For over 200 years the school classroom has stayed the same. Over the last 200 years everything outside of the classroom has evolved and improved to levels that most people would’ve never imagined. The level of human innovation we have achieved in the last 2 centuries has been beyond impressive and amazing. But for some reason the institution of the school classroom has stayed as dormant as a statue. Desks in rows facing a lecturer. The end. That’s the traditional classroom.
I am not here to talk about why the classroom has not changed and evolved over the last couple centurie. I am here to explain the revolution of The New Classroom. What does the stereotypical 21st century classroom look like? You might assume I am about to say “a room full of standing desks”, right? No. That’s not The New Classroom.
The New Classroom, of the 21st century, is learning space full of freedom, choice and collaboration. The 19th and 20th Century classroom emulates a dictatorship. Rows of compliant conformists listening to every order of the lecturer in front of the room. But wait! How can that be? America is a democracy. Why would a classroom be set up to emulate a dictatorship? Why would Freedom and Choice be the last thing we teach children in a classroom? Quite honestly, I am not here to convince you of conspiracy theories. But I am here to tell you The New Classroom aligns much more closely with a democracy:
freedom, choice and collaboration.
If you are an Educator you might think I’m talking about Flexible Seating. Well, I am somewhat going down that path but there is more to it than laying out a few bouncy chairs and bean bags across the classroom. Let‘s talk about the 3 components of The New Classroom one at a time:
A traditional minded Teacher might associate the word freedom with chaos when it comes to the classroom. But hold on. This component will drive accountability for the students. With freedom you reign in accountability. For example, you can give Jack and Jill the freedom to choose a bean bag or a standing desk over a traditional desk...as long as they play by the rules. That’s Freedom 101. You can hold the students accountable for their actions by omitting privileges if they do not comply. For the Teachers who have converted to Flexible Seating or Flexible Learning Spaces know this element is just true.
Many times I believe the youth of our country have such a difficult time integrating with society because nobody is teaching them how to manage and navigate through their own choices. Before 18 years old you are given VERY little choices. Overnight, when you turn 18, you are thrown into the freest country in the world with VERY little experience with making your own choices. It does not matter how much knowledge you have procured through school, if you do not know how to make choices for yourself you will not live your best life. The New Classroom automatically enforces choice management. If a student walks through the door of a classroom everyday for 200+ school days per year with the choice to select their own learning space they are unconsciously being trained to think for themselve. Even if it’s that one small choicar it’s still their own choice, given every single day. That’s an enormous change to the education experience. Enormous.
Learning on your own is not as effective as learning with other human beings. The Lone Ranger will learn and progress a lot slower than the Rangers in the group. It’s human nature, we learn from each other. Flexible learning spaces, The New Classroom, promotes more collaboration than any traditional classroom setting. Learning how to work well with others might be one of our most cherished lessons in our education experience. If you can’t learn how to work well with others it’s likely you will have a very difficult time putting a good life together.
The New Classroom is a system, when set up well, can be a student’s best friend. It is the essential element in preparing students for the 21st century. Teachers already have enough on their plate with the curriculum. Why not set up an environment that teaches and promotes freedom, choice and collaboration, by default?