What is the ‘industrial’ classroom?

The industrial classroom is based off of the industrial revolution. Before this, it was a time where education was a rarity in society. Only the rich could afford the luxury of education, and it was mostly available privately with a tutor.

Following this, a new style of education emerged. We commonly refer to it as the ‘industrial’ or ‘factory’ model of education as it was formed during the 19th century (during the industrial revolution) to accommodate for many learners. This style of teaching and learning was designed to educate the masses in a uniform manner. It helped with communicating ideologies of countries, basic skills and to also discipline to young students.

Although today we see it as an archaic system, I could see how it was necessary for the citizens of the time. They were taught explicitly about practical subjects, and were expected to work in a factory or industry following their schooling years. So, this system would have been somewhat helpful to the people at the time. Even then, data shows that on average, only 50% of the population attended school during the 19th century.

But here is the problem, this system was in place to benefit students of the 19th century… that is 200 years ago. It may have in some sense benefited students of that day, but as you can see, education grew more important. The government in all parts of the world recognised its importance and made it compulsory, and before long you had psychologists and intellectuals discovering new ways of teaching and learning.

We have more children being educated today then we have ever had in the past, and it is only now that institutions are beginning to realise that we might have to change our learning environments!

Why? Because the 19th century model doesn’t fit the 21st context anymore. The world is globally connected, and the internet has changed the way we live. The growth of technology has supercharged the way we process information and data, yet most of our schools use a system appropriate for a time for when they still used candles instead of light bulbs.

Let me tell you what the 21st century classroom looks like…

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a school with cutting edge technology and research to create a 21st century classroom. Each classroom is divided with 2-3 glass walls fitted with sliding doors. One at the front of the room (for people to look inside), and one of either side of the room that shows the class beside it (to see others learn). Each class also has 1-2 interactive whiteboards or wall mounted 60” screens for interactive learning (one of them is usually touchscreen) with wireless connection to these screens so teachers can duplicate their screens from their devices.

The rooms have a solid Wi-fi connection and a mixture of straight desks, and ‘v’ shaped desks that can join together to make group tables. Outside of the classroom is also a collaborative ‘breakout’ space where students can engage in group or individual work, and still be supervised as the glass walls allows the teacher to keep eyes on the students.

This may sound complicated, but the overall idea is collaboration. The technology is designed allow students to seamlessly connect to each other. The environment is crafted so that students have the opportunity to collaborate and accomplish tasks together. It also gives students the options to use a space that is different from the classroom to continue their work.

It’s a classroom that adequately prepares students (in my opinion) for a 21st century workplace. It the professional world today, when do co workers sit and listen to a lecture at the front of the room for almost 6 hours straight? Never. The workforce is more collaborative than it has ever been, and so should the classroom.

As teachers, parents and students, we need to make an effort to change the way our schools think about the classroom environment. It DOES affect the way we think and the way we learn. It certainly prepares us for the future of our students and children. Is it really so bad that we don’t always face the front? Is it so bad that we can work on our projects without listening to an hour long lecture? Let’s push for modern mode of learning so we can give our students the opportunity to succeed.  


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