The government of New South Wales recently unveiled what it is calling the Classroom of the Future. The prototype classroom was established in the NSW Department of Education’s Futures Learning Unit, which is located at Australian Technology Park in Sydney.
The classroom includes state-of-the-art technology and comfortable seating, such as kids bean bag chairs and Lego furniture.
$1 Billion Earmarked for New Classrooms
Earlier in the year, the NSW government announced that it would be investing $1 billion from the Rebuilding NSW Schools fund to transform classrooms across the state over the next ten years. News of this investment came shortly after it was announced that $2.7 billion would be spent on upgrading school facilities over the next four years.
The money from the Rebuilding NSW Schools fund will be used to build or refurbish 1,600 classrooms through the Innovative Education, Successful Students package. This package focuses on creating learning environments that take advantage of the latest technology and study-related materials, including furnishings.
The belief behind the program is that students will need advanced skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and research to remain competitive in the future. They will be taught to work independently and in groups while in environments integrated with new technologies designed for efficient learning and collaboration between teachers and students.
According to the NSW Department of Education, changes in the education system that have occurred in the past several years require the department to rethink “how schools work, how teachers teach and how students learn.”
“The way our children learn is evolving as times change, and it’s exciting to see firsthand how the traditional classroom is being transformed into an interactive learning space,” said Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. “As our classrooms adopt changing technologies, teaching techniques are evolving, and these prototype classrooms are being used by teachers to test these new ways of engaging students.”
Trials Held at Futures Learning Unit
On Friday, November 6, trials of the new, futuristic classrooms began at the Futures Learning Unit where the prototypes had already been built under the leadership of Mr. Piccoli. Schoolchildren of all ages from primary schoolers to high schoolers were allowed into the prototype classrooms to observe and interact with the new technology and flexible furnishings, which included all of the following and much more:
- Mobile touchscreens that permit students to interact with learning material
- Wi-Fi networks and specialized software that allows all devices in the classroom to connect with each other and interact wirelessly
- Walls and surfaces made of writable material to encourage students to investigate new ideas and collaborate with others
- Furniture, such as bean bag chairs that is flexible and lightweight so that it can be easily moved to adjust the functionality of classrooms between individual and team learning.
As younger students from Camdenville Public Schools toyed with robots, programming them to recognize and react to colours, others traced a map of Syrian refugees on a computerized, interactive carpet.
Older students from Campbelltown Performing Arts High School declared that they would no longer need their teachers if all of these advanced learning systems were available to them. However, Piccoli insists that teachers will play an integral role in the new learning environment. He simply doesn’t want them having to use old equipment, such as blackboards and chalk, as the school system moves into the future.
In fact, Piccoli says that he has committed to provide a 50 percent increase in the professional training available to active teachers within the state. The thought is that new classrooms with new technology headed by highly trained teachers will push the system into the future and make learning infectious. Children will be enthusiastic about going to school.
“What children are using at home with their friends and what they see online has got to be reflected in what happens in the classrooms. Otherwise, schools are going to be left behind,” said Piccoli. “I had a student who said to me before, ‘this is much better than learning,’ when indeed, learning is exactly what he was doing.”
Kids Bean Bag Chairs Provide Multiple Benefits
Although technology overshadowed the Classroom of the Future trial, Piccoli also spoke about the benefits of flexible, fun furniture.
“If a little boy is reading on a bean bag, that is great for the child – the fact that they are reading – irrespective of where they might be reading,” Piccoli stated.
Even though bean bag chairs make something as unremarkable as sitting fun to do, they are one of the most ergonomic types of furniture available today. They can help students keep good posture, making them more receptive to learning.