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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

A Glimpse Into the Classroom of the Future

Today’s students are gaining new ways of thinking and interacting for a future that we are not entirely sure will look like. While some jobs may look the similar, much of what they are headed into is a world that will undoubtedly look vastly different by the time they arrive. That leaves our school leaders and teachers in a quandary - what ways of thinking, reasoning, collaborating and creating do they need? On what do the classrooms of today need to focus on for the future?

The Real World vs the School World

To truly build ways of thinking and interacting needed for the 21st Century, students must be provided opportunities to explore real-world scenarios, drawing from their local communities as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of the larger world and their place in it. Approaches like STEM, Project Based Learning, and applied concepts found in Design-Thinking models, can deepen the appeal and understanding of larger societal problems and challenges. Thinking deeply about creative solutions to broader problems strengthens ways of thinking, including critical thinking and creativity.

Deeper learning comes from real-world scenarios, such as solving watershed challenges in communities or designing a new playground. Requiring students to think creatively, question deeply, and pursue their own interests helps them take ownership of their learning. A community or global focus, paired with instructional practices, including student-centered and self-directed learning methods, encourages collaboration. Real-world projects, interviews, case studies and explorations also result in deep learning when students are ready to drive their own learning.

Social-Emotional Learning & Empathy.

A great deal of evidence links social-emotional learning and academic achievement. The growing emphasis on academic success and national assessment systems makes the social-emotional work even more important and relevant to our daily work as educators. Beyond paving the way for better academic learning, skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making are linked with cognitive development.

Providing a strong, district-wide focus on social-emotional learning and the skills it strengthens in students, is an area school leaders can influence positively. Seeking diversity of opinion, understanding the perspective of others, and building the empathy quotient of today’s students is imperative.

In the ideal learning environment, students are focused, fully attentive, motivated, engaged, and enjoy their work. Similarly, caring relationships with teachers and other students increase students’ desire to learn. School-family partnerships help students achieve to their potential, and students who are more confident in their abilities try harder. To be successful in post-secondary education and the workplace of the future, having a better understanding of others and one’s self are some of the most important skills we can teach, encourage, reinforce, and celebrate.

Technology as a Tool.

Students in today’s classrooms have greater access to technology than any other generation, including ideas and information that is accessible with the swipe of a finger. Technology can be used to connect students to the global world beyond the classroom, but also build on current curriculum with approaches for communication that include blogging, tweeting, and using presentation tools. The use of technology allows students to better control their learning and personalize their work in a way that traditional pen and pencil cannot.

Technology lends itself to exploration; however, before technology can be used effectively, exploration must be valued as important for learning. In a technology-rich environment, students might search the Web for information, analyze temperatures, chart the results, and record what they've learned on the computer. Students don't need to "learn" technology, as it needs to be a means of learning, not an end. As educators, we have the opportunity to move students from imagining their learning to actually fully engage in the “doing.”

Reflecting and Reconsidering.

Let’s face it, as adult learners, when we fall short on a project or task, our best learning can come from the ability to correct our missteps, and this is just as important for our students. Our classrooms need to provide more experiences that allow for reflection, rewriting, redesigning, and reconsidering on individual work and on the work of others.

It is common to want to give up when the going gets tough, and students are not immune to wanting to quit when problems become more challenging. However, the ability to work through difficulties often results in the building of character, achieving goals, and learning the sense of resiliency that makes for better habits in the long run. Students need our guidance in skills of perseverance through daily practice of assignments with incremental levels of difficulty and scaffolding when necessary.

The future classrooms are in operation today. With the skills that build a community of learners, through the use of technology, reflection, empathy and access to real-world opportunities.

Do they exist in your schools? In your districts? If not, what can your leadership do to reshape those classrooms?

(reshared from LinkedIn)

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