21st Century Learning EnvironmentsIn order to foster the development of 21st century skills in our schools, a foundation of strong 21st century learning environments must be established.According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a 21st century learning environment should:
With that in mind, the Queensbury school district has taken steps toward developing instructional spaces that allow teaching and learning to thrive in a 21st century model. Find out more below.
- Create learning practices, human support and physical environments that will support the teaching and learning of 21st century skill outcomes.
- Enable students to learn in relevant, real world 21st century contexts (e.g., through project-based or other applied work).
- Allow equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies and resources.
- Provide 21st century architectural and interior designs for group, team and individual learning.
- Supports expanded community and international involvement in learning, both face-to-face and online.
Co-LabLike nearly every school district in America, Queensbury utilizes computer labs when whole-class technology integration is required. The model works well when every student is asked to do the same work at the same time.However, a model like this reinforces independent work. One of our goals is to get students working collaboratively on a project or assignment, so a traditional lab is not conducive to group work.In an effort to build a collaborative environment, a Co-Lab was developed first at our intermediate school, and then later at our middle school. When students enter a Co-Lab, instead of finding rows of 25-30 computers, they will instead see 8 or 9 tables spread out with three chairs per table. A computer monitor is hidden beneath a panel on the table. Students know when they are in the Co-Lab, they will be expected to work together on a project. Students must take turns "running the computer" an all participate in the development of a final product.Co-labs in both districts incorporate a wide array of technologies to support the teachers and students as they discover and create including electronic whiteboards, document cameras, webcams, green screen technology, clicker systems and wireless slates.
21st Century ClassroomsWalk down the halls of a typical high school and you will witness classrooms that look very similar to what classrooms looked like when you were in school. Desks lined up in rows, all facing the front of the room; teacher standing in front of the class; instruction is teacher-led. This model has served us for well over fifty years, yet the model was not designed for the students of the 21st century.At our high school, eight classrooms have been transformed over the past two years into 21st century learning environments. Teachers in those rooms applied to participate in the initiative and spent a full year receiving professional development in project-based learning and instructional technology integration methods before they began teaching in the new learning spaces. The instruction in those rooms is intended to be very student-directed where the students are working together to complete a project made up of multiple authentic products all intended to solve a driving unit question. There are multiple points of focus in the room where teaching and learning can happen--not just in the front of the room. In addition, the students have access to many technology tools including laptops, electronic whiteboards, clicker systems, digital cameras, science probes, and interactive tablets.Communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking are at the core of what drives the teaching and learning these spaces.