One cannot overlook the fact that today’s technology is growing and changing at an incredible pace. For schools, this fact can be both exciting and daunting, leaving questions on how to effectively integrate technology into learning spaces and what benefits it will have on student learning as well as the school environment as a whole.
Integrating technology into today’s classrooms offers students experience and knowledge relevant for today’s working world while simultaneously giving parents confidence that their student is receiving a high-quality education. While new technology can be enthralling for students and staff, it can be unnerving if not properly integrated and supported in the classroom. In order to properly supply students with a modern education experience at present and in the future, it is important not to overlook the learning spaces as well.
When adding new technology to the classroom, you may first think about the technology itself. What do teachers have on their wish lists, and what level of support will they need to use the technology as an effective tool? What would benefit students the most? What are the needs of the different grade levels? Of each department? What educational technology would move the district towards bettering the educational experience as a whole and have an end result of student success? Figuring out the answers to such questions helps insure you are choosing the proper technology for your school and district.
An equally important question to ask is, “How can our schools effectively integrate the chosen technology into learning spaces?” Properly integrated and sufficiently supported technology is the key to success. Just as every district has a unique plan for the amount of (and approach to) technology in their schools, each type of educational technology introduced requires a different type of supportive environment. It is important that school districts don’t build an environment around any one type of technology due to the rapid pace at which educational technology (aka Edtech) is changing. Rather, it is important that each school’s instructional design fits current needs as well as the changing needs of the foreseeable future in order to prevent future space issues.
An example of such an issue may be a school that recently purchased computer lab furniture, which is generally bulky and loaded with wire management, may find it hard to restructure the space once the district moves to more of a wireless infrastructure with a focus on collaborative learning.
MeTEOR Education is a leader in instructional design. We keep learning and relationships as the focus of our work. We strive to help schools design spaces that allow for effective utilization of today’s technological and instructional needs, while simultaneously creating the flexibility needed to support future Edtech and instructional delivery methods.
Adding technology to a school is a very individualized experience as each district will have their own desires, goals, support systems and needs. Once the desired classroom technology has been chosen, the next step must be to focus on the instructional design. One of the very first questions to ask when planning your design would be, “What does our district want out of instructional technology?”
Modern education is moving away from front-facing, lecture-heavy teaching in exchange for a more modern and collaborative student-centered learning environment focused around relationships. Proper furniture choice becomes vital to the classroom at this point as furniture that is easy to move and incorporate into different layouts determines the success of a classroom’s ability to collaborate in different ways for various lessons.
Blended learning, a combination of traditional face to face learning and online learning, is one educational delivery method that has been proven to be an effective way to improve the learning process of students. In the case of blended learning not only are aligned instructional practices and technology important, but classroom furniture becomes an important tool as well. The right environment can allow students to seamlessly move from group to individual work and also gives the learner the opportunity to control the time and pace at which they learn. The mobility of a successfully blended learning environment allows the students to create a space that helps them learn best, and in many cases, this is when they learn best.
When planning ways to effectively integrate technology into your school’s learning spaces, do not overlook makerspaces. These diverse, hands-on spaces offer some of the best opportunities for Edtech introduction and additions. Once a district has determined what learning experiences it would like to offer students in a makerspace, it can then decide what technology would be best suited to enhance those experiences. With experiences and technology selected, proper classroom furniture can be implemented.
Makerspace technology varies from basic technology such as the individual use of Chromebooks and/or iPads all the way up to larger technology such as robotics equipment, 3D printers, wind tunnels, and so on. Depending on what technology is integrated into the learning experience, a different type of supportive environment will be needed.
For a school to properly integrate technology into any and all of its learning environments, it is best to start by focusing on the desired learning experience. Once you know the skills and competencies you want for your learners and the learning experiences that will help develop those skills, you can begin to integrate specific technology into your plan that will enhance those experiences. Finally, make certain to design supportive spaces that will provide for the experiences and results you seek.
Brandon Hillman, ALEP
VP of Sales, East Region
Brandon Hillman is a passionate industry thought leader and education advocate with over eight years of experience in creating High-impact Learning Environments. He has been with MeTEOR Education since 2013 and in that time has worked with districts across the country on transforming their learning environments in a planned, progressive, and programmatic manner. Brandon is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner (ALEP). This is the Association for Learning Environment’s (formally CEFPI) most comprehensive professional program in the educational facility industry. It is therefore the top industry standard for all professionals engaged in planning, designing, operating, maintaining, and equipping learning environments at all levels of education. His greatest joy comes from spending time with his wife Meghan, and their two sons: Easton and Jameson.