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Implementing 21st Century Learning Environments

| August 23, 2019

by F. Michael Ayles

Exterior view of the media center at Orville Platt High School in Meriden, Conn. / Photo by Paul Burk Photography

Technology powers 21st century learning environments for both students and educators, providing them with the digital tools they need to keep pace with a constantly evolving world. A wealth of resources is now available at the click of a button, broadening educational boundaries and stimulating creativity and curiosity.

If incorporated proactively, technology can be a mechanism that fosters an effective student-teacher relationship and allows students to work both independently and collaboratively in spaces that are designed to deliver the most efficient modes of digital learning possible. For instance, media center design has changed immensely since the implementation of computer technology into public school education in the 1980’s. The space that was once known as the school ‘library’ is now a central technological resource hub and group collaboration space for the entire student population. The media center is often the cornerstone of an educational facility, and it has been a focal point in the design of all our school projects.

An educational approach that is now being integrated into many school systems is a STEAM-based curriculum, one that is focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. This requires a 21st century learning environment for successful implementation, taking into consideration the creative thinking and problem solving mindset teachers now have in their approach to the classroom space.

In today’s school building design process, technology is infused throughout the facility and must be addressed from the early stages of program element selection to the final adoption and installation of infrastructure that supports those elements. Power must be available on a much greater level than ever before, wireless capability enhancement must be evaluated and easily expandable, and devices must have the flexibility to be both stowed and protected from the more creative aspects of the art portion of the STEAM program.

The educational facility has evolved over time, reflecting changes in society, technology, and new sensitivities to our environment. We must build in a way that is practical both for today’s world, and for our children tomorrow. With this comes the technological advancements that have changed the way we all work and live, as well as how we design, construct, and maintain school buildings. Regardless of whether the school is an elementary school or a high school, three specific ideas are embedded in this type of 21st century learning environment: 1) enhancing project-based and creative problem solving; 2) providing flexible, focused learning areas; and 3) addressing developmental differences between grade levels.

For Antinozzi Associates, public school design has been a major component of our success as an architecture and interior design firm. We believe that the character of the places in which we instruct our students in turn affects their character.  Antinozzi Associates has worked with many municipal boards of education and school organizations in developing and implementing their educational specification requirements for STEAM programs and media centers. These specifications provide the philosophic educational goals of the district and its educators, identifying the curriculum needs, functional relationships, and performance expectations of each space. There is no question that a new school facility will incorporate the requirements and expectations of these guidelines, but how they can be addressed in an existing facility designed and built long before today’s 21st century learning pedagogy can be a major challenge.

Our recent educational projects have all had intensive technology requirements for STEAM programs and media center design, including Stratford High School, Francis Walsh Intermediate School, West Haven High School, New London High School, Harding High School, Orville Platt High School, Eli Whitney Technical High School, and Roosevelt Elementary School. Antinozzi Associates looks forward to further technological advancements and their implementation in the architectural and interior design of 21st century learning environments.

F. Michael Ayles / Photo by A Corporate Image

F. Michael Ayles, FAIA, is a principal of business development with Antinozzi Associates in Bridgeport, Conn.

Antinozzi Associates is a long-time member of the Construction Institute. Ayles serves on the Construction Institute’s advisory council.

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Category: All, contributor, Education

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