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April 2010 | Volume 67 | Number 7
Judy Harris Helm, Steven Turckes and Ken Hinton
New school designs in Peoria, Illinois, support 21st century education from the ground up.
Excitement reigned as teachers returning from in-service training talked about planning an integrated exploration across disciplines. Then they stepped into a classroom crammed with desks. Enthusiasm quickly dissipated. Where could they do projects? Where could two classes come together? Where would they save ongoing work, or display ideas, or create presentations? How would small groups be able to hear in the same space? One teacher sighed, "This classroom is just like those my father sat in! They tell us to teach 21st century skills, but the space we teach in is rooted in the past."
This experience is all too common when educators attempt to focus on 21st century skills. Today's graduates will likely spend time in a workplace where they will multitask, work on interdisciplinary teams, collaborate with consultants near and far, deal with disparate and conflicting information, and work with ever-changing technologies. Educators need to prepare students to thrive in that complex work environment; yet there is a marked contrast between that and the school environment we provide for them to "work" in today. Although technology enables learning anywhere, the school building is still the primary learning habitat for our students, the place where they interact with teachers, connect face-to-face with other learners, and grow. Too often, that habitat does not support 21st century learning.
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Copyright © 2010 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
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