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Slate Wants You to Design the Classroom of the Future

The layout of school classrooms hasn't really changed in more than a century. What should the classroom of the 21st century look like?

Through its "The Hive" department, which began this year, Slate has crowdsourced ideas from readers on how to live a more energy efficient life and how to get more nimbly from city to city and within a metropolis. In its third attempt to tap the collective mind of the internet, it's looking for ideas on redesigning the American classroom.

Education reporter Linda Perlstein frames the issue at hand:

Education has changed even if the room has not, and if you go into most schools, you are likely to see teachers and students chafing against the rectangle. The 21st-century imperative is to closely monitor students’ individual progress and teach them accordingly. ... Where the space has not been modified accordingly--which is to say, most everywhere--you see lots of kids sprawling on cold tile floors and huddling in converted closets. Why haven’t schools evolved the way museums and playgrounds and supermarkets have?


The answer, as she reveals in the next line, is, of course, money. But, assuming that wasn't a constraint, what does the 21st century classroom require? The teacher, who was once the perpetual center of attention, is now ceding some of his or her awesome power to group projects and laptops (and other technological devices). So how should the room look now?

One respondent advocates for stand up desks, with stools available when students need a breather, in order to eliminate distracting fidgeting. Another dreams of outdoor classrooms, which would probably offer a huge cost savings. (Though what would happened when it rained or snowed?) There is a suggestion for desks with wheels, so students can move them from a traditional classroom set up into one for group projects. A couple people think technology is so important to future learning that desks should have screens built into them. An entry suggests creating a more coffeeshop-style vibe that encourages discussion, while another goes as far as giving students armchairs to sit in. (I fell asleep in some pretty uncomfortable chairs during my scholastic career, so I'd advise against making students too cozy.)

Check out all the entries, and post your own, if you have an idea for how we can make the classroom of the future a more engaging, relevant, and stimulating venue.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user superkimbo in BKK.

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