Technology is changing educational facilities in ways that could not have been imagined a few years ago. When bricks and mortar are put in place, they are expected to remain in place — educational programs are modified to fit the “box.” With gaps of 20 years or more between capital-improvement projects, schools must develop ways to accommodate the fast pace of technological change and facilitate the use of the latest technology.

Teaching now embraces differing learning styles: independent student work, small-group sessions, larger group discussions, teacher-directed instruction and lectures. To accommodate those styles, schools must have the flexibility to reconfigure instructional spaces regularly. The spaces also must have data and power connections for laptop or desktop computers and possibly other personal electronic devices. Some specialized lab spaces can be customized with fixed equipment, but most educational spaces will require as much flexibility and adaptability as possible, including technology-free zones with comfortable seating for interaction and communication.

Be flexible

In an effort to attract students to their campuses, colleges and universities have created special flexible spaces and workstations. A visit to construction or renovation projects at most colleges or universities will reveal classrooms, labs, conference spaces and common areas with wired or wireless computer connections. More students are coming to class with laptop computers to research, communicate and take notes during class. This has resulted in a major change in what type of furniture is found in classroom spaces. Instead of tablet-arm chairs, more schools are incorporating tables and desks with power and data connections.

Many K-12 schools have been providing computers to all teachers, as well as installing data connections in the rear or side of a classroom and one or more dedicated computer labs in the building. Often, the computers are installed on built-in counters or on top of whatever table or desk is available. Placing these computers in classrooms has created crowded conditions in many areas.

A desktop computer shared by three elementary students at a time would need at least 33 square feet of space (6 feet by 5.5 feet). Twenty-five students with four computer stations will not fit in a conventional 750 square-foot classroom. For a classroom with five computer drops, the additional space would equate to at least 165 square feet, in addition to the space for conventional desks. Some schools have found this additional space for computers in the corridor.

More and more K-12 public schools are following colleges and universities and are creating increasingly sophisticated educational facilities, incorporating technology with spaces sized for specific uses and utilizing non-traditional classroom furniture and layouts.