The Social Studies Classroom of Tomorrow
A social studies teacher who was near retirement showed up at one of my educational planning sessions for a new classroom building. I asked him about the social studies classroom of the future. At first he hemmed and hawed, but after some prodding, he said, “Do you really want to know what I think?”
I was all ears.
World Connections, Kitchen Table Comfort
The first thing that teacher said would impact his educational space would be a much more hands-on educational model. Watch this video from UT Austin CTL for a primer on the flipped classroom:
Bob explained that tomorrow’s social studies classroom should be a much more flexible setting akin to a CNN studio. When students walk in, flat screens and electronic ticker tape show them what’s happening around the world. If students type any date into an iPad, the screens shift to summarize what happened then. There are places for independent study, and places for group presentation and real-time video mentoring.
Another area for the room focuses on project-based learning. Mobile devices meet old-fashioned tools like glue, tape, and scissors as students create projects based on subject matter. This environment, in which it’s okay to make a mistake, combines future technologies with the kitchen table-like comfort of the past.
No other teachers showed that afternoon. However, the twenty minutes that I spent with that social studies teacher turned out to be critical for planning for that district. His insights revealed that in the social studies classroom of tomorrow, students are connected to their world the moment that they walk into the room.
The Path to Insights
No matter what point they are in their careers, teachers have the knowledge that educational programmers need to evolve the classroom space. Sometimes, extracting that knowledge is tough, but as the above story shows, it’s worth the effort.
Educational programming, whether it involves an informal discussion with one teacher or a design charette with an entire community, sometimes takes asking the same question over and over, perhaps framing it in different ways.