The way I see things, in the school of the future there will either be a building where everyone meets to engage in learning, or there won’t be. Let’s look at both possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: A building.
A far less radical scenario than the one to follow, let’s imagine for a moment that the school of the future is still actually a school. Meaning a physical structure of some kind where students meet at the same time to engage in learning. Now, just because the students all meet in a building, does not necessarily mean that instructors need to be in that building with them. To begin with I will use the school building that I work in as a frame of reference and comparison. The building that I work in was built in the 1950s, and all of the technologies that exist in the building had to be retrofit. This has lead to some less than desireable situations. For one thing, our servers are housed in a tiny closet behind the cafeteria. When the servers were initially installed there was no cooling, and without any windows the tiny room was quite balmy. To list all of these instances would simply take too long and be a bore, so what have I learned. The school of the future needs to be built from scratch with a purpose in mind. I think that the process we apply when writing lesson plans needs to be applied when schools are constructed, namely, what are the desired outcomes, how will we reach them, how will we asses whether or not they have been reached?
Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way. I believe that the school of the future needs a scalable LAN, that should be divided into sections around the building so that if a part of the building experiences problems, those problems are localized. Data lines throughout the building, and out to the world should be fiber optic with gigabit terminations. There. Basically you want data flying around as fast as possible, leaving room for whatever future applications might come along.
That said, what should the building look like? How should the rooms be laid out, how large should they be, what shape should they be, what color? Should there be chalkboards in the front, Smartboards, or nothing at all? What if all of the rooms were round and there were only padded chairs, and each student was given one of those laptop tables with the squishy material underneath so they could work on their school issued laptop. What do you think? You have a blank slate, and a blank check, how would you design this building?
Scenario 2: No building.
This scenario is harder to predict, but almost as likely I feel. As state and local governments tighten their belts and search frantically for ways to cut costs, having students attend classes online begins to become appealing. I have already been asked to look into the plausibility of this issue by my administration and my school is far from the school of the future. So how would this work? Would kids just logon in their jammies and do coursework on their own time asynchronously and never meet their classmates or instructors in person? Would they use virtual meeting technologies like Skype and Elluminate to attend classes at the same time? Would there even be an instructor? Look into your own crystal balls. Is this scenario too radical, or more than likely?
Is there a scenario I am over looking? What do you think the school of the future will look like?