“The Future is Now”

Designing, Building and Operating Effective Schools for the 21st Century
By Margaret Combs
Heery School Report, 2011

When it comes to knowing how the brain works and how learning best occurs at all levels of development, we in the 21st century are highly informed. We know all learners are not alike – multiple intelligences and learning styles are accepted and sound philosophy – we know changing experiences trigger new neural pathways, minds are best engaged with project-based, experiential lessons, and students are most inspired when learning is relevant to the real world.

Why then, do we keep putting children into “factory model” classrooms? Given what we know, it can be argued today’s schools should look and operate radically differently than the last century.

“It’s incongruous in the 21st century that we still think of school as a box with boxes inside of it, and each smaller, self-contained box has 30 desks. This is how I learned 50 years ago,” says Robert Carlson, director of managment services for the Council of the Great City Schools. “What’s sacred about the arbitrary number 30? Can’t we do better than this cookie-cutter approach?” 

These same questions are being asked by educational thought leaders around the world. Many are calling for major shifts in thinking and design. The global marketplace is demanding graduates who are tech-savvy, agile in their thinking and adept at collaboration – skills expressly called for by the U.S. 21st Century Workforce Commission.

“Keeping on with traditional classroom and school design is a failure to understand fundamentally how and what kids need to be learning to thrive in professions of the future,” says author and international education advisor Sir Ken Robinson.

In his book, “The Element,” Robinson makes a compelling case for transforming schools into dynamic, creative learning centers. “The future in education is not in standardizing, but in customizing; not in promoting groupthink and ‘deindividuation’, but in cultivating the real depth and dynamism of human abilities of every sort.”

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