to Plan, Design and Re-Engineer
High-Performance, Technology-Supported Classrooms
for the 21st Century
Re-Engineering the Classroom is an Important Step
Toward Re-Engineering the School for the 21st Century
from Classroom Full of Computers to Computerized
Classrooms, Use Computer and Its Monitor as a Medium
for Education and Training in a Cooperative Learning
Multimedia "One Room High-Tech Schoolhouse"
which Makes Possible New Forms of Multi-Modal Distance
the Educational Technology to Empower Teachers with
"Consumer-Like" Tool Rather than Just
President, COMWEB Technology Group
Founder, Global Knowledge Exchange Program
155 Route 46, Wayne Interchange Plaza II
Wayne, New Jersey 07470 USA
Fax: (973) 890-9077
Videoconference: (973) 890-9664/5793
I. T H E S I S
Week" in its February 28, 1994 issue offered
an in depth analysis of the educational technology
revolution of the past 10 years. This cover article
revealed that, despite millions and millions of
dollars spent on new learning technology, schools
(for the most part) had not achieved real improvements
in teacher productivity or student achievement.
The article further explained that school spending
for learning technology had taken a similar course
to that of corporate spending on information technology
during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Initially,
Corporate America was puzzled why, despite huge
investments in computers and related office technologies,
the actual corporate performance - i.e. efficiency
and profitability -had not shown immediate and dramatic
improvement. But eventually, U.S. Corporations came
to understand that while there was nothing inherently
wrong with information technology itself, IT could
not be the total solution. It was not enough to
simply automate the old manual business processes
using computers. Rather Corporations must fundamentally
change the way they do business in order to take
advantage of technology. Re-Engineering the corporation
soon became mainstream practice in the United States.
institutions are just now beginning to go through
the same important learning curve. Experts in instructional
technology are realizing that simply buying into
the latest technology or installing high bandwidth
networks (fiber, etc.) or connecting to the Internet
is not the path to the 21st Century. These are only
tools. As practitioners we must fundamentally change
the way teaching and learning take place. And what
better place to begin that in the classroom itself?
Re-engineering the individual classroom into a multi-purpose,
multimedia networked learning environment is the
greatest step we can take toward re-engineering
the school as a whole for the 21st Century.
E S S O N S L E A R N E D
exactly has COMWEB Technology Group learned after
being involved in over 1500 classroom infrastructure
projects over the past 14 years? This includes work
in K-12, Higher Education, Corporations, Government
and Professional Training Centers around the world.
Re-engineering the "Mindset" of the teacher
and the administration is more important than the
technology itself because too often we use 21st
Century tools and still follow 18th Century methods.
The "integration" and "application"
of technology is far more important than the technology
What the administrators want for their teachers
is a complete "CAR" (Classroom), not mere
Rather than using the new educational tools to continue
doing things the old way, we must fundamentally
change the way we teach and learn in the classroom.
What we are moving toward is a continually updated,
just-in-time, and true lifelong learning environment.
Educational Technology need not be "complicated"
and "expensive." Teachers and School Administrators
must learn how to manage their technologists (and
the technologies) rather than being managed by them.
Teacher In Service Training and Professional Development
in the area of Educational Technology is the single
most critical element for Educational Reform. Do
not build a "21st Century Car" (Classroom)
without also providing a training program for the
driver (Teacher) and traffic rules (License) to
Do not re-invent the wheel (21st Century Classroom)
or try to be the proprietary designer and engineer
of the modern school building. Teachers and administrators
should focus on defining the functional requirements
for the classroom rather than specifying the details
of the technology components.
III. 21st Century Classroom
on the over 1,500 technology-based classroom and
corporate training facility projects in which we
have participated, we conclude that 80% or more
of the functionality for which educators are looking
is fundamentally similar by nature. Rather than
focus on the technology components, the teacher
should be focused on the functional requirements.
We conclude that the following are among perhaps
the most important capabilities:
Capturing the "Process Knowledge"
Software- & Curriculum- Independent
Communication within Classrooms
Accommodates Various Teaching Methods
Highly Interactive Cooperative Environment
Faculty Development Program
Distance Learning Capable
Global Knowledge Exchange Program
* Multi Purpose:
In order to maximize the return on investment, the
classroom should be designed to support the teaching
of any subject ranging from ESL, Math, Science,
Law, Engineering, Management, and Medicine to CAD.
The classroom should also be designed to be accessible
to both highly computer -literate users as well
as relative beginners.
* Multi Functional
There should be no such thing as a "computer
classroom" but rather "a classroom with
Rather than design a classroom for a single function,
the infrastructure should be designed to support
a variety of needs such as:
and Presentation Room
Web-based Learning Center
& Student Portfolio Production Room
* Software- and Curriculum-Independent
In the life-long learning environment of the 21st
Century, educational needs will be constantly changing.
Therefore, the classroom should be designed to accent
any computer hardware, computer operating system
or application software and it should be easily
adapted to any curriculum program.
* Highly Interactive Cooperative Learning
The classroom design must provide real time 3-way
both local and remote sites
In addition, the design should provide for synchronous
interaction as well as asynchronous interactions.
* Multi-Modal Distance Learning Instruction
There should be no such thing as a "Distance
Learning Classroom," but rather a "Classroom
which can Support Distance Learning." It should
be used for both site-to-site and site-to-multisite
Distance Learning Programs. Applications include
software training as just one option. There are
MANY good reasons to use a computer-supported, multimedia-based
distance learning classroom. Under one scenario
teaching and learning still begin and end in a real
classroom with a group of real students and teachers,
not the "virtual classroom" of the hype.
The classroom should be designed to support every
type of "multi-media communication"--
both "short-distance learning" (in which
teacher and student are in the same room) and "
Long-distance learning" (in which teacher and
student can be separated by hundreds or thousands
of miles). Two or more classrooms anywhere in the
world can be easily and inexpensively linked and
function as a single high performance and
highly interactive learning environment. An instructor
in either room or a team of teachers can communicate
face-to-face and screen-to-screen with students
at the remote site in an approach to education,
which we call "classroom-to-classroom communications."
The synchronous (real-time) links are supplemented
by asynchronous links (Email, WWW, etc.). What we
are witnessing here is the birth of an inexpensive
hybrid digital-analog, synchronous-asynchronous
medium, which goes everywhere to connect groups
large and small.
* Open Architecture
The classroom must support any computer platform:
PC, Mac, Sun, etc. and work even without CPUs, just
monitors only. It can integrate with any data or
videoconferencing systems or any multimedia peripheral.
The design should provide a migration path for integrating
old equipment with any emerging or future technologies.
In a unique multi-layer configuration designed for
maximum flexibility, a modular, plug-together hardware
backbone interconnects all the various digital and
analog devices. This hybrid digital-analog instruction
delivery system is the central "structure"
which integrates ALL the other technology at the
point of instruction. Think of it as a "network-of-networks."
Additional digital or analog devices, like simple
building blocks, can be introduced on the fly as
the lessons dictate.
* Knowledge Automation - Capturing the Process
19th Century education was among the most labor-intensive
industries. The 21st Century classroom, similar
to the automated office, should facilitate knowledge
automation and should record both teacher presentations
as well as student work which can later be re-used
when developing case studies, curricula or student
portfolios. The classroom will be the source of
new knowledge creation. We should systematically
look at how knowledge is created, assembled, presented,
published, preserved, synthesized and distributed.
The "economics" of "Knowledge"
and its productivity will be of great importance
in the 21st Century learning environment.
* Communication within Classrooms
While many schools are pursuing distance learning
applications which connect individual classrooms
to other locations, we should be aware that most
current classroom designs always put teachers and
students at a distance, even though only 10-20 feet
may separate teacher and students or student and
student. Too often people concentrate on connecting
from one classroom to other classrooms. We must
also fundamentally change the way we communicate
within the classroom.
* Multi-Modal Communication
Just as the most up-to-date transportation networks
today are multimodal in nature, exploiting a combination
of airplanes, ships, trains and trucks, the 21st
Century classroom represents a multimodal approach
to educational communications. A hardware backbone
within the classroom acts as the localized information
delivery system, a feeder and distribution-switching
device for whatever other communication links happen
to be in use. The connections between classrooms
can be digital or analog, wired or wireless (e.g.
ISDN, Fiber, ATM, etc.) including even ordinary
telephone lines. The choice of medium depends simply
on where you are connecting and what
you are teaching today. You can have more than one
connection running at the same time or change the
connections during the course of a class. The "best
in practice" of current distance learning programs
often require creative packaging of different communication
* Faculty Development Program MUST be Included
Before driving a car, every driver must go through
practical training and an exam in order to get a
driver's license. Each teacher and/or trainer must
likewise go through a professional development program.
Some specific technology training programs are as
Technology Seminar Series
Technology Degree Program
* The 21st Century Classroom - KnowledgeWEB
Based on these functional requirements, the following
diagram illustrates how to design the best possible
classroom. Please note that the standardization
of the functions is what we are after, not the arrangement
of the furniture or the aesthetics of the classroom.
need to simplify the Education Technology tool to
"empower" the teacher with "consumer-like"
tool rather than just adding technology. In other
words, what the teacher needs is a fully functional
car (classroom) rather than just a room full of
auto parts. Computers, Internet, Network, TV, and
furniture, are just auto parts. Teachers are the
drivers; they do not need to know how to build the
car. They just need to learn how to drive it. Today,
almost everyone knows how to use a VCR's, cameras,
calculators, without having to learn the technology.
We should focus on the classroom as a product (system)
and its functionality rahter than focus on each
need to shift the design concept of a classroom
ful1 of computers, to computerized classrooms. Use
the computer and its monitor as a medium for Education
and Training in a cooperative Learning Environment.
* Global Knowledge Exchange (GKE) Program
Perhaps the best way to think about the 21st Century
Classroom is not simply as an intersection of outside
networks with local resources, but rather as the
intersection of people and institutions and ideas.
The 21st Century Classroom is a place to tap into
the global brain. And it's all so simple. In the
hands of a creative instructor, this room almost
appears to operate in 3 and 4 dimensions. A student
at one end of the room end can view the screen of
a student sitting at the opposite end of the room.
An interesting and dynamic mix of group with individual
hands-on activities becomes possible. The 21st Century
Classroom will become the focus for innovative thinking
about how best to apply technology to enhance student
achievement and at the same time facilitate the
Knowledge Exchange Program.
the Classroom is an Important Step Toward Re-Engineering
As we are about to enter the 21st Century, the substantive
issues will begin to surface. What is the "Accountable
School" in the 21st Century? The real challenge
ahead will not be the technology itself. It's what
we use it for. To date, no country has created the
educational system which the knowledge society demands.
We need to work together to develop new specifications
for the school. The technology will still be significant,
but primarily because it should oblige us to do
new things rather than because it will enable us
to do old things better. The diagram below illustrates
a conceptual infrastructure for a KnowledgeWEB school.
V. S U M M A R Y
functional requirements is the first step toward
re-engineering the classroom
the classroom is an important step toward re-engineering
must promulgate a global vision for resource sharing
and Global Knowledge Exchange.
institutions around the world must move away from
competition to co-opetition.
must shift the focus from building islands of National
Information Infrastructure (NII) to a true Global
Information Infrastructure (GII).