One of my favorite things about YIS is the school community’s willingness to take risks. We have a number of small pilot programs in place, (like iPads in Kindergarten and Grade 1, offering IB courses online, and school-provided iPhones for staff along with a few coming to fruition, like our imminent switch from First Class to Google Apps for Education), the admin is super supportive of trying new things, and I always get the feeling that the entire school community is very invested in making the school a better place – even if it means making a few mistakes that we can learn from along the way.

My first (of my many) mini-projects is to collaborate with a few of my colleagues on designing the “classroom of the future.” The goal is to renovate two more floors of our main building over next summer, and to make sure that those classrooms really meet the needs of both students and teachers for many years to come.

Living here in Japan, space is at a premium and pretty much every classroom is a little bit different than the others, so our first priority is really to standardize as much as we can (so teachers know what they can expect when moving from room to room). Once we have that resolved, then we can start getting a little more creative in the use of the space we have.

We started out by brainstorming our ideas for what would be essential in this “standardized classroom” and came up with the following list:

  • Different furniture for different divisions
  • Interactive Whiteboard
  • Indirect lighting
  • Natural Lighting
  • Noise Dampening/Reduction
  • Open shelves for books
  • Closed cupboard space

We created a simple survey to send out to staff and are now in the process of compiling results. It will be interesting to see if teachers in different divisions prioritize different features, and what their feedback will be in general on each of these ideas (we provided a space for comments for each of the items above).

The only problem is that I’m worried that this is a list for the classroom of the present, not the future. The list above describes what is already available in many schools, so what would those teachers be thinking if they could redesign their classrooms? I think we have an opportunity to do something a little more radical, but we’re all quite focused on making the rooms more appropriate for right now (naturally). Maybe we need to be thinking a little farther ahead, while still incorporating these more current ideas.

Since our team last met, I’ve been looking at some videos and articles about classroom design, trying to think ahead to what we will be looking for in our classrooms even just 2-3 years from now. Here are a few:

Update: And one more!

Thanks to Liss Griffin at UNIS Hanoi for sharing this great presentation for inspiration:

Final Thoughts

Considering that education may look very different in a reasonably short amount of time, that we’re going 1:1 in the next year, continuing to expand our online course offerings, and that the school is not too afraid of taking risks, I want to make sure we don’t just design a great classroom for today. I’m just not quite sure how to bring our classroom design into the present, while still being forward-thinking enough to take us into the future at the same time.

If you were designing a classroom of the future, what would you include?

22 thoughts on “Designing the Classroom of the Future

  1. Interesting post Kim. It is so difficult for educators to plan for today let alone tomorrow! I think the whole notion of education is so ingrained in us that there is an awful lot of stuff to let go of before we can move on. Your list does typify the classroom of today, but not in all places. Some are still the four walls and teacher out the front. So to answer your question about what the school of the future will look like…. I am wondering if it will be less a place and more a community.

    Have a listen to It may also be of interest to your work.
    Helen Otway´s last blog post ..Cover Story of Education Technology Solutions

    1. @Helen,

      I totally agree! It’s so hard to even imagine what the future could look like, let alone try to plan building renovations around it. Thanks so much for the link to your Elluminate presentation. Listening to it as I type now :)

  2. Thanks Kim for this post, you got me thinking about my own classroom. I have been playing around with seating arrangement lately, and for whatever reason your post made me think that I need to get rid of chairs and tables all together. Every time I tell the kids to work freely and get comfortable, they sprawl all over the floor and get to work. The tables and chairs always seem to be in the way.

    Each floor in our school has shared learning lounges with couches and tables, and we spend quite a bit of time out there, but it is a pain to have to do my monitoring sweeps across the lounge. I want to look into simply having sofas in my classroom. Why not? Let the kids sit comfortably.

    I rarely lecture and only spend about ten minutes of instructional time; the rest is time for kids to write, edit photos, get on with their business.

    Here are some other things I think are crucial for a classroom:

    Art work,
    Coffee table books,

    Thanks again for posting this. It is great that your school is thinking ahead. I will share pictures of my room as it evolves into my ideal.

    1. @Jabiz,

      I think about how I work when I’m at home. I’m never at a desk, I’m always either relaxing on the couch or a chair or on the floor as you describe. No reason why students wouldn’t choose/prefer the same type of comfort. I like the idea of almost making the classroom kind of like a college dorm room. I remember your classroom in Malaysia, non-standard lighting, full of books, couches. Comfortable and welcoming. I also loved the chairs we saw at Learning 2.010 this year – I can imagine a classroom with just those.

  3. Kim,

    I am glad to see your posts show up on my reader. Your ideas have always challenged me to rethink what I do. I think the structure of the classroom has to change for all of us for real transformation to take place.

    Sounds like you are having fun starting over at the new school.
    tcomfort´s last blog post ..Toaster Questions- more ways to teach Math

    1. @Tom,

      Thanks! I definitely haven’t been blogging as much as I used to, but at least I’m getting into some kind of routine (always interrupted by school holidays, though, of course). Thanks for continuing to read and comment!

  4. With your 1:1 project in mind how about ensuring that there are sufficient charging stations for mobile devices? I love Jabiz’s idea of no desks, perhaps the classroom of the future will look more like a workshop or lab with storage bins for materials and a few large tables or workbenches along with the comfortable seating areas. One way to look at it would be to try to imagine what work the students will be doing. They will likely be authors, artists, presenters, experimenters, readers, creators and so on. It’s fun to imagine but a daunting task.

    1. @Lesley,

      Yes, we’re thinking about how to set up charging stations. On the one had, we’ve heard from other schools that plugs in the floor aren’t necessary (MacBook Pro battery life is long enough), but on the other hand, that they all do have some clusters of outlets around the school in places where students tend to congregate. I really like that idea.

      I still love Clarence Fisher’s idea of classroom as studio, and would really like to see that kind of dynamic, flexible space. Hopefully we’ll have some leeway to try some more creative spaces like you describe.

  5. I too have rcently been thinking more about how I can improve the feel of my classroom and was further encouraged when our Head of Studies suggested we needed to personalise the classrooms a little more.
    As a Japanese teacher I try to use posters, artwork and anything I can get my hands on to make my classroom more Japanese but, as Jabiz, I would also like to put a sofa and other such items into my classroom. If, in the future, more students are using an iPod Touch / iPhone type device to help their learning, then the more sofas the better.
    I like the idea of a flexible learning space (despite not having much scope for flexibility in the present classroom) and some of the ideas Ewan McIntosh talks about here: A classroom with a ‘reading’ space (complete with sofa) and a ‘performing space’ would be wonderful, if it all fit in.
    Thanks for getting me thinking more about this.
    Andrew J
    Andrew Jeppesen´s last blog post ..Posterous iPod apps

    1. @Andrew,

      Thanks so much for the link to Ewan’s work, I’ve shared it with the rest of the team too. It feels a bit like the possibilities are limitless (only hampered by budget, of course). I think our biggest challenge, unfortunately, will be space, though… It will be interesting to see what our specific restrictions (budget-wise) we end up with and therefore what we can do to make a more historic building a modern learning environment.

  6. Howdy,

    First of all met your head of school here at EARCOS. He just wanted to introduce himself and tell me he doesn’t need to come to my sessions because he’s got Kim and Stephen. :) Great guy and he did come to the Blogs as E-Portfolio session so hopefully if will help you out.

    A couple things on this topic:

    I’ve been thinking about this as well after talking to Ewan McIntosh in Bahrain. You might find this video interesting:

    I think the key to the future classroom is everything mobile. I think I’d start by buying those chair/desk things they had at Concordia for Learning 2.010. Those chairs could change a classroom by themselves.

    I would also spend a lot of time at Starbucks (or is that a Tea House in Japan) and just watch how people use space. After watching Ewan’s video above I now look to see how spaces are used framed in these 7 spaces of learning.

    FYI…sitting here by myself as nobody on Twitter at the conference to get together with. Missing my geeky friend. :)
    Jeff Utecht´s last blog post ..SIM Unlocked iPhone OS41 now work on AT&T new GoPhone data plan

    1. Thanks Jeff! The video you link to here supports the article that Andrew recommended above – the perfect compliment to share with the rest of the team and our admin. I do love those chairs from Concordia!

      I think the problem, unfortunately, is bigger than just space and furniture though and I’m not sure how to move beyond just changing the physical classroom to rethinking the school learning environment as a whole. For example, I’ve been thinking about the timetable lately – our sixth graders have 13 different classes, blocks are 45 minutes long. There’s no way that schedule supports learning – or that changing the furniture in a few of the classrooms is going to transform the learning environment within that restricted structure.

      As usual, I’m ready to change the world. Probably should just buy those chairs and see where it takes us :)

  7. Hi Kim,
    Really interested in your ipads programme and your 1:1. What’s your school’s reasoning for not introducing ipads all the way through the school?

    I think that a classroom of today that is ready for the future needs to have opportunities for variety. Space for individual thought and collaborative work – both in person and virtually. Good reliable wireless connection with power points (in the floor) for charging electronic devices. Year group pods even in Secondary school is an idea that I am interested in – not sure exactly how that would work in practice, some kind of shared common area for the year groups with sofas etc and the classrooms built around that and the library/learning centre going up through the floors of the school at the centre of it all! Can you tell I’m a TL?


    1. @Sarah,

      At the time that they started the pilot (I was working somewhere else) several grade level teachers trialed the iPads and basically said that they couldn’t use it because they must have Flash. Unfortunately, it’s obvious that (at that time) the teachers were viewing the iPad as a way to replace what they’re currently doing, rather than thinking innovatively about how they could use them. But, now that we have at least one set, I think we can show that a lack of Flash is not a deal-breaker, so things may change over time.

      I love the idea of a shared common area by grade level – especially something like that for grade 6 (11-12 year olds) when they make the switch from primary to secondary school. I think those kinds of spaces help build community and collaboration among both teachers and students. Thanks for your very wise TL advice!

  8. I like your idea of planning for the classrooms of the future since, in education, we always seem to be be catching up. With technology in particular. No sooner has a school invested a whole heap of money into “laptops” or “smartboards” or whatever before a new and more improved technology has arrived to tempt them.
    Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future needs but what I would say is “keep it simple”. Don’t try to add too much “flash gear”. I’ve seen Smartboards all over the world simply collecting dust because the teachers either feel unqualified, inexperienced or too time-constrained to use them effectively.
    Mobility will be key I think and I like your idea of having classroom walls which can be opened up. If you come from the angle of collaboration and social constructivist learning you won’t go far wrong.
    As an ex-YIS and Grade 1 teacher, I can’t tell you how jealous I am of the iPads in your younger classes!!!

  9. I work for a cyber school and we are always looking for ways to be more cutting edge and adept with new technology to maximize the impact of learning on our students. We are currently looking to undergo some changes and hopefully transition into using iPad’s school wide for our 10,000 students. We are looking into different ways to utilize iPad applications for our students to enrich learning and supplement the current curriculum. I think with any school whether it be a brick and mortar school or cyber school, the challenge of year to come is to be able to smoothly and skillfully transition into 21st century classrooms to better prepare students for the future. I think it’s incredible that your school is so open to exploring new technology and piloting different programs. I think every school should be open to new ideas and not be afraid of the changing ways in education. Unfortunately, not every school has the proper funds to investigate new curriculum or technology. I see this as a tremendous disadvantage to not only the school, but the students within the school because they are being deprived from learning skills that will prepare them for the future. My favorite video to share with others is the original “Did You Know?” video by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Bronman. Here is a link to a YouTube video posting: . The information just blows me away and this was created about four years ago! One of my favorite lines from the video is, “The top 10 jobs in 2010, did not exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems that we don’t know are problems yet.” This is why we need to have schools transition into 21st century learning in order to prepare students to be successful in the future. What type of activities do the kindergarteners do on the iPad’s and how does your staff utilize the iPhones for education? I am very interested to know how they are utilized within your school.

  10. I’ve been thinking about his a lot too, that’s why I went to Shanghai and signed up for Jeff Utecht’s online cohort.

    Stumbled across this,, trying to watch Dan Meyer Classroom 2.0 – trouble with larger files online today, but I won’t give up. He’s a hero of mine.

    The link is an interesting Youtube channel, it queues the videos. It seems every time I look for something, I find ten other great ideas or things. That has to be an important part of our classrooms of the future. And it said Google Sky. Google Sky?? I must check that out. What doesn’t Google do?

    As well as all of this #edtech we love so much, there is also the architecture of a school. Victorian schools, in Australia, have spent $$ making learning environments better
    This festival of design was on when I was home over the summer/winter (#swinter?)

    hope you enjoy these. I haven’t taken kids outside with their tablets this year, but I should. The weather in Ha Noi is perfect.

  11. Dear Kim,

    I really like your article of 31st October about the classroom of the future!! I stumbled upon it just by accident. Would you mind if I linked to it? I really like Sugata Mitra’s speech. It’s great. I’d like to share it with other people on my blog.

    Take care

    Astrid v. der Osten´s last blog post ..kangaroo and frog 03

  12. Interesting observation of how similar to today’s classrooms that list is. I think the form needs to support the function. So, you really need to backwards design the classroom based on how you think assessment and learning will function in the future. It is also an age/grade appropriate question. And, will there be bells and timetables and grades and subject silos… with that in hand, interesting learning spaces both physical and digital could be reimagined.

    I’ve written few posts about this topic that you might enjoy:
    Brian Kuhn´s last blog post ..Students need Technology and Teachers

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