2012 Annual Regional Conference

March 29-30, 2012
21st Century Pushing Forward: Lessons from Leading Edge Urban Learning Environments
Columbia University, Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive MC2301, New York, NY 10027

Over the last 15 years, educational discussions about learning environments have centered on ways to incorporate 21st Century Skills. We have imagined what 21st century learning might become or needs to be. We know now that 21st century learning shall engage and empower learners to develop critical thinking abilities and communications skills that are applied in differentiated ways and in cooperative groups. Even though these concepts are evocative and insightful, they are not new to educators. Teachers have long been involved in integrating 21st century concepts into the classroom. What is at stake, however, is a new way to "imagine learning environments for the next decade and beyond". Today educators are struggling to implement pedagogical ideals, while design professionals are balancing budget and space constraints. We see evidence that many designs are based in the past and are resistant to change while a few notable examples are creative and receptive to change.

The purpose of this conference is threefold: (1) analyze educational trends in urban environments that have been successfully implemented; (2) re-examine what technology means to teaching/learning and define an integrated approach supporting all users; and (3) share lessons learned from past projects to guide our thinking about the future.

To facilitate conference goals, there will be tours of learning centers in New York City with a special emphasis on innovative and unique ways to delivery educational services. Although the tours involve urban learning environments, they anticipate how the United States and the rest of the world will need to re-form and re-imagine learning spaces for PK-12, community colleges, and university levels. Many of these exciting venues occur within transformed spaces associated with former lofts, offices buildings, garages, apartment complexes, and renovated spaces in existing school buildings. There is a lot to learn and assimilate as we apply our leading edge thinking to all schools in urban, suburban, rural, and international settings.

As the 21st Century advances, we must explore and examine a variety of facility types including non-traditional schools, technology-rich places, magnet academies, and small learning communities. Not only shall building systems and information technologies be thoughtfully restructured, but most importantly spatial design and class size groupings shall be reinterpreted to promote learning opportunities for the next generation. Schools that "look beyond the 21st Century" must accommodate diversity and anticipate ways in which people will acquire knowledge, express their understanding, and distribute knowledge to others. The time to begin imagining learning environments for the next century is today. This is our challenge and our obligation; and for these reasons the Northeast Regional Conference will examine:

  • History of School Design and a critical analysis of successful solutions;
  • Communities of Practice / Advisories;
  • Research that explores how students are enabled, engaged and empowered to acquire knowledge;
  • Exemplary Architectural Precedents that showcase integrated technology and differentiated learning;
  • Examples of Project based learning and how it takes place within the Urban Setting;

Participants shall include Boards of Education, students, administrators, facility plant managers, educators, construction managers, and design professionals. Our interactive conference format is intended to inform and comment on how places are designed to be congruent with the needs of the learners. To begin the dialogue on where and how to best align education and spatial programs to context and to the culture of place, we must ask:

  • How can the physical environments assist the facilitator and his/her teaching style and how can it support the learner and his/her learning style?
  • How can pedagogy be enhanced by physical form to support learning environments for the next century?
  • How can we implement big changes in the delivery of educational services and can pedagogy be implemented in existing environments without a construction project?

Sincerely,
Jeanne Perantoni Jeanne Perantoni, AIA, LEED, AP, NE Regional Conference Co-chair
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