The refurbishment of any building requires a thorough understanding of its history, its personality and its positioning in the community. It also requires designers to think about future-proofing to ensure the spaces are as flexible as possible particularly in terms of evolving teaching methods and the increasing demand for technology in today’s schools.
Blended learning, or the combining of technology with traditional teaching, is impacting today’s classroom design and becoming highly integrated into students’ lives. Now, students are expected to bring tablets to lessons to connect to the interactive touchscreen televisions which are slowly replacing the traditional blackboard.
While it is impossible to accurately predict the continuing influence of technology on the delivery of high-quality education designers do need to be able to react quickly and adapt to change. Blended learning require designers to rethink how they organise physical spaces to best facilitate collaborative learning using digital tools.
Our approach to incorporating technology for the recent Dubai College project, for example, was to ensure that there was as much flexibility in how the spaces were laid out and how the connection points can cater for different scenarios of teaching methods. A combination of traditional white boards are combined with smart TVs that can be linked with the students tablet to facilitate the sharing of information and ideas. Portable battery towers are distributed throughout the teaching spaces to ensure that students can recharge their devices throughout the day which is a very real and practical problem with increased reliance on technology.
As designers we need to consider whether the physical spaces align in their ability to facilitate both individual and collaborative work and if the design and layout of the physical space is dynamic and flexible enough to facilitate the school’s technology models.
There is no doubt that technology systems are increasingly becoming an essential part of today’s learning environments and can no longer be considered an afterthought in planning buildings. Designers today have a responsibility to create learning environments that are strategically designed to align with the rise in the demand for technology. We need to look beyond traditional approaches and the questions of what do we want to achieve and how might we achieve it become the drivers for designing new schools and classrooms.
By Jason Burnside, Partner