Unpacking the Learning – Part 5

School Buildings

one room school


“Do we really need to go to a place called school?” Pg. 94 Learning Unleashed Re-imagining and Re-purposing Our Schools.

This one sentence, among others in my book, may cause some bewilderment within the schooling community. Parents and students themselves will have questions. Don’t we need school buildings? Where would students go to learn? Don’t we need facilities in which to feed, teach, test, and conduct various school activities? Shouldn’t there be a safe place where students and teachers can meet to learn?

From the home, to the one-room schoolhouse, to the most expansive and modern school buildings today, schooling has evolved to meet the perceived need of the times. Early on, parents taught their children at home – many still do. As communities grew, schoolhouses offered another option for families. With the industrial age factories came the industrial model of schooling. Over time, school buildings increased in size to handle hundreds and even thousands of students.


school bldgs new1

New and spacious buildings equipped with plenty of natural light, modern amenities, attached playgrounds, and various sports fields are quite enticing for a family interested in providing the best for their young ones. Often times, these new schools are options for those fortunate enough to live within certain zip codes across the country. Others have no options apart from aging school buildings with multiple structural and cosmetic obstacles. It all depends upon where one lives.

Communities that are able, continue to pour thousands of dollars into erecting the most modern and functional buildings in which to conduct school. Exorbitant amounts of funding are set aside in school district budgets to build these new schools along with the promise of new housing developments to help offset the costs. Parents flock to move into these districts if they can.

In the age of rapid technological discoveries and advancements, it is possible to imagine that school buildings as we know them now, may eventually become obsolete much as the one room school house did. We cling to this model in spite of the current technological and global signs pointing us in a different direction.  Parents may be the most difficult to convince simply because its the model in which they are most familiar.

However, let’s consider an idea that literally takes us out of the proverbial school house and into the world.

When we shift to the coach/facilitator model of teaching where parents and students seek and select “teachers” for their known expertise and success with students, we also open multiple venue options where they might meet as needed. This could  include local places of business, the library, community centers, community colleges, other appropriate partnership locations or the school building itself. Older students may also determine that in some cases online projects/research, apprenticeships, community service or study done at home are viable options.

When we think of learning as only happening in a place called school, we limit the the ways in which students can access information. At one time that made sense, it no longer does. Ideally, a drop-in learning community center where anyone who wants to learn something can go would address a multitude of needs. In addition, anyone who wants to offer classes can do so. Students would sign up to participate based on their interests or needs.

Simply put, learning can now happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone. This is the school of the future. One, or a few teachers per grade level at a local school with a fixed curriculum, will soon become an archaic educational option. No matter how hard they try, schools will not be able to sustain the industrial-aged model of learning much longer. Informational technology is ushering us into another time and another place in history.

We can drag our feet, kicking and screaming, or we can accept the inevitable and adapt our one-room schoolhouse roots to the new world in which we live.

This is a world where in the blink of an eye we can access almost anything we want to know, understand or learn. It is a world where information changes so rapidly that textbooks are outdated the minute they are printed. It’s a world where teacher preparation courses can’t possible keep up with the most current brain and learning research, scientific advancements or the newest innovations in technology, medicine or communication.  It’s a world where class rank, grades, and GPA are becoming meaningless indicators of an old school paradigm.

The world has changed. Our students have changed. Access to knowledge has changed. Our schools have not changed. They continue to apply well-meaning but band-aid approaches, while offering an ever-decreasing educational benefit.  These valiant efforts take their toll on an institution that can no longer be the main source of knowledge and learning. It’s an unsustainable expectation.

A new vision and reality awaits those who are willing to embrace it.

“Educational visionaries are few and far between, but when you find yourself looking into the eyes of a young person and seeing their incredible future, you have arrived.”  Evonne Rogers



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