On on your laptop, search the Web for "new technology and learning," and get ready to be impressed. You will experience unlimited examples of new approaches to learning with the greatest tools on earth. But with the rushing in of new technologies, facilities must be more flexible and adaptable to a variety of learning approaches. It is a new era of school facilities design.

Architects, planners and manufacturers are envisioning their versions of the classroom of the future, but will it even be a "classroom?" In reality, the main responsibility of the experts may be to make sure school facilities support the accelerating advancement of technology in education. The reality is that new technologies are installed in traditional classrooms every day; four walls and a door do not limit students’ opportunities to learn through technology’s educational portal to the world.

New designs

As personalized learning plans emerge with technology, new designs make learning possible anywhere at any time. For example:

•Functions of the media center are expanding to circulation areas where students congregate; they are called learning resource centers (LRCs) or virtual LRCs.

•Classrooms adjacent to teaming areas are furnished with electronic high-top tables for laptop access, and couches and chairs nearby for those who learn better on a softer surface.

•Staff planning emphasizes teacher-learner access and exchange, breaking the mold of the traditional instructor-student structure.

New technologies

The change from print to Web-based materials is creating an environment that focuses on student-centered technologies. To achieve this, education institutions should provide:

•A variety of devices for students and teachers to gain access to information: personal computers, slim-client computers, handheld computers, PC tablets, and personal digital assistants.

•Web-based applications in language arts, math, social studies and science that enable students to accelerate and enrich their learning.

•Integrated curriculum-management systems, including mapping, lesson/unit planning and assessment-building to enable individualized instruction and an ongoing process of standards-based instructional improvement.

•Specialized programs in areas such as robotics, graphic arts, special education, theater and computer technology that provide an edge in college and the workplace.

•Educational portals with 24/7 resources for teaching, learning and assessment.

•Integrated professional-development systems and teams that support curriculum, assessment, instructional design, data management and technology integration.

•Technologies and applications, from video materials to analysis tools, that enable students to acquire skills for higher education and work.