The Classroom of the Future
My colleague Sarah and I were up in New York City (and Newark, New Jersey) for an event focused on the role and potential of technology to drive student learning. We went on a site visit to Merit Prep Newark which is a recently opened school that provides a glimpse into what this might look like in the years ahead.
The first thing that stood out to me is the proximity of students and teachers. The school serves 80 kids in 6th grade, and they were all in one large space. This space differs drastically from my time as a teacher, where I had between 25-35 students in one enclosed classroom. While this large space was initially off-putting, it was clear that it had an interesting impact on student ownership. Kids seemed much more relaxed and engaged since instruction was in small groups while they had access to help as needed during independent practice; therefore, all their interaction with adults was on a more one-on-one basis versus a traditional lecture style. This created a sense of comfort that is hard to quantify and a sense of confidence in tackling difficult tasks because they knew help was readily available, if necessary.
The second thing that became apparent is that teaching no longer happens in silos and isn’t the same between different teachers. As soon we walked in, we saw one educator doing small group instruction to ten students on the United States Constitution while another was tutoring two kids on fractions. While that part might feel like it parallels other schools, what differed was that these educators were all working within eye and ear shot of one another – showing that teachers can serve more as pit crews compared to cowboys. In addition, it was clear that educators were collaborating not on a weekly, but on a minute-by-minute basis as they adjusted their instruction and schedules to meet the needs of students at that moment.
The biggest question I had afterwards was about student culture. In a room that has both every teacher and student from the same grade, the importance of not just collaboration, but seamless integration, becomes key. And while it is clear that instructional and operational challenges are present, the potential is there to truly transform the teaching and learning experience inside classrooms, with vibrant cultures where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
My biggest takeaway was that technology can enable educators to use their invaluable time doing what they love most – working with kids. And while it was just a limited glimpse, I’m definitely inspired to think more in depth on what this could look like for our kids back in Delaware.