Challenges…lay ahead! Designing a 21st Century Classroom.

Picture by Frankeleon licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

Picture by Frankeleon licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

During the past 6 weeks as part of the MAET course I have explored many teaching and learning ideas and how we integrate technology successfully into the classroom. The course has been both challenging and rewarding and it has allowed me to find practical direction for many issues that educators face in the 21st Century. In this final assignment I apply all this newly acquired information to design my ideal classroom.

As a primary school principal in the process of double streaming and embarking on a building program, classroom design is a very pertinent consideration for me. Current educational philosophy sees me moving away from an architect-type notion of, “let us deliver you a great building” to “let us work together to change the way we teach and learn in this place, with the building as one of its foundations” (McIntosh 2010). Being an educational leader and innovator places great responsibility on my shoulders to get the infrastructure right! I want to be in line with current educational philosophy and I want to be faithful to what I know to be important in the education process.

Friedman (2013) discusses Passion Quotient (PQ) and Curiosity Quotient (CQ) and how important they are in an individual’s ability to adapt in a rapidly progressing world. Without them, he argues that technology progresses – the pie gets bigger but we get a smaller slice. I agree with Friedman. If we are to adapt in this rapidly progressing world, “It will require more individual initiative …it will be vital to have more of the ‘right’ education … [and] skills that are complementary to technology”. (Friedman, 2013) I would sum up Friedman’s concept in an algorithm: CQ + PQ = Ability to Adapt. The ability to adapt is greater than IQ.

CQ is the thirst to ‘find out’, the ability to fathom that possibilities are endless. It is the ‘what if?’ factor.
PQ is the passion, the ‘fire in our belly’, giving us courage to follow our convictions.

We need both CQ and PQ if we are to adapt to the demands of the 21st Century, and we need to inspire them in our students. These qualities embolden us to ask questions, push boundaries and embrace technologies. Today’s students are ‘digital natives’ to whom digital technology is second nature. We owe them an education that leads them to becoming technology-rich, innovative, life-long learners. The design of a classroom reflects the technological, pedagogical and content (TPACK) (Mishra & Koehler, 2009) beliefs of the teacher. A classroom (or school) cannot be viewed as a great building, but as a place where our students become great learners.

Taylor (2009) quotes Barron’s idea that, “New ways of teaching demand different spaces. With new technologies comes the need for new and different skills – collaboration, integration of technology … and more project-based learning.” In the SketchUp Program task I developed a classroom that:

  • was open, flexible and adaptable;
  • included a range of areas suitable for collaborative learning, individual learning, small group work and support services;
  • had all possible appropriate existing technologies seamlessly incorporated to maximize their use;
  • was resource rich and environmentally sustainable;
  • provided spaces to allow good learning opportunities;
  • incorporated modern furniture, flexible/changeable for use in a variety of ways; and
  • maintained the capacity in the infrastructure to allow for emerging technologies.

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“Good design and good teaching complement each other” (Thomas, 2013), fostering cooperative and individualistic teaching and learning approaches. I incorporated Campfires (areas providing for whole group instruction and activities), Water holes (areas promoting small group activities) and Caves (areas promoting individual activities). Collectively, these foster independence and intra-dependence within the students. The design and arrangement of the furniture allows the teacher to move easily around the classroom, providing guidance and feedback to the students, both of which rate highly on Hattie’s (2014) Effectiveness Learning Scale. Desks can be used individually or grouped together as required, taller desks/benches were added catering for students who prefer standing. I aimed to create a physical environment that contained technology, furniture, materials and spaces that encourage curiosity, investigation and wonder.

As an administrator I am passionate about the implementation of technology in all classrooms. Like Buckner and Kim (2013) I agree that, “A key limitation to many ICT projects … is the lack of integration between pedagogy and technology. Simply placing technology hardware into classrooms is not a comprehensive solution to bridging the digital divide” (p.3). Mishra and Koehler’s (2009) TPACK Framework needs to be implemented into classrooms, aiming for the ‘sweet spot’, where technology, pedagogy and content combine seamlessly to create an optimal learning situation. In such an environment, learners are in touch with authentic situations to explore, observe, investigate, create and solve problems. Students will begin to take ownership and move towards self-directed learning, ultimately developing responsibility for their own learning. This is the foundation for the growth of CQ and PQ and is the basis for developing life-long learners.



Buckner, E. & Kim, P. (2013). Integrating Technology and Pedagogy for Inquiry Based Learning: The Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE). Retrieved from

Connor, D. (2013). Teaching and Technology: Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes. Retrieved from

Davis, A. W. & Kappler-Hewitt, K. (2013). Australia’s Campfires, Caves and Watering Holes.  Retrieved from

EXPLO. (2014). Thomas Friedman: On Passion and Curiosity for Future Success. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. L. (2013). It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as the I.Q. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2014). 138 Influences Related To Achievement – Hattie effect size list. Retrieved from

Hewes, B. (2010). 21st century learning space; cave; watering hole; campfire; dernsw; classroom; technology; education. Retrieved from

McIntosh, E. (2010). [ #cefpi #tep10 ] Clicks & Bricks: When digital, learning and physical space meet. Retrieved from

Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18 Retrieved from (2014). Classroom Furniture / Educational, School and Library Furniture. Manufacturers & suppliers of Educational/School and Library Furniture in Australia. Sebel Furniture. Retrieved from

Taylor, R. (2009). Learning space turns school design inside out> Swinburne Magazine. Retrieved from

Thomas, K. (2013). A classroom for the 21st century: where are the best places for learning? Retrieved 14 August 2015, from (2015). Retrieved from


The Bubble has Burst! My Information Diet

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“There always has been more human knowledge and experience than any one human could absorb. It’s not the total amount of information, but your information habit that is pushing you to whatever extreme you find uncomfortable.”
Clay Johnson

James Paul Gee in his book The Anti-Education Era, writes that “affinity spaces” are places of “synchronized intelligence” that combine “multiple tools, different types of people, and diverse skill sets” in a way that makes “the space itself a form of emergent intelligence. The sum is more than its parts; the collective is smarter than the smartest person in it” (Gee, 2013, p.174). I now see these affinity spaces as valuable sources of learning as well as a means of gaining expertise by interacting with the knowledge shared by others within the space. Whilst this is true and I can see the benefits of using affinity spaces as discussed by Gee (2013), as an administrator I must take off the ‘rose colored’ glasses and view all perceptions from aspects that both support and challenge my beliefs.

The first of the readings that both confronted and challenged some of my views on technology in education came from the blogs, Education Stormfront: Forecasting the coming storm in Education, and Both blogs discuss the fact that technology is moving too fast in schools and we are simply chasing technology for its own sake, instead of mastering its use in the classroom and applying it to achieve our desired goals? Westsyde principal, Sean Lamoureux, is quoted as saying, “I see the technology in the classroom as the wave of the future”. I can honestly say that I agree with Lamoureux (despite the fact that he was being quoted to show erroneous fundamental technology beliefs). I can, however, see the point made in the blogs that educators must be careful in their endeavors with digital technologies in the classroom. I found this thinking challenging because I too have focused on the technology rather than content and I can now see the need to ascertain why we implement certain aspects of technology. Gee (2013) discusses “freeze thought” (p.93), where we are sometimes afraid to take the next step, break down the barriers, move out of our comfort zone. The question we must ask ourselves is, who are we doing this for, ourselves or our students? I have always introduced technology for the students’ benefit, but after reading these blogs I question whether that is fully true or whether there is an element of chasing technology for my own and for the school’s gratification?

Eli Pariser’s TED talk (2011) discusses “filter bubbles” describing them as our own online personal universes. He goes on to discuss that it is important that we need a balanced information diet and if we don’t get this balanced diet then we are just surrounded by “information junkfood”. Just as in a dietary sense we cannot eat only what we ‘like’ we must also eat what is ‘good for us’, in a technology sense we cannot only engage with what is comfortable but must also be open to that which provides nourishment of thought for growth. After viewing Pariser’s TED talk (2011) and reading Gee’s (2013) chapter on Institutions and frozen thought, it struck me that Gee is correct and that, “We humans sometimes fear thinking – it might lead to results we don’t like – and, as we have seen, soothe ourselves with comfort stories” (p.93). It’s not that I fear thinking it is just that I like my comfort zone! But I cannot claim to hold an informed opinion if I only interact with those who agree with me.

While attending #Flipcon15 @flipcon15 at Michigan State University, I met and spoke with Jon Bergmann @jonbergmann, one of the founders of the flipped classroom and was truly inspired with this idea and the potential benefits for students. Although I believe in theory that flipping a classroom would have many benefits, I must take into consideration all the pros and cons of flipping a classroom before I introduce it into my school. While searching the internet I stumbled across a blog called, The Flip: End of a Love Affair posted by Shelly Wright @plpnetwork. Initially a strong advocate for flipped classrooms she has changed her opinion stating, “It simply didn’t produce the transformative learning experience I knew I wanted for my students”. Within this blog, Shelly provides valid reasons as to why she removed flipped lessons from her class. With my bubble now well and truly burst, this post made me stop and reconsider whether flipped classrooms would really benefit the staff and students at our school. Maybe a question for a ‘wicked problem’? Either way, the process of discernment is a good challenge for the introduction of any technology into a school.

In reading the blog talentlms @TalentLMS, I find myself having to critically re-evaluate my thinking on the use of digital media and elearning. I understand the theory and research behind elearning, but need to ask myself if this is the best way for me, or my staff, or my students to learn. Turrof (1995) puts forward the idea that, “Once we free ourselves from the mental limits of viewing this technology as a weak sister to face-to face synchronous education, the potential to revolutionize education and learning become readily apparent” (p.211). I have always been an advocate for elearning and have encouraged my staff to participate in elearning as part of their professional development. Yong Zhao (2015) @YongZhaoOU in his blog, A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners discusses that, “Technology has advanced so much that it is a reality that one can learn anything, at anytime, with anyone, from anywhere”. The challenge that I face with the sheer volume of elearning is: Does it really work? Do our students learn better with constructivist learning (elearning) versus the traditional classroom?

In education, especially as an administrator who provides direction in education, we are constantly bombarded with the latest and greatest digital media available and what needs to be done to dramatically improve a school’s academic results. I can appreciate that to ensure the health of my infodiet, it is important to ‘burst the bubble’ and view all the aspects of given issues, not only those that sit comfortably with me. Gee (2013) states, Collective intelligence…allow people to be creative even when working on problems…do not always have clear-cut or rigorously testable answers” (p.179). This also applies to the infodiet. We have to be creative and open to alternative viewpoints in order to make fully informed decisions about educational direction and goals.


Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jenkins, H. (2011, August 4). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from

Turoff, M. (1995). Designing a Virtual Classroom. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2), 245-262. Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved August 1, 2015 from (p.211)

Pariser, E. (2011, March). Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Zhao, Y. (2015, April 6). A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners[1]. Retrieved from

Technology in the Classroom Is NOT the End Goal | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Does Technology Move Too Fast for Schools? | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Johnson, C.A. (2011). The Information Diet. Retrieved from

Education is not learning the facts. It’s the training of the mind to think.

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow." - John Dewey. Brian Metcalf is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow.” – John Dewey. Brian Metcalf is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Today’s students are completely different from those of five to ten years ago and everyone learns differently.

As educators, in looking at the class of students in front of us, we must take into consideration that one size does not fit all, especially today for our 21st Century students. The ultimate goal of education in schools today is to help the students learn. So we must take into consideration the different and varied learning styles of each and every student within our classrooms. Teaching and learning has changed and we as an education system must also change and adapt to meet the ever increasing needs of our students. As John Dewey states “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” (Goodreads).

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