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Power up the classroom!

The term “21st century” is an integral part of educational thinking and planning for the future. Educators and administrators actively search for ways to prepare students for the future and one of those ways is through technology.

In an age of anytime-anywhere learning and our love affair with smartphones and tablets, the field of education is evolving. Slowly and more commonly, K-12 instructors have integrating iPads into the classroom while initiatives aimed at giving every high school student a laptop computer have been supported.

With the combination of technology and 21st century learning skills, there becomes an opportunity to embrace a new approach to designing classrooms. At the core of 21st century learning outcome goals is preparing students to become active, successful and contributing members of society. Within the context of core knowledge instruction, students must also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration.

Education furnishings company’s like Steelcase are developing solutions to address the needs for 21st century learning environments. The 21st century classroom needs to be “connected” and reshaped for collaboration.

Listed below are some suggestions for classroom design fit for the 21st century learning experience:

   Design for sharing digital content, leveraging both vertical and horizontal surfaces for display

   Use projection and interactive surfaces, such as portable whiteboards 

   Allow for enough work surface to fit a laptop, textbook and paper

   Plan for power access or charging stations

   Arrange fixed and portable whiteboards and display screens to allow students to view from different positions in the classroom

   Be intentional about what technologies should be used and how to they will be used to support instructional strategies

   Take advantage of new media, including personal and in-room technology, and offer equal access to both

There are numerous benefits associated with the use of mobile computing devices, such as easy access to content, real-time updates to assignments, student engagement, portability and costs. The list of benefits is long, which is why we hear of more school districts buying iPads and weaving them into instruction and the classroom.

On the connectivity side, President Obama announced in June that he wants to bring high-speed Internet to almost all U.S. schools by 2018 through the ConnectED initiative.

“We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology,” said Obama in a statement released by the White House.

ConnectED also invests in funding to ensure that every educator in America receives support and training in using education technology tools to improve student learning. The initiative will jumpstart innovation for products as well.

Mobile devices are powerful tools and clearly have the potential of transforming the landscape of a classroom, which is why having a plan to guide you through this process is important. This is an exciting time for the future of K-12 education and the next generation of engineers, inventors, doctors, musicians and entrepreneurs.