Tech-Rich Doesn’t Equal Learner Centered

Jeff Dunn asks an interesting question on Edudemic about whether the following photo accurately depicts the future of the classroom.

This is a prime example of an activity I run when presenting on learning spaces.

  1. I show a picture of a traditional classroom with 30 desks in the standard grid. I then ask a. what does this learning environment say to students when they enter the room and b. is this the room we desire? The answers are clear – it isn’t what we want and it is very teacher centered.
  2. I then show another room with shiny gadgets, tables, and  a modern, high tech look – it looks quite similar to the above photo. I ask the same questions as number one and inevitably the answers are yes this is what we want and it is student centered.

But then we break that image down and find that both rooms are essentially the same with the exception of latter being tech-rich. And tech-rich doesn’t guarantee a learner centered environment especially if the technology is built upon learning theories that best support teacher-centered approaches.

So, here is what I see in the above photo:

  1. a clear front of the classroom where the students are clearly intended to direct their attention
  2. tables that are not agile nor flexible
  3. room designed based upon independent work, instruction focused, and teacher directed
  4. sterile, structured environment
  5. active lecture and assessment focused technology

In other words, the environment is design well for a teacher-centered learning environment. It surely could be a learner-centered but I don’t feel it is ideally setup that way. In fact, do the following and I don’t think you have much of a different room:

  • replace the really cool wall with an interactive white board
  • replace those slick tablets with response systems

To be fair, the video shows quite a bit more and shows a solid mix of instructional approaches (though I was shaking my head a lot at the beginning). However, I hold that this is the type of learning space designed with a more teacher-centered foundation which forces teachers to adapt to their pedagogical practices are grounded in learner-centered beliefs.


  1. I essentially agree, but I think it might be helpful if you also displayed a picture of what you’d like the classroom to look like (and maybe you have elsewhere).

    Also, while this may not be the best setup, it still would be better than what I have now.

    1. Tables are better than desks – automatically two students together and easily grouped into four (or more).
    2. Every student with a device that presumably works well.
    3. Windows! (no, not MS, but real, live, view of the outdoors).
    4. Really nice display at the front. I’m still thinking about this one, but I think there is still a time and place for the entire class to focus on one point (even if it is at the “front” of the classroom), and having a large screen that everyone can easily see (and presumably create on), would be nice.

  2. No doubt that this room is probably better than what many people have for a room. In particular, your notion of number 3. The lack of natural light for rooms is not good for anyone.

    My focus was on that I don’t think this is the ideal future classroom. Better? I’m sure. Ideal? Best? Not from my perspective.



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