Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 20
Designing a New
As districts design
and remodel school
buildings, they are
working on a belief
of today and
igh school students in Irving, Texas, are using a mix
of digital tools to learn about sustainable energy in
their new “net zero” school building, which produces
as much energy as it consumes. In Woodbury, Minn.,
technology-rich classrooms are grouped into small
learning communities of nine classrooms each, with a learningresource center for each pod intended for collaborative work.
The Marysville Getchell High School campus outside Seattle, a
complex of four small high schools built in 2010, features flexible learning spaces that can accommodate small classes or big
groups and a mix of interactive learning technologies.
As school districts plan and design new buildings, a philosophical shift in how learning environments look is happening, fueled
largely by technological advancements and a belief that classrooms
should be more interactive and mirror the workplaces of today and
the future. That new look puts a high priority on small-group work,
use of mobile devices, and project-based digital learning.
Even though not all districts are constructing new buildings,
experts say many of the same principles can be applied to existing buildings.
Gaylaird Christopher, the president of Architecture for Education, a Pasadena, Calif.-based firm that works on school building
projects, says even though districts are working under tight budgets, many are trying to be ambitious and creative in changing
how schools are designed to meet the needs of a generation of stu-
dents who expect high-quality digital environments. More than
anything, schools need to get away from designs that encourage
putting students in desks in rows in isolated classrooms, he says.
Other school building experts echo Christopher.
“The current challenge is that we’re seeing and pushing schools
to move away from the kind of classic, spreadsheet layout, particularly when you get into the higher grades,” says David M.
Zaiser, a partner at kss Architects, who manages the company’s
Philadelpia office. “The classroom environment is supposed to be
‘A LIVING LABORATORY’
At Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, which opened in
August 2011 in the fast-growing Irving Independent School
District in Texas, the 950 students have firsthand experience
with technology-enhanced project-based learning.
The school is a net-zero building, meaning it produces as
much energy as it consumes, using a variety of geothermal
techniques to conserve energy, including rain-water collection,
gray-water harvesting, natural daylight in classrooms, and
geothermal heat pumps. It also employs solar technology and
wind turbines to produce energy.
The school is divided into four learning modules in different
wings of the building, each with a theme: geothermal, wind energy,
solar energy, and water conservation. Through interactive digital
displays in an informal museum-like setting, students learn about
how those techniques help conserve and produce energy.
The concepts are also incorporated into the curriculum, which
is now having
an impact on
hen students or their families enter
the newly opened usc Hybrid High
School in downtown Los Angeles,
founder David Dwyer wants them
to recognize immediately that it is not a typical
The space is divided into open learning studios
with a variety of different breakaway learning
spaces. The classrooms, which are separated
partially by walls but remain connected through
wide open doorways, are grouped into pairs—one
for math and science, and another for English/
language arts and social studies. Splashes of color
on the walls and comfortable chairs for lounging
reflect a collaborative, cafe-like learning space.
“We had to have a space that when kids walked
into it, there would be an immediate, ‘Wow. This
is different,’ ” says Dwyer, the president and chief
executive officer of Ednovate, a charter-management organization launched by the University of
Southern California’s Rossier School of Education
to educate students deemed at risk of dropping out.
“When kids and their families see this, they’re
already cued to expect something different,” he
says. “We think that’s really important.”
What’s more, the school, which opened in August
2012, is located in the World Trade Center Los Angeles, where students on their way to class regularly mix with professionals.
“Our kids have a chance to see a professional
space,” Dwyer says. “The space is communi-
>> MARCH 14, 2013
cating a different kind of possible future for
Blended learning—an approach that combines
online and face-to-face instruction and is growing
fast in K-12 schools—is now having an impact on
how new school buildings are designed and how
current ones are being redesigned.
For instance, in the flexible model that usc Hybrid High operates under, students do not need to
be separated into multiple classrooms based on
what subject they’re working on.
Since the instruction is coming from an online
curriculum, all students can occupy the same
space while working on different subjects in their
BREAKING THE MOLD
Usc Hybrid High School enrolls students at risk
of dropping out and engages them in a blended
environment of face-to-face and online learning
to help them graduate college- and career-ready.
The school was launched in August 2012 with
130 9th graders, and Dwyer expects to add 10 to
15 rising 10th graders as well as a new class of
150 9th graders next school year. In future years,
Dwyer hopes to continue adding 150-student
classes of 9th graders.
“If the space will support that number, eventually we’ll be a school of about 600 9th to 12th
graders,” he says.
Finding the right space for the school was
PAGE 22 >
the biggest challenge, Dwyer says. There were
many opportunities to take over older facilities
from the Los Angeles district, but Dwyer wanted
something different—a more open, flexible space
where students could collaborate.
In an urban environment like Los Angeles,
space is at a premium, says Dwyer, which made
it difficult to find a big enough facility. Space constraints forced school leaders to think creatively
about how to design the school.
So Dwyer teamed up with usc’s school of architecture to create the learning environment for usc
“In order to support the hands-on curriculum
and the computer curriculum, we have to have
very flexible spaces,” he says. “The selection of
furniture is very important, and being able to
change the format of the classroom at any moment is important.”
Instead of individual desks, the school uses
smaller tables in the paired classrooms so that they
can be easily combined into different configurations.
“We literally try to think about the space design as
one of the tools to support kids down that pathway
toward learning how to collaborate,” says Dwyer.
Having one big open space where students engage in online curriculum also improves security
in the building, Dwyer points out. “We can see our
kids and what’s going on and be very alert to anybody who’s in the building,” he says.
The school aims to operate on a year-round model,
with open hours at the school for 12 hours a day,
seven days a week. Currently, there is not enough
staffing to stay open so many hours, although the
school does open for a half-day on Saturdays, as well
as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Students at usc Hybrid High spend about 40 percent of their time working on project-based learning, and the other 60 percent working through
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Technology Counts - March 14, 2013
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013
Tackling a ‘Complicated’ Digital Task
Faster Internet Speeds Wanted
E-Rate Assistance Needed Beyond School Walls
1-to-1 Building Blocks
Districts See Value in Ensuring Home-School Connections
Designing Better PD Models
Ed-Tech Training Options
Designing a New Digital Look
Spaces for Blended Learning
K-12 Technology Usage
Data Development Drives Change
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 1
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 2
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Contents
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 4
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 5
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 6
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Tackling a ‘Complicated’ Digital Task
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Faster Internet Speeds Wanted
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 9
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - E-Rate Assistance Needed Beyond School Walls
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 11
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Districts See Value in Ensuring Home-School Connections
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 13
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 14
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 15
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Designing Better PD Models
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 17
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Ed-Tech Training Options
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 19
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Spaces for Blended Learning
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 21
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 22
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 23
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - K-12 Technology Usage
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 25
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Data Development Drives Change
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 27
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 28
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 29
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - 30
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Cover3
Technology Counts - March 14, 2013 - Cover4