SmartLabs: Designing 21st Century Learning Spaces in District 6

As the needs of each generation of learners change, their learning environments must also change.

Imagine a traditional, teacher-centered learning space. The desks are arranged neatly in rows, facing the whiteboard, while the teacher lectures at the front of the room. Students pass notes, doze, and doodle while only partially engaging in the lesson - if at all. The teacher is responsible for managing and organizing all the materials, retrieving the appropriate materials for each activity, and maintaining the overall function of the classroom.

Now imagine a 21st century, student-centered classroom. Flexible seating allows students to freely move and engage with various groups around the room. All materials are stored in clear containers no taller than the students, allowing them to be responsible for the organization and management of materials. Computer stations allow students to work independently, in pairs, or in groups of up to six. The students are in charge of their learning, no longer confined by the rigid structure of a traditional classroom. Welcome to a SmartLab.

The SmartLab is a student-centered learning space that allows students to engage in project-based learning as they utilize a variety of technologies, both physical and digital.

Designing a student-centered space that encourages collaboration allows students to develop initiative and problem-solving skills, which are essential to their success. Our students are training for jobs that haven't even been invented yet. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2018, the skills that will be in highest demand in 2022 include critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, leadership, and innovation. Collaborative learning and self-accountability are imperative in order for our students to develop skills that will allow them to be successful in the workforce.

SmartLabs allow students to take ownership of their learning. Our learners have grown up immersed in advanced technology from a very young age. We are doing a disservice to them by not incorporating that into their learning environments.

"Providing students with appropriate technology (and support with using it appropriately) is essential to engage learners and connect them with the resources that will transform their learning experiences." - Haley Huberty, M.Ed., Learning and Technology

Our students want to actively participate in their learning. Leveraging the technology they're accustomed to increases engagement, initiative, and innovation. SmartLabs allow students to engage in curriculum-based learning, meeting Colorado State Standards, while also developing soft skills needed for their future success.

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