ?
    A growing body of research has linked student achievement and behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding. Good facilities appear to be an important precondition for student learning. But, according to government reports, schools in the United States need much work.

SCHOOLS OF THE FUTURE

Schools of the 21st century will provide a technologically-rich environment, say architects, engineers and educators. Here's a peek into the future, according to prototypes developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

The Shape of Tomorrow's Schools
In tomorrow's classrooms, 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. For small study groups, work spaces are triangular rather than square. Rooms are wheelchair-friendly with wide, unobstructed passageways and low handles and switches.

TVs and Cameras in Tomorrow's Schools
The classroom of the future could resemble a television studio with monitors, cameras, and related equipment. One monitor might display presentations broadcast within the school building, while another monitor could display students and teachers at other locations -- anywhere in the world. The television cameras could be directed at students and the teacher, or could focus on visual aids used in teacher presentations. This type of classroom would include bright overhead spotlights to enhance the quality of video transmission.

Acoustics in Tomorrow's Schools
A classroom designed for acoustics might include flush mounted microphones on student desks. Materials used for walls, ceilings and floors would be chosen to optimize voice clarity. Echoing linoleum hallways would become a thing of the past.

Electrical Needs in Tomorrow's Schools
Forget computer labs with rows of monitors and miles of tangled cables. In tomorrow's schools, electrical outlets and communications ports would be strategically located throughout the building. Wide conduits inside walls and beneath floors would accommodate wires and cables.

Modular Design in Tomorrow's Schools
Tomorrow's schools may become flexible, modular spaces. Rooms could be added to divided and reconfigured to accommodate changes in the curriculum. Portable carts would allow computers to move freely throughout the building. Movable partitions would permit teachers to shift from small to large group activities. Standardized furniture design would allow work stations to move anywhere in the building.

Energy-Efficiency in Tomorrow's Schools
A school doesn't have to look like a spaceship to offer the kind of technological resources students need. Winners in an Open Architecture Network proposed comfortable, energy-efficient school designs that blend with their environments. See Winning School Designs.

PLANNING TOMORROW'S SCHOOLS

No one knows for certain what the future will bring. New technologies and revised theories of teaching could make the best-laid plans obsolete. How can we design better schools for tomorrow? Share your vision for tomorrow's schools.

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