The VPM Blog

Redesigning Education, Starting with Structures

Posted by admin on Jan 28, 2013 6:03:47 AM

There is an awful lot of talk about education reform, “the future of education” and disruptive innovation in the form of start-ups, challenges and apps. And while these initiatives are certainly progressive, they take time to adopt and take root. We understand that these discussions often fly overhead or in the face of teachers and administrators that are in a position to do something right now.

Increasingly, leaders are recognizing that campus design is one an area where new discoveries are immediately transferrable. Recent studies have looked at the ways in which learning is drastically impacted by things like light, sound, temperature, color, air quality and texture. Different seating arrangements that facilitate collaboration, boost mood and encourage creativity are starting to become more and more common.

Where would you rather work!?

And then there is the matter of technology – not only how it’s deployed in the classroom, but also how it has shaped learning. Our core tenets have not changed; we all learn through some form or combination of: auditory, visual and kinesthetic styles.

The way knowledge is disseminated has shifted -- and radically so. Smartphones, tablets and computers deliver facts and figures in seconds, hitting on all of our senses with immersive, rich-media displays. Teachers, meanwhile, are finding themselves in a position to direct study, run quality control and coach. Modern students have grown up in an environment where whatever they need to know is at their fingertips and no more than 10 seconds away.

New classrooms and freshly designed libraries leverage the inherent connectivity of students and focus instead on developing spaces that promote interpersonal growth and creativity – skills that are critical to professional and/or artistic development.

And consider this...

  • The device-to-student ratio at some higher education institutions is as high as 3.5-to-1. An example cited over on EdTech features the University of Tennessee, with 27,500 students and 9,700 faculty/staff members registering ~75,000 devices for use on the university’s wireless network.
  • With this in mind, when was the last time you’ve seen a computer lab full of students actually using the computers? Students have their own devices – even lower income students. What they need now, is an environment for effective study and collaboration. Check out Bentley University’s computer lab redesign.
  • Why would students and school districts pay hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for massive tomes, when they can access textbook content online or in a digital format? Stop pushing textbooks! Don’t worry: traditional library structures aren’t going anywhere – at least, not at the moment. People still like to hold a book in their hands. But, c’mon - there are better ways to do the basics. NYC is considering moving all 17,000 schools digital.

"Innovation” is achieved, step-by-step. These redesign projects present amazing opportunities to connect and reconnect with current and former students, as well as peripheral members of your community. Use social media to get people impassioned with the progress at your school, solicit feedback and identify individuals that are active, outspoken members of your digital community.

These are opportunities to build more than just your brick-and-mortar community. [Watch for more on this, later in the week!]

In order for higher education to adapt to a more agile, mobile learning environment, the right infrastructure has to be in place. We can start with our buildings and on-campus technology, but the people -- the professors and administrators and culture -- must come next.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” –Benjamin Franklin

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Author: is Head of Ops & Co-Creative at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Topics: higher education

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