Jan 19 2017

A Classroom Goes Global

Thanks to flexibility and technology these students connect to the world.

When Dr. Sally Lindgren, director of technology and innovation at Great Prairie Area Education Agency (GPAEA) in Ottumwa, Iowa, created Room 21C — a flexible classroom that includes movable furniture paired with technologies such as Promethean ActivTable displays and large-screen TVs — only one such room was in use. Today, seven districts in Iowa have redesigned learning spaces that follow the 21C model.

Students in those rooms can gather around the ActivTable, with its multiuser, touch-screen surface, or at one of several hexagonal tables, some of which are equipped with wall-mounted, large-screen displays. There’s even a “campfire area” with soft seating. Such options help students take an active role in their education and choose the configuration and tools that best suit the task at hand.

Today, Lindgren credits her classroom remodel with starting a much bigger trend. As the story of Room 21C spread, GPAEA established partnerships with schools in places as far flung as New York and Belgium. It now runs the 21C Partner Schools Project, which allows schools to access information at no cost to build their own 21st century learning spaces.

“We’re going to soon reach a critical threshold — a tipping point, if you will — that truly can change instructional practice,” says Lindgren.