By: Jude Barback

I once wrote an article about a fancy new rest home that had an innovative layout and all the mod cons you could imagine. The rest home had won all sorts of awards for its fantastic care delivery. I foolishly jumped to the conclusion that the modern design and technology somehow underpinned the facility’s excellent approach to care.

The manager, a former nurse, looked at me with nurse-like austerity.

“I could deliver the best care in a tent,” she said matter-of-factly.

She didn’t need the bells and whistles to run a good rest home.

The same is true of education.

There was nothing particularly innovative or modern about the classrooms I frequented many decades ago. I can’t recall a single beanbag throughout my entire education. And aside from the ‘computer lab’ there was no opportunity to jump online.

Yet my learning occurred under some brilliant and visionary teachers. Did it matter that we sat in single file rows at wooden desks (I’m pretty sure some still had inkwells and lift-lids)?

Debates around modern (innovative, flexible, blended – call them what you will) learning environments seem to miss the point. So too do the arguments for and against incorporating digital technology into education (although granted it’s been a while since I’ve heard anyone in opposition of this).

Great teaching and learning can happen in a tent, or on a mountain top, or on the moon. The point is, why not give the talent that resides in our teacher workforce room to breathe and flourish?

Why not model the competencies we’re so eager to see our students adopt? If we have the opportunity to encourage collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking by placing education in places conducive to these skills, then why not?

This issue is brimful of research and opinions on innovative learning environments, digital technology and the shifting focus to 21st century skills. Enjoy!


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