Current School Facility Features that are Obsolete
These are school related things and it got me to thinking about how many school facility “things” are obsolete today and yet are still in wide use. These are not facility features in decades old crumbling College; rather they are features that are frequently included in new College today. In no particular order these are:
1. Departmental Organizations
In order to break down the size of College and to allow students to learn across the curriculum it is essential to organize College so that teachers of various subjects are located together. This not only emulates how people work today – in collaborative groups – but encourages teachers to consider students holistically, not only as they perform in a specific subject. Yet there are hundreds of new College being designed and built with this obsolete organization.
2. Learning in prescribed spaces
When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high College, chances are the experience they recall did not take place in a space designed for learning. Learning outside, while working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends are all informal experiences people cite as meaningful learning experiences. We don’t design College to accommodate these activities; instead we only focus on the formal spaces. This is obsolete thinking.
3. School Corridors
Corridors take up a lot of valuable real estate in a College and are unoccupied most of the time. If we change the way we circulate in College by changing the rooms we circulate to we can greatly reduce or eliminate corridors. If rooms are arranged in groups around a common space corridors are not necessary. If you do have corridors why not make them informal learning spaces as well. A straight shot double loaded corridor is obsolete yet many new College are planned around these.
4. Traditional School Libraries
In a modern College a library should be more of a learning commons able to support a variety of student activities as they learn to access and evaluate information. Books have their place but they are not the end-all of libraries. A learning commons is no longer the quiet sanctum of old, rather it is a space that can be central or distributed, used formally or informally, and one that can stimulate a spirit of inquiry in students.
Total number of books in the library is 8376, Number of encyclopedia is 09 and Number of Journal is 99.
5. Computer labs
Students are connected to the net everywhere except in College. We force them to power down and disconnect and put them in obsolete computer labs. Not every student can afford a personal device but many College are getting around this by issuing I-pods or by allowing students to use computers around the school. A modern school needs to have connectivity everywhere and treat computers more like pencils (albeit valuable ones) than microscopes.
6. Gyms without Natural Daylight
A typical refrain you hear when designing a gym is that glare is such a big problem that we don’t want natural light. It’s true that glare is a problem if you have poorly conceived natural light but with energy costs what they are, being able to turn off lights in a gym can be a big savings. Designing glare free gyms is possible but typically requires more natural light not less. Skylights, well placed windows and ample light produce a great experience and a functional space.
7. Teacher Centered Classrooms
Classrooms were designed for lecture and crowd control with the teacher as the central figure of knowledge and authority. The teacher had knowledge to impart through direct instruction and the classroom works pretty well for this. Teacher at the front controlling the board with a good view of the room – has been the model for over 150 years. Today this is still the case with the chalk board replaced by the “Smart Board.” This is an obsolete notion. There are times when lecture is the right approach but now there are so many other approaches that center on the student. Small groups, project work, problem solving, presentations are all activities that don’t work as well in a teacher centered classroom.
8. Isolated Classrooms
Tony Wagner of the Harvard College of Education and the author of the Global Achievement Gap says: “Isolation is the enemy of improvement” and yet most schools are planned so as to isolate teachers from each other. Teachers often learn to teach in isolated boxes and emulate that style throughout their career. Interior windows get “papered over” and blinds are shut. Out of College people work in teams to solve problems. They are visually and often aurally connected. Collaboration is a vital skill. Isolated classrooms are already obsolete.