21st-Century Learning Q&A

21st-Century Learning Q&A

Architects comment on the latest innovations in designing for future learning, as well as how design can support these trends.

The built environment can support emerging trends in education — from technology design solutions to specialized program classrooms and more. We asked architects featured in this special issue about the latest innovations in designing for future learning, as well as how design can support these trends.

To view any of the architect's responses, please click on a firm below. You can also page through all the responses.

Freese and Nichols, Inc.
Alfred Vidaurri, Jr., AIA, AICP, LEED AP, Vice President

HMFH Architects, Inc.
Laura Wernick, AIA, REFP, LEED AP, Senior Principal

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood
Gary L. Owen Jr., Vice President, Architecture

The Estopinal Group
Brent Williams, Associate AIA, Director of Project Development

SHW Group LLP
Don Hensley, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Higher Education Practice Director

Little
Tomas Jimenez-Eliaeson, Design Director, Community Practice Group

MKC Associates, Inc.
James M. Schmidt, AIA, Vice President

Selser Schaefer Architects
Robert Schaefer AIA, LEED AP, Principal

DLR Group
Jim French, AIA, REFP, Senior Principal

Fred Quinn & Associates
James D. Branscum, Superintendent, Metro Career Academy, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Rowland Design
Tricia Trick-Eckert, Principal, Tim Wise, Associate, and Sarah Marr-Schwartzkopf, President

Bond Wolfe Architects
Susan Pruchnicki, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal

PBK
Irene Nigaglioni, AIA, REFP, Partner/Director of Educational Planning

College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Louis G. Pol, Dean

SmithGroup|F&S
Bill Neuhoff, Architectural Designer

Dober Lidsky Mathey
Art Lidsky, AICP, President

HHSDR Architects/Engineers
Joseph C. McLaughlin, PE, Executive Vice President/Chief Electrical Engineer

Dougherty + Dougherty Architects LLP
Brian Paul Dougherty, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner

Baskervill
Susan Orange, CID, Senior Associate

Earl Swensson
Wendell Brown, AIA, LEED AP, Design Architect/Project Manager

TMP Architecture, Inc.
John J. Castellana, FAIA, REFP, Chairman

Clark Nexsen Architecture & Engineering
Chris E. Brasier, FAIA, LEED AP, Vice President

The Collaborative Inc.
Ray D. Micham, AIA, LEED AP, Architect/Partner

Perkins Eastman
Alan M. Schlossberg, AIA, LEED AP, Principal

Architekton
Tom Reilly, AIA, Director

Freese and Nichols, Inc.

Alfred Vidaurri, Jr., AIA, AICP, LEED AP, Vice President

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Todays design requirements to support 21st-century learning tend to focus around a few major areas. These areas include the integration of current and future classroom technologies, design of spaces to be flexible and easy to change in the future, and the growing interest to support the built environment with a higher level of sustainability.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

In some cases education facilities are taking on many of the trends and design features of other project types. For example, more of the public spaces and design concepts in higher-education facilities today are following the trends seen in the hospitality and corporate building types. Teaching and learning spaces are starting to look and feel more like corporate conference and training centers. Many of the student-service functions such as the bookstore and dining have become versions of trendy food courts and bookstore chains. Overall, it is clear that education facilities are being impacted and influenced by emerging trends in other areas of our built environment.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

We are seeing a variety of trends developing in most specialized classrooms and programs. As a growing number of students utilize laptop computers and tablet computers, classrooms must be designed to support students with a computer and network needs at each workstation and chair.

In addition, because of the desire to be able to react to the drivers of the market place with targeted learning, we are being asked to design greater flexibility and future infrastructure capabilities into the facilities for the future. The challenge is the balancing of the initial cost against the future ROI and benefits for these decisions.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Cross-discipline programs and studies are generating the need for teaming areas and more private team work spaces loaded with all the multimedia technologies available today. Specialized requirements for research, development and delivery of instruction within the labs and specialized classrooms today are driving the needs for advanced technologies within these spaces. The need to accommodate students with laptops and tablet computers at each chair is impacting the design of learning spaces, and the required infrastructure at each student chair. As the delivery of education moves toward mobile devices and "on-demand" type of learning opportunities, the built environment will continue to see great changes in the future.

We are also finding that more detailed technology expectations are being explored at the campus master planning level. We are doing more technology master planning as a part of our campus planning today than in the past. Everyone is realizing the importance of having a good technology master plan in order to support the campus and program mission.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

I expect that the traditional process of designing and building a new higher-education facility will change because of several factors. Everyone expects a higher level of delivery for less cost and in a shorter timeframe, thus driving the design/construction process to an integrated design/delivery approach. Most institutions have embraced the need to build and renovate facilities to higher levels of sustainability, which is driving greater high-performance building explications. The design of facilities utilizing on site alternative energy sources (such as solar, wind, fuel cells, etc.,) will become more common and mainstream. And, because of diminishing funding, I believe you will see a new focus on "public-private funding" for certain type of facilities. This will bring new stakeholders and owners to the process and will take many traditional projects in new and exciting directions.

HMFH Architects, Inc.

Laura Wernick, AIA, REFP, LEED AP, Senior Principal

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Teaching in the 21st-century will reflect the latest research on how humans learn. We now know that students retain only about 5 percent of what they hear in a lecture format. They retain 60 to 80 percent of the information they encounter when they are actively involved with their own learning. This may include collaborative problem solving; multi-dimensional research projects; preparing for and teaching others; or hands-on, project-based learning.

"Too often, I will see a small group of students working together sitting on the floor outside of their classroom," says Concord, N.H., superintendent Christine Rath. "This is valuable work. Those students need small group meeting areas with Internet and multimedia access. They need project spaces … story-telling, presentation and performance space."

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Although the term "learning commons" has become familiar parlance for college and university libraries as they evolve into community-wide resource centers with spaces for sharing, teaching, and working, K-12 libraries have been more resistant to change. However, some K-12 libraries have successfully incorporated an age-appropriate learning commons model that provides access to guided, project-based learning, in place of traditional libraries.

In Concord, N.H., HMFH has designed three new elementary schools, which will replace the majority of the city's aging schools with new buildings expected to serve the majority of the city's elementary population through the better part of the 21st century. Each of the three schools has a two-story classroom academic wing, but rather than the traditional rows of classrooms flanking a double-loaded corridor, the classrooms all open onto a 30-foot-wide, two-story-high learning commons.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

The learning commons in Concord, N.H.'s new elementary schools, scheduled to open in 2012, contains multiple project spaces, media/performance space that will seat students from two classrooms, and a storytelling area, as well as bookshelves, display areas and storage cabinets. There is also space for reading and other support specialists in the learning commons, as well as a small, enclosed traditional library space that contains several hundred books and can seat one class. Wireless technology will be available throughout. The learning commons has enough space for multiple classes to participate in a special activity, for a small group to undertake a research project, or for a single student to find a quiet spot for reading. Because every classroom opens onto the learning commons and also has a window opening onto the commons, direct supervision will be achievable from the classroom.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

Innovative spaces like the learning commons are possible even in schools that must adhere to state-regulated space allocations and highly constrained budgets: in Concord, N.H., library space required by the department of education is distributed throughout the Learning Commons, and the faculty also agreed to a plan for slightly smaller classroom space in exchange for the readily available breakout alternatives that the plan provided. In this way, this creative approach to educational space programming was put into place without adding any additional gross area to the schools.

Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood

Gary L. Owen, Jr., Vice President, Architecture

What are the latest ideas/ innovations in designing to support 21st century learning?

Our 21st-century students are now more technologically adept than ever and demand opportunities for anytime-anywhere information and learning opportunities. This presents challenges to the old-fashioned school rooms of yesteryear. Today's schools must meet the ever- changing needs of tech-savvy students. Teachers and learners must have access to technology in all areas of the school, not just the classrooms.

Many districts have laptop initiatives, where students are provided computers for use during the school day, as well as at home. Some are going as far as to have city-wide Wi-Fi for students use, who might not have Internet options at home. These Wi-Fi hot spots are also available throughout the school so that students can access projects and assignments. The school designs are providing flexible furniture and collaborative spaces for notebooks and laptop use. Traditional built-in furniture is being replaced with "kit of part" furniture that enables multiple group arrangements and flexibility based on the teaching style of the instructor. These collaborative areas aid in group study and participation, while at the same time offer interesting "out-of-the-box" design opportunities. Examples of these spaces are Internet cafes and interactive learning nodes. These spaces complement the classrooms, and create breakout areas for group-study sessions and project-based learning.

The distance learning programs now established in most districts are tech-heavy classrooms that allow students to take advantage of Web-based videoconferencing in order to access programs not offered in their own schools, but across the Internet in other districts anywhere in the world. These programs cut both costs and redundancy of staff.

In summary, the 21st-century schools must take advantage of a new generation of students that are now, more than ever, eager to learn, by offering those student the right technologically enriched design that fosters flexible and collaborative learning.

The Estopinal Group

Brent Williams, Associate AIA, Director of Project Development

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st century learning?

As schools become more dependent upon state-regulated testing for government funding and programs, it is increasingly important for each student to have equal opportunities in regards to teaching techniques and accessibility to the tools necessary to succeed. Every dollar that can be saved from facility management and building construction spending can be reinvested into the school system by means of program funding, educators and supplies. By designing facilities to be energy-efficient and to be smart buildings, construction costs and maintenance requirements can be minimized, thus allowing capital funding to be redistributed back to the students. For example, a building can be designed with automatic day-lighting controls, so that the electric lights will switch off during the day when there is a high degree of sunlight. Recently, when one of TEG's construction projects came in under budget, the school could afford to reinvest those funds into the learning environment by purchasing laptops for each student's use.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Creativity has often been a major focus within the classroom, but as the economy has struggled and public funding and capital funds have dwindled, facility management and design firms have been tasked with maintaining existing facilities and developing new facilities that will creatively meet educational programs with minimal frills while working with an ever-tightening budget. By engaging faculty and staff within the design process, designers are able to pinpoint areas of scheduling inefficiencies, minimizing the amount of educational space that goes unused during a typical school day. This allows the building's gross square footage to be condensed, saving initial costs on construction.

Minimalism does not necessary need to be boring. With the intent to engage each student in the educational process, it is the design team's goal to create an environment that lends itself to students feeling comfortable with their environment and becoming fully engaged in the lecture. By creating a "Starbuck's" type of environment within the often-sterile library venue and providing students with a positive environment to promote learning, students are encouraged to utilize the library as a space for project development and media research.

SHW Group LLP

Don Hensley, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Higher Education Practice Director

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) software is the most significant innovation for architects and engineers designing 21st-century learning environments. 21st-century learning is really all about personalizing the learning experience while reducing the delivery cost of education. Building information modeling software enables the design team to model building operations and then fine-tune the design to maximize energy savings and enhance learning. BIM creates the opportunity for collaboration between owners, designers and builders to gain maximum value from the construction budget, lower operating costs for buildings and deliver more comfortable, effective spaces for learning.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Interdisciplinary, project-based learning models with media-rich technology systems are the driving trends in education. These require flexible and agile built environments to support the variety of academic and research programs using these spaces. Architects and engineers should ensure flexibility in plan, simplicity of structure and effective access MEP and technology systems so they can be modified over time. Rooms should be agile and easily changed in 15 minutes utilizing multiple furniture and media display configurations. Properly done, the environment will be flexible enough to new demands over the years and agile enough for faculty and students to personalize the environment for immediate needs.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Many instructions are trending toward mixing in conference room-type spaces for small-group discussions near faculty offices and academic classrooms. Libraries are moving toward less stack space and more space for information commons where information technology and library services come together. "Learning theaters" are becoming more popular as well. These spaces use a flat floor and elevated media wall to accommodate lecture formats, project-based work and seminar functions all in one space. Furniture selection and a variety of media formats are key elements to the success of these spaces in providing a variety of social, multidisciplinary and collaborative learning experiences.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Mobile technologies and online courses are allowing information to be delivered almost anytime and anywhere. The definition of campus community and the need to "come together" for learning is evolving. Technology allows a student to choose the educational delivery model that best fits their needs. Some may take as much as half of their course credits online. As a result, building design for education is focusing on making the most of student's face-to-face time together by creating spaces that reinforce the social aspects of learning and work by creating opportunities for engagement and collaboration with fellow students and faculty.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

As budgets and access to capital funding shrink, the biggest opportunity for the built environment to support emerging trends in education is in the adaptation and renewal of older campus buildings. Few can raise the capital needed to fund new construction today, but with the right approach, administrators can gain support to increase or maintain budgets for remodeling and maintenance. Administrators should update their academic plans, assess their existing facilities against the plan, and bundle deferred-maintenance projects with capital projects that clearly support their academic plans. Proper design and bundling of these projects can significantly reduce the initial project cost, decrease long-term operating costs, and modernize older buildings for 21st-century learning.

Little

Tomas Jimenez-Eliaeson, Design Director, Community Practice Group

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

The differentiator in the competitive, global, 21st-century world will depend on the skills that certain individuals will develop to work, collaborate, lead, create, design, communicate and interact with others from around the world. We are increasingly and exponentially venturing into a customizable world. Education is currently in the transition between a 19th-century education delivery "classroom" model, to a 21st-century "immersive learningscape" model. The sooner school districts realize it, the faster we will cultivate competitive, brilliant and innovative minds that will be lead our world in finding the required solutions to ever increasing challenges.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

In order to address the required 21st-century skills to be competitive in the global marketplace, we need our learning environments to accommodate all learning typologies, multidisciplinary learning methods, active learning, supported with immediate assessment, emerging technologies and relevance of studies to the real world. Our focus needs to be placed on creating active, engaging, immersive and unexpected learning environments.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

We are currently working on the "immersive learningscape" model. This learning environment focuses on accommodating five typologies of learning:

Think — based on the concept that learning increasingly occurs at the individual level. Small, intimate spaces allow for the time and environment to analyze and investigate, think and digest information.

Create — focuses on teamwork learning. These spaces can be arranged in multiple configurations allowing for flexibility of engagement and multiplicity of programming, as well as interactive learning in small to medium size groups. This typology embraces the successful project-based learning model and is enhanced by the latest haptic technologies.

Discover — this "workshop" environment is set up for testing, hands-on and exploration, which allow for larger group meetings where equipment is necessary. These environments will encourage arts and sciences to co-create and invent via fabrication, testing, deconstruction, reconstruction, production and design.

Impart — rendered more as a typical classrooms. These spaces accommodate larger group gatherings, but feature breakout zones for smaller team areas and operable partitions to combine two classrooms for very large gatherings.

Exchange — inspired by the potential of social learning. Paralleling that of academic learning, this energetic space becomes communal space, an environment shared between teachers, students, guests and citizens alike. Teachers "lead" this space, which becomes an incubator for multidisciplinary learning, and cross-disciplinary curriculum creation.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Technology has pushed the potential for our students to create material (not just absorb), for customized education (not mass teaching), and for interactive learning (not passive). Haptic, multi-sensory technology can enable us to physically interact with a specific subject. i3D software is allowing us to peel the different layers of a brain, turn it and twist it, as if we were surgeons in an operating room. Enhanced (or augmented) reality software is allowing us to learn about the things we see in an interactive way, such as walking the streets of Paris and learning about what we are witnessing at a deeper level of information. An abundance of education apps have been introduced in the last decade, and as we advance, better, more creative, and fascinating apps will revolutionize the way we look at education. We are at the dawn of an education world where your traditional learning process will be flipped. We will watch and listen to the world- class lectures in the afternoons and evenings anywhere on our tablets, and come together to do our homework, discuss the learned material, and collaborate on hands on multidisciplinary teamwork efforts in the mornings at school.

These are readily available technologies that need to be actively used and engaged by our students.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

We need to continue to foster the connectivity of the community with our schools. Parents, professionals and mentors need to be part of the learning process. It is imperative that students understand the relevance of the subject matters to real life.

Our schools need to allow for an increasingly demanding need to shift from methodologies of teaching (classroom- focused) to typologies of learning (landscape of various learning spaces).

Our school facilities also need to strive to become teaching tools and be used integrally in the delivery of curriculum, That old saying "the building as a teaching tool" is never been more true as we, school designers, architects, planners and engineers, are holistically designing buildings that are driven by sustainability goals and are very overt about showing students how buildings can reduce their carbon footprint, how we can think ecologically about our world, and how our best solutions are achieved in multi-disciplinary ways with new technologies.

MKC Associates, Inc.

James M. Schmidt, AIA, Vice President

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

More and more, school design is moving away from traditional environments focused solely on teaching and toward learning centered facilities doing double-duty community-use facilities. These facilities must be designed for a variety of learning styles such as small group, individual, large group, hands-on and independent study. Accommodating these styles requires flexible and versatile classroom configurations and spaces for creative and inventive learning. In addition to addressing a broad range of educational needs of students, the buildings must also be designed for the leisure, recreational, wellness and business needs of the community which they serve.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Educational design should reflect the growing body of knowledge focused on how students learn ... facilities and outdoor spaces should support innovative instruction and create an environment responsive to a variety of learning styles. I believe the future of education will be shaped by our increased understanding of how children learn. In response to mounting research which is driving the re-evaluation of curriculum and instructional methods, educational spaces must also change to support a wide variety of modalities--from lecture-learning through kinetics ... including individual exploration and discovery, problem-solving, collaborative learning experiences and small-group interactions.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Recognizing that children learn in different ways, the design of new facilities should provide opportunities for small-group and large-group learning, team building and independent development. Recent designs have included:

  • Active learning spaces that enable students to dynamically engage with their content.
  • Group-friendly spaces that foster interaction via small groups in either formal conference type arrangements or informal niches
  • Outdoor learning areas that enable nature to be incorporated into the curriculum
  • Adaptable and flexible classroom spaces that can accommodate changes in technology and teaching strategies. Spaces that can be easily reconfigured to support various activities with moveable tables and chairs, partitions, casework and moveable partitions.
  • Access to controls allowing for adjustment of natural lighting, daylighting and ventilation, allowing for increased comfort levels within each space

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Today's students are accustomed to having immediate access to information. Designing for today's learning requires interior design that employs technology building wide rather than just in the classroom. This is accomplished by incorporating flexible plug-and-play technology, wireless environments and the ability to network with other devices.

Selser Schaefer Architects

Robert Schaefer AIA, LEED AP, Principal

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Until recently, distance learning predominantly was used by higher education. Primary and secondary education are now seeing the benefit. Distance learning provides the opportunity to reach more students with more varied high- quality content. It also truly supports the idea of community schools by extending the learning into students homes, giving the parents a more active role. The 21st-century primary/secondary school systems will see distance-learning content production become a necessary and integral part of their facilities."

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

Schools built 80 to 90 years ago were high-quality buildings, built to last; usually examples of the best construction in their communities. These schools were intended to delight students, parents and teacher and spoke to the importance that was placed on education. These same community-based values are returning in the 21st- century school. Selser Schaefer Architects is currently working on four primary and secondary education projects. All are designed to be 50- to 100-year high-quality buildings with an environment that inspires students, teachers and parents … the entire community."

DLR Group

Jim French, AIA, REFP, Senior Principal

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

21st-century schools are student-focused; they encourage creative thinking and problem-solving skills through a mix of independent study, collaboration and hands-on learning. Forward-thinking schools include enhanced technology, group gathering areas, think tanks and project-based learning spaces that help prepare students to compete in a global economy.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Not all students learn the same; therefore, not all education spaces should be designed and built the same. In the past few years, education design has graduated from four-walled static classrooms to flexible environments that support active teaching and learning methods. Moveable furniture, small or large group collaboration areas, and reading nooks give students options to best meet their individual learning styles.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Technology enhances 21st-century school design and gives students the skills they need to prepare them for a changing world. Wireless access offers students the freedom to move about and learn anywhere in a school. Interactive touchscreens enable students and visitors to monitor energy/water usage and weather to learn about sustainability and energy efficiency firsthand.

Fred Quinn & Associates

James D. Branscum, Superintendent, Metro Career Academy, Oklahoma City, Okla.

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Metro Career Academy (MCA), a full-service community high school, was designed to serve at-risk teens in a modern collegiate-like environment. The design team supported the learning framework championed by the Partnership for 21st-Century Learning, which advocates fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation). Classrooms, which are called "learning studios," are flexible in design and arranged to promote interdisciplinary and project-based instruction. The corridors were brightened and widened, creating concourses that facilitate relaxed gatherings to dialog, learn, create and problem-solve. Most important, the building designed accommodates unmet needs of our students through community partnerships.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Building a facility that functions as a community center is an emerging trend in education. MCA houses the Perry Klassen Clinic through a partnership with Community Health Centers, Inc. The clinic provides medical, dental and psychological services to the students and community.

Another trend is flexible, comfortable and movable furnishings that can be arranged in multiple small- or large-group vignettes. These are found throughout the building. The central commons features natural lighting, a fireplace, dining hall and library. MCA students may be observed throughout the building using their laptops individually and creating and collaborating in small groups.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

With a common entrepreneurial focus, MCA offers career majors in horticulture, floral design, entrepreneurship and culinary arts. This emphasis led to a design that will result in gold-level LEED certification. Aspects include geothermal cooling/heating (160 geothermal wells under the parking lot), vegetated roofs for the horticulture program, multiple cisterns and ponds that catch rainwater for grounds' irrigation. A student store, greenhouse and clothes closet enable students to show off their sales and service competencies. The building exterior used a highly energy-efficient insulated cladding system that placed insulation on the outside of the wall, where building scientists say it is most effective.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

The school was designed to meet the needs of today's "digital learners." Wireless networking enables faculty and students to learn in any location. All learning studios are outfitted with smartboards and overhead projectors. These features promote the use of the vast amounts of material available on the World Wide Web and promote learning in ways that address how 21st- century young people relate, communicate, create, absorb and express interests. An interactive kiosk in the commons provides information on energy consumption, partnerships and academic/career majors.

Rowland Design

Tricia Trick-Eckert, Principal, and Tim Wise, Associate, and Sarah Marr-Schwartzkopf, President

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Adaptable spaces — Students want to be able to affect their environment and make it work how they work. Flexible furniture and access to technology continue to stretch the limits of how and where students learn.

Hubs of Activity — Spaces that provide different opportunities for engaging, whether it is social or for learning require the use of outdoors, great lighting, access to food and flexible furniture. With the necessity today for students to be able to multi-task, the tie of outside activities to the indoors or classroom environment help to keep students engaged.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

The process for today's learning is one based on student-to-student collaboration, teacher-student collaboration as well as integration of technology. The build environment for classroom must change from what we know as four walls and a window to dynamic open class spaces, student learning spaces and access to current technology. Students want and expect spaces that enable groups to interact with laptops, smart boards and videoconferencing, all the while having a flexible space that enables large groups to break off into smaller groups. The future of the built environment will be classrooms without walls. Not that architecture will cease to exist on school campuses, but it will have to morph from the classrooms of our past.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

No one has a crystal ball to predict the future, but the design trend in classrooms must be flexibility. Classroom design must be able to adapt easily to ever changing technology, educational styles, and new methods of learning. Dialog and discussion between faculty and student have replaced the traditional lecture format of learning. The classroom format, furniture, lighting and technology must be able to adapt to the metamorphosis occurring in the classroom and the interactive spaces outside the classroom. We live with students who constantly connected with each other. They have come to expect instant information. Their classroom needs to instantly adapt to the way they learn…the room and furnishings need to work for lectures by their instructor or a "visiting" instructor on the internet, small group discussions, singular work at a computer, or group work at a whiteboard possibly comparing notes with another student group halfway around the world. This need for flexibility is not going to change. In the future we are going to have to find ways to be even more flexible.

Bond Wolfe Architects

Susan Pruchnicki, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

The latest ideas in design to support 21st-century learning include the creation of spaces that foster creativity, innovation and self-expression. Understanding the importance of these skills in the workplace is a guiding factor for designing spaces that foster learning. The new learning environments are exciting and inviting, but service as a blank canvas to the creativity of the users. From informal performance spaces throughout the building, to areas for impromptu presentations and gatherings, the creation of a variety of settings for students to use in a variety of manners is essential in supporting 21st-century learning.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

The built environment needs to be agile in order to allow for emerging trends in education. As educational delivery continues to change, the building needs to be flexible and agile to change with it. The inclusion of a variety of settings is paramount in allowing agility. From large spaces to small spaces to formal areas and informal nooks, the ability to create and change these needs to reside in the hands of the students and teachers.

Other attributes, such as daylighting, acoustics and flexible furniture need to be in sync with this mantra of agility. In the end, the whole needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Design trends that support learning styles embrace the need for a variety of settings as well. The ability to control light and sound, the ability to meet in spaces that are not considered a traditional classroom and the ability to work alone, without supervision are essential to the correct design with learning style in mind. The use of movable walls and screens is becoming much more prevalent in schools, as they allow rooms to change without much effort. New technologies in lighting systems allow for areas of the rooms to be dimmed, while others remain brightly lighted, allowing for light to become the defining tool for a variety of settings.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Technology is being used as a tool, not a crutch, and as such it is integrated and transparent. Mobility in technology means no need for computer labs or computer areas in classrooms, but it does mean the need for charging areas throughout the building. School design can build on this need, by creating gathering areas that provide power as needed, and that enable collaboration and discussion.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

21st-century schools should be exciting, sustainable facilities where walls are blurred, both in reality and digitally. 21st-century schools should elicit creativity with wide, open areas for discovery, small quiet spaces for personal exploration and understanding, and filled with activities/items/views/systems/materials that inspire and motivate. They should also be a safe, homeaway from home, where threats are minimized and a collaborative society is encouraged.

PBK

Irene Nigaglioni, AIA, REFP, Partner/Director of Educational Planning

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

The latest ideas in design to support 21st century learning include the creation of spaces that foster creativity, innovation and self-expression. Understanding the importance of these skills in the workplace is a guiding factor for designing spaces that foster learning. The new learning environments are exciting and inviting, but service as a blank canvas to the creativity of the users. From informal performance spaces throughout the building, to areas for impromptu presentations and gatherings, the creation of a variety of settings for students to use in a variety of manners is essential in supporting 21st century learning.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

The built environment needs to be agile in order to allow for emerging trends in education. As educational delivery continues to change, the building needs to be flexible and agile to change with it. The inclusion of a variety of settings is paramount in allowing agility. From large spaces to small spaces to formal areas and informal nooks, the ability to create and change these needs to reside in the hands of the students and teachers.

Other attributes, such as daylighting, acoustics and flexible furniture, need to be in sync with this mantra of agility. In the end, the whole needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Design trends that support learning styles embrace the need for a variety of settings as well. The ability to control light and sound, the ability to meet in spaces that are not considered a traditional classroom and the ability to work alone, without supervision are essential to the correct design with learning style in mind. The use of movable walls and screens is becoming much more prevalent in schools, as they allow rooms to change without much effort. New technologies in lighting systems allow for areas of the rooms to be dimmed, while others remain brightly lit, allowing for light to become the defining tool for a variety of settings.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Technology is being used as a tool, not a crutch, and as such it is integrated and transparent. Mobility in technology means no need for computer labs or computer areas in classrooms, but it does mean the need for charging areas throughout the building. School design can build on this need, by creating gathering areas that provide power as needed, and that allow for collaboration and discussion.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

21st-century schools should be exciting, sustainable facilities where walls are blurred, both in reality and digitally. 21st-century schools should elicit creativity with wide open areas for discovery, small quiet spaces for personal exploration and understanding, and filled with activities/items/views/systems/materials that inspire and motivate. They should also be a safe home-away-from-home where threats are minimized and a collaborative society is encouraged.

College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Louis G. Pol, Dean

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st century learning?

Contemporary education environments require the seamless integration of good space, appropriate furniture and first-rate information technology. Learning in the 21st century takes place in the classroom and beyond, and it is most important that education facilities be equipped with collaboration spaces and laboratories that support learning inside the structure along with information technology that supports the streaming of information beyond the building. Students in Mammel Hall are able to integrate information from classrooms and laboratories with other materials from the Internet and distance communication technologies to extend the learning experience.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Business leaders tell us that their employees must be able to work in teams and be skilled in the art and science of collaboration. In designing Mammel Hall, all members of the team stayed focused on the theme collaboration. Our goal was to create classrooms, laboratories, workspaces, hallways and staircases that provided the physical backbone for collaboration, and that goal was met. At all hours of the day and night, before and after classes, our students can be found in groups of two or more all over Mammel Hall working together on projects, presentations and homework. The physical space has changed the culture of our college.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

In many regards, all of our classrooms are specialized. We have made available the best information technology, furnishings and spaces that provide faculty and students the flexibility to provide the needed learning environment. Specialized classrooms, laboratories as we call them, have been developed for investment science, statistics, accounting, collaboration science, innovation and entrepreneurship and real estate research. For example, in the investment science laboratory, beyond the basic amenities, we have added flat screen televisions that display stock market data and other financial trend information as well as with a stock ticker. Specialized financial databases are available as well.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Effective information technology integration is crucial to any good academic building. We no longer regard the physical features of a building and information technology as separate entities. Wireless connectivity, virtualization, and the ability to collect, store, analyze and reuse lectures, seminars and other academic exchanges are now expected features of new and redesigned structures. These technologies have changed the ways we teach, who we teach and when we teach. Distance-education technology has enabled us to reach students all over the world. We have incorporated these elements into Mammel Hall and a very positive effect on pedagogy has been realized.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st century schools?

Facilities of the 21st century must be more efficient than buildings of the past. Mammel Hall was designed with sustainability in mind. It is one of only 26 business school buildings nationwide to be LEED certified. Other business schools with LEED certification include Harvard, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and the University of Michigan. The building materials and light combine to produce a safe and attractive learning environment. We have achieved significant efficiencies in the use of electricity and water. Most important, we have demonstrated to our students and our community that building consistent with sustainability is good business.

SmithGroup|F&S

Bill Neuhoff, Architectural Designer

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

With today's technology, it is possible to change the way we think about libraries and space that they consume within institutions. I have begun to see a change in what the idea of library space can be. Schools have moved away from hard-copy literature and are moving toward computer- based library where no books are needed because students checkout materials through online virtual libraries. Without the space needed for row of library stacks, we can design more specialized niches for students. Groups or individuals can gather, read and learn with laptops or tablets.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

As design philosophy, trends and technology continue to change, it is our charge to ensure the learning institutions are built to change as well. Flexibility and versatility should be a large factor in design. This enables spaces to be change as trends and technologies continue change.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

One of the trends we are seeing today is design that possesses the ability to transform the physical makeup and dynamic of a space. Rotating walls enable a classroom to move from the defined space to an adjacent common space, which is utilized by several classes, allowing teachers to engage with the students with different learning techniques in an interactive learning environment. This also enables educators to reach a broader range of students and encourages creativity and interaction among the students.

Dober Lidsky Mathey

Art Lidsky, AICP, President

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

There are a number of interesting trends that are having an impact on college and university buildings and grounds. One trend reflects the pedagogic movement toward small-group collaboration as an important learning experience. The creation of formal and informal spaces to support this initiative is becoming an important design requirement in academic buildings: wireless, power, whiteboard and work space for four to six students. This trend also is having an impact on the design or redesign of libraries as libraries transform themselves from being a warehouse for books to becoming a high tech resource for collaboration and research, melding IT with reference librarians. And, contrary to previous library rules, cafes and coffee shops are now a popular addition to contemporary libraries.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st- century schools?

Change! Design for change. Academic buildings in higher education are being modified more frequently than in the past as programs, research, faculty, curriculum and pedagogy all evolve and change, sometimes imperceptibly and sometimes dramatically. Buildings must be designed to facilitate the reallocation and renovation of space to accommodate inevitable change.

HHSDR Architects/Engineers

Joseph C. McLaughlin, PE, Executive Vice President/ Chief Electrical Engineer

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st century learning?

One innovation is the introduction of the step dimming ballast in lighting fixtures. They produce either 30, 60, or 100 percent light output have enabled multiple levels of uniform illumination to be provided reliably and at less cost than the previously available, expensive and sometimes temperamental continuous dimming ballast.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Emerging trends in education can be supported by building environments that include such concepts as multiple levels of illumination in multiple zones to accommodate audio/visual trends such as overhead projectors and interactive boards. The inclusion of WiFi technology for data delivery to electronic digital tablets no longer chains the instructor to one fixed location within the classroom.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Current school design is being affected by such technology advances as wireless data access in combination with integrated Interactive White board/projectors. Teachers no longer are limited to fixed computer locations requiring multiple complicated connector, limited distance, input/output cabling requirements but can now walk freely about the classroom using WiFi enabled tablets. The interactive board is no longer a limited life, bulky, touch-sensitive surface that clumsily straddles a conventional board but can now virtually be any writing surface. High-output ceiling mounted projection devices have become low output wall mounted combination camera/projectors.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Today's technology is changing so rapidly that many school designs can be considered obsolete before the teachers and students occupy the completed building. On a multi-year, phased project, the product installed during Phase 1 may not even be available by the time the final phase occurs. Attempting to future-proof the design often leads to overdesigning by adding building solutions (such as multiple hard wired data drops) that may never be used or wind up in the wrong location.

Dougherty + Dougherty Architects LLP

Brian Paul Dougherty, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Successful learning is grounded in a higher level of self-direction and flexible teaching modes. With the advent of wireless technology and access to information that is immediate, the ability to teach in small groups at a pace which is based largely on the students own path requires that we design spaces that support better flow. Learning is no longer a teacher standing in front of 30 students and feeding them a prescribed menu of curriculum lessons. It is interactive, multi-directional and based on exploration which will keep the student engaged and hungry for more.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

The places we inhabit to learn must themselves be capable of learning. Borrowing from the work of Stewart Brand in How Buildings Learn, we need to imagine our environment in 20 or 30 years and design as if our current setting is only temporary. We know that technology demands will evolve on a very rapid schedule. The areas of study will change; the way in which we share and communicate will grow. All of this impacts how we build, what materials we use, where we place elements of permanence versus impermanence. To create an asset that is of lasting value we must allow it to learn over time.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

The greatest trend we see is the decentralization of information and the technology and modes to allow access to that information. There also is a distinct relationship between theoretical and practical learning. The creation of small-group learning spaces and project-oriented environments are mixed with larger lecture spaces. The ability to create a virtual world enables the development of a bridge between theory and practice. We can now take apart large and complex mechanisms without the need for their physical presence allowing updated settings with the insertion of software. We also need to realize that there is no substitute for the real thing. Virtual bread-baking just doesn't smell the same coming out of the oven.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Technology in the hands of today's students is taken as a given. There is an expectation that if we need to research an issue we can pull out our handheld device, type in a few words and open a world of instant and in-depth information regarding that subject. What that means is we need to design an environment to house a very horizontal organization that is based more on random interaction than structured coursework. The space needs to facilitate this exploration rather than mandate hierarchical thinking. This calls into question the role of facilities such as Libraries and their traditional basis. They are evolving into spaces that provide a central node for augmented instruction regarding access to information, but are less and less about housing books.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

In many ways, the school of the 21st century is reaching back to borrow lessons from schools of the past. The school has always been as much a cultural institution as an environment for gathering and sharing knowledge. Through most of the 20th century, the design of schools evolved into a more highly articulated series of spaces with specialized functions to allow for the use of the technology of its day. With the revolution in access to individualized information and a shifting of societal roles in the delivery of public services into the school environment, the need for highly articulated space has dissolved into a more flexible and generalized series of spaces that promote interaction. We are back to the one-room schoolhouse, only on a grand scale.

Baskervill

Susan Orange, CID, Senior Associate

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

More user-defined spaces are key to support 21st-century learning — for both instructors and students. One approach for the learning environment of the future is to take advantage of the entire environment. For example, if you have a classroom with four walls, each wall would have its own use and purpose. One wall would feature a screen/projector, another wall would have a flatscreen television/monitor, and the third wall would be an interactive display and whiteboard "tack" wall, enabling student's work and creativity to be showcased in the classroom environment. The fourth wall would be open to allow for natural light to stream in and fill in the space, which motivates both students and instructors, minimizes fatigue, and provides spatial relief.

The idea of utilizing all four walls in a classroom eliminates the "front of the room" concept. Coupled with mobile furniture, which is just as flexible as the technology and learning tools in the space, this new type of classroom allows participants to configure their own space, depending on what the topic is or who the speakers are. It also allows for classrooms to serve many different purposes and uses, acting as a graphic-arts classroom in the morning, an MBA classroom in the mid-day, and an English 101 classroom in the afternoon. To accommodate the different uses and tools present in the room, the ceiling would be configured with acoustical and electrical components necessary to highlight the different learning tools and walls in the space.

There also is a lot of interest in reshaping the traditional classroom layout into one that removes the front of the classroom altogether. This configuration places the speaker(s) in the center of the room (center stage), which is set up in a theater-type configuration around the speakers. This setting is thought to enable greater participation between the students and the instructors, as well amongst themselves. Hierarchy is eliminated — everyone has equal access/contact.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Wireless (WiFi) is definitely being utilized more on campus in various learning spaces, particularly public spaces, such as: dining areas, student commons, library, etc. This technology enables learning to happen anywhere, reinforcing the idea that learning happens everywhere. However, there are still a couple of key concerns with WiFi, including securing data and the constant need of electrical power. Securing the equipment that runs a WiFi environment is an ever-present challenge to create learning environments that are accessible yet not vulnerable.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

Access to electrical sources still remains a challenge for designing 21st-century schools. The ability for users to access electrical power sources and outlets for their many technology-based learning devices, without having power cords strewn across the middle of the floor, is an ongoing issue.

Earl Swensson

Wendell Brown, AIA, LEED AP, Design Architect/Project Manager

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st century learning?

There is an ongoing pedagogical shift from "teaching" to "learning" in today's schools through embracing a coaching-style instruction format over a lecture-style format. Students are learning through group discussions, collaboration with peers and experiential situations. Evidence appears to show that student interest in class is now stronger with this shift, and that instructional retention is improving.

Bearing this direction in mind, architecture for an educational setting can accommodate 21st-century learning by focusing on two areas. First, the typical classroom needs to provide flexibility for multiple learning applications. The furniture should be comfortable and movable to allow for group study. The lighting should allow for a myriad of situations, such as one group working with dimmer lighting for viewing a video while another group may be listing ideas on a flipchart. Technology should then allow easy and intuitive participation for each member of a group to join in on the discussion. The room, or area, can have multiple zones for different groups as well as major display walls for the instructor to take command of an exercise and display a particular group's findings.

Educational architecture's second influence on space is the extension of the classroom by continuing into the hall, dining hall or the quad. As groups continue to discuss ideas presented in class, informal areas are needed for students to pull away and debate the issues. Markerboards, group furniture and flatscreens should be provided to enable students to continue thinking about a subject and explore.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

In addition to the provision of flexible classrooms, building inventories on campuses are changing. A growing number of learning commons, part research library and part student center, are gaining popularity. These venues have emerged along with the theory of learning rather than teaching, the advancement of fluid and accessible technology, and simulations of the Starbucks effect.

Students want environments that are pleasing to multiple senses (sight, sounds, smell) and comfortable where they can leisurely work in groups or perform individual research. The expected space is not a hard wooden library carrel of yesteryear, but a soft lounge chair that can be moved around the room. Such a space should be free-flowing with supportive technology with provisions of nearby breakout rooms, all of which can enrich the student life experience and enhance academic performance.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles / methods?

If we forecast the evolution of "experiential" design, the advent of virtual reality may emerge within the class/lab experience.

The advancement of technology can provide simulated environments and situations where students (individual or groups) can immerse themselves into a learning scenario, with precursors being a flight simulator or nursing simulation mannequin. There also can be enhanced experiential learning for the hard sciences and the integration of experiential learning for several other disciplines as well. Everything from business negotiations to engineering to history can be simulated to provide better insight for students.

Labs may evolve into spaces resembling black-box theaters, in which environments can be quickly arranged to support the virtual world students will enter. In lieu of open space, some institutions may choose to purchase a projection room or build a custom VR lab. For example, for simulation of a business deal, a student may sit down within the real lab space simulating a virtual boardroom in Manhattan. Another example may place an engineering student within a construction site that is equipped with numerous safety precautions, while students are moving about the virtual world. Technology will, no doubt, soon enable our schools to provide these experiences virtually.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

In combining the importance of sustainable design and flexible learning environments, an obvious conclusion is that buildings also must adapt. Academic architecture can actually take a cue from speculative office buildings.

The longevity of a building's core and shell is the ultimate test of sustainability in providing usefulness for decades or even a century later. Class space or usable areas, however, will evolve over time.

Buildings should provide lobbies, circulation cores and infrastructure cores that are fixed elements, but the remaining areas can be considered "shell" or "warehouse" space. The space and volume should allow for a flexibility of uses today as well as for future needs. Issues that can date a building and eliminate future flexibilities include the limitations of low floor-to-floor heights, structural walls or even post tension slabs.

It is important to envision buildings that can be reconfigured.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

I have three additional thoughts about the future of academic architecture:

  • Institutions will share resources.

    As financial resources continue to be tight, and demands for space and equipment remain high, we will see more groups and institutions sharing their facilities. Some schools are sharing their athletic areas with their communities, and some libraries are sharing their collections.

    I believe we will also see institutions sharing their class and lab space (including instructors). For example, state governments are pinched to finance new science buildings for multiple state schools across a region. While they may be able to afford one new building at one school, students from three other schools may take classes at the new building. The students will still receive degrees from their respective schools.

  • The delivery of design and construction will see more partnering.

    The system can sometime be adversarial with each party often looking out for their own best interests rather than the interest of the project. Usually in this case, owners are paying more and receiving less.

    I believe we will see more design-build arrangements in which a team of designers and contractors unite and provide a "turnkey" project to an institution. Deliveries, such as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), will continue to grow, in which each party — owner, architect and contractor — is committed (contractually) to the success of the project. Both the risk and reward are shared equally in this process, which is truly collaborative in design and implementation.

    Projects are delivered with higher quality control with less time and money.

    With this approach, the completed facilities are better, and the working relationships are more in-synch, which is a win-win for all parties involved.

  • The construction industry will embrace pre-fabricated building units.

    In most cases, construction yields a custom-built facility on a specific site. Because each project is one-of-a-kind, there is tremendous waste in design resolution, documentation, construction coordination and materials. While I am not advocating one-size-fits-all architecture, there are ample opportunities to provide standards with certain "units" that can be manufactured off-site and shipped to the project. For example, repetitive features, such as bathrooms in a residence hall, can be pre-fabricated in a warehouse and shipped to the job site. This can improve the working environment as well as the quality control, resulting from mass production and improved scheduling.

    Looking down the road into the future, entire offices, classrooms or labs can be preassembled as plug-and-play elements and moved into place in the field.

    The structure of a building becomes inherently part of the site with the skin of the building responding to the local climate and context. By utilizing standardization with repetitive features, time and creativity can be devoted to custom features that make the facility unique to its place.

    This future trend will provide technically improved buildings, better working environments, and a faster, less expensive delivery of projects.

TMP Architecture, Inc.

John J. Castellana, FAIA, REFP, Chairman

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Flexibility is key to enabling students to collaborate and interact in a "learning studio" environment. With an emphasis on concepts such as project-based learning, teaming and experiential learning, spaces need to be crafted with moveable furniture, tools and technology systems to enable positive interaction to occur naturally. Additionally, spaces and circulation areas that link learning studios need to have the same flexibility, allowing structured and impromptu learning activities.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

We are strong proponents of schools acting as "living laboratories" to enhance learning. With a strong commitment to protecting our precious natural resources, designing schools that are sensitive to the environment present wonderful learning opportunities. New emerging curriculums that reinforce project-based learning and other interactive learning methodologies can be developed with the school itself as a teaching tool.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Flexibility is key to the success of these specialized learning studios. The inclusion of appropriate utilities and storage to support programs coupled with movable furniture will allow these spaces to adapt to changing needs.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Today's technology needs to be totally seamless. With tremendous advances over the past several years, students are well-versed in the use of portable devices, allowing learning exploration to occur. Having the ability to access information anytime and anywhere is now the norm; school environments should support this access with casual, social areas that allow for laptop or other portable device usage, and without "architectural" interference from elements such as harsh light sources.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

Our 50-year school design practice has proven that trends in educational delivery methods have varied greatly over the years. Today, with data supported by dedicated research, we know how students learn best and how schools need to be designed to allow these concepts to flourish. To meet these wonderful opportunities, we have developed a series of guiding principles that guide us everyday as we create appropriate learning environments:

  • Creating dynamic and flexible "learning studios" in lieu of static classrooms to support interactive learning, activity zones and individual and group instruction.
  • Linking learning studios with "learning streets" in lieu of static corridors to enable structured and impromptu learning to occur and to promote social zones for students.
  • Creating "learning communities" to personalize schools to encourage collaboration.
  • Creating "integrated learning opportunities" to support strong enhanced curriculums.
  • Infusing school environments with "seamless use of technology" to support exploration.
  • Creating environments that support "sustainable design principles" and encourage the school to become a "living laboratory."
  • Promoting a sense of "friendly supervision" that is infused with natural light and clearly defined learning streets.
  • Creating schools that are "sensitive to context" by designing the appropriate timeless image to enable the school to be a real asset to its community.

Clark Nexsen Architecture & Engineering

Chris E. Brasier, FAIA, LEED AP, Vice President

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

Learning in the 21st century is about migrating from the planned, low student/faculty interaction of the lecture hall to the environments that support higher levels of interaction and active student engagement. Technology no longer just translates traditional material to digital format, but now is facilitating and promoting learning from peers through interaction with a focus more on collaborative problem-solving as opposed to solely lecture-based delivery. The active learning classroom is made possible by space, technology and instruction being blended to create an engaged environment for both instructors and students.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

To support learning in the 21st century, the built environment must provide for flexibility, a key ingredient to accommodating every emerging and changing trend in education and pedagogy. These new environments allow multiple kinds of activities, from listening to a lecture, engaging in a seminar or creating small-group activities, to occurring within the same classroom. The emerging trends demand changes to traditional environments which not only accommodate the delivery of information, but facilitate group activity by adding movable tables and chairs to allow continual modification of the learning environment. Architects and engineers must rethink infrastructure like data, power, and lighting systems which support this continual transformation. This provides flexibility and tailoring to adapt the room to multiple learning approaches (lecture, seminar, and small group) and multiple learning styles. The traditional classroom and lecture hall will still exist, but will be supplemented by learning spaces which will accommodate more spontaneity found in student team rooms, cafes, and niche spaces.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

The health sciences, engineering and professional schools are all increasingly utilizing simulation technology as a new method of learning. Virtual environments support specialized programs such as Duke University's DiVE (Duke immersive Virtual Environment) which enables students and research scientists to physically walk through a digitally constructed environment. The big trend is from passive learning to actively engaged learning which allows students to no longer "simply sit and absorb" information, but to be actively engaged.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

As the relative cost of technology has come down over the past decade, there have been increased opportunities to decentralize technology in the classroom from the traditional single point source of the lectern and instructional wall. Where all learning once evolved around the lectern, now learning has migrated out into the classroom to engage students in small groups and now even at the lab bench, enabling both physical and computational exploration. The singular instructional wall has been transformed to now utilize every surface in a classroom as an opportunity to support learning. As traditional classrooms were once the sole place for learning, now cafes, hallways and lounges are designed to foster learning through student interactions.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st -century schools?

Designing schools for the 21st century demands considerations for flexibility and collaborative learning. Technology is changing so rapidly and our understanding of how we may best leverage this technology for learning is continually evolving. New learning environments demand the creation of spaces that are flexible and that can accommodate multiple modes of learning. In the 21st-century classroom, providing an environment for peer learning should be facilitated by innovative space planning. When students are able to engage peers in reviews of essays or other works, there is a dramatic improvement in the quality of their work.

The Collaborative Inc.

Ray D. Micham, AIA, LEED AP, Architect/Partner

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

As long-term investments, schools need to be adaptable to changing technologies. The infrastructure needs to support new components that can be updated over time. Essentially we need to be designing schools to accommodate technologies that don't exist yet.

We are seeking to create infrastructures with components that can be switched out as systems evolve and get better over time.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

Students today are intuitive learners, growing up on the Web. Their classrooms must support that kind of exploratory learning.

We are also embracing the natural environment as the perfect learning lab. Schools and colleges feature gardens and demonstration plots right outside classroom doors. Accessibility and close proximity is key for teachers to seamlessly integrate these features.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

Our goal is to create school structures that embrace natural systems in a comprehensive way. Schools' sustainable systems can be examples for students and communities to draw from. We want to develop net-zero design solutions that are within reach for our communities. Parents and community members should see the green features and be able to apply them to their own homes and businesses.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

Students need to learn to think creatively. Curriculum and the environment have the potential to foster that thought.

Perkins Eastman

Alan M. Schlossberg, AIA, LEED AP, Principal

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Sophisticated technology is in schools and standard for many districts. Where there seems to be a growing disconnect is between the capabilities of technology and the skills of the teachers to effectively use new tools in curriculum delivery and learning modalities. Colleges of education are looking at this gap and considering specialized educator certification in technology integration. Schools will need these new specialists to support teacher training and realize widespread technology application. To do this effectively "technology sandboxes" or resource-rich training labs will give instructors the opportunity to reshape lesson plans under the guidance of a certified educator and software integration specialist.

Architekton

Tom Reilly, AIA, Director

What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?

The most significant trend in the design industry is the use of research studies that provide outcome-based evidence that we can use to improve the quality of our work. The ongoing groundbreaking work pioneered by the 21st Century Project and PKAL enables us to work with our client base to improve the programming, funding and conceptual ideas that shape our built environment with renewed confidence. The trend toward proven outcome-based decisionmaking has the potential to revolutionize our approach to design the same way it affected the practice of medicine 100 years ago.

How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?

The building as a didactic tool has the potential to reinforce and expand the classroom curriculum. Design solutions can include literal interpretations like 40-foot- high renderings of the geological layers of the Grand Canyon or signs that quantify the sustainable strategies built into the building. More subtle lessons can be read into exposed structure or the ability to visualize the path of storm water across the site. As sustainability becomes an embedded core value of Universities, how we build for tomorrow can become powerful examples of the commitment the institution has made.

What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?

We are finding that direct links from specialized classrooms to auxiliary spaces like lounges, courtyards, group study rooms and carrels can extend the options instructors have to encourage exploration and self-paced learning through individual and group interaction. We have also found that teaching labs easily expand into adjacent exterior spaces, especially intro physics and engineering programs. When creatively designed, indoor-outdoor/multilevel in-between spaces can support hands on learning like experiments to measure gravity and projection.

How is technology for today's learning affecting school design?

Creating flexibility for today's technologies, and even more importantly tomorrow's technologies, can be a daunting task. "Future proofing" used to mean putting a lot of conduit in the walls; today it means providing outlets for battery recharging stations everywhere imaginable. Developing and encouraging flexibility in design solutions includes strategies like multiple types of spaces, preparing at least the infrastructure for highly mediated rooms, providing pathways for wired communication and sizing data rooms for additional equipment. It may not be too far in the future that we are managing wireless frequencies on campuses the way we do at airports, which will affect choices for building materials.

Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?

We are rediscovering that in addition to teaching and research, university campuses must also support social growth. These formative years are where we meet many of the friends we will have for the rest of our life, business partners and even spouses. Creating spaces that function for friends and lovers can be as critical to the success of an institution's goals as state of the art labs. Designing for chance encounters, where an art major can have a random conversation with physics major is an integral part of the original concept of "university" and should be a part of the program for every new project on a college campus.

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