Please join in this collaborative effort to create a new paradigm for 21st Century Schools and the classroom of the future. Click the "edit" links to add your ideas or edit what is here. This is a wiki -- this means you are intended to be involved with editing the content of this page! Don't worry, you won't break anything... edits can be reverted, deletions can be retrieved. C'mon, give it a try; leave some thoughts here!     :)     [yes, this means you]

For a more targeted planning page, see: 21st Century Skills Course Syllabus


For some background on this topic, please see this prescient 2002 School Design for 21st-Century Schools article] by NAIS President Patrick Bassett, and read his thoughts on 21st Century Schools, and some comments. Also see: NAIS Classroom of the Future


  • Experiential and project-based learning
  • Differentiated Instruction (mass customization, individualized instruction)
  • Individualized curricula, including group and independent study, hands-on exploration, travel, correspondence, experiment, and major projects, limited only by imaginations and ambition.
  • Authentic audience for student work: student work widely shared through electronic means among the school community and with other schools and online (e.g. Wordventures, FanFiction)
  • Student choice: choice in curricular offerings, choice in projects & assessments.
  • Collaboration
  • Earlier specialization based on interests
  • Depth versus breadth to be encouraged

Leadership & GovernanceEdit

  • There is much importance of collaborative, flattened decision-making approaches, but visionary leadership is a critical component of change. Ewan McIntosh's post, Four factors for leading change at the leading edge, on this topic is informative.
  • Community-centric: participatory democracy of the School Meeting which manages the school community's issues.
  • Student-involved judicial process


Excerpted from NCT Roots, Winter '08, Letter from the Head

  • All students will be well-known, understood, and appreciated (requires robust staffing ration)
  • Students encouraged to have real passions
  • Students compelled to move outside their comfort zone & supported in doing so. Growth and development are about change, and change is never easy.
  • Students are coached for cognitive, artistic, physical, emotional, & ethical development.

Excerpted from: Time Article

  • Knowing more about the world. Kids are global citizens now, even in small-town America, and they must learn to act that way.
  • Thinking outside the box. Jobs in the new economy--the ones that won't get outsourced or automated--"put an enormous premium on creative and innovative skills, seeing patterns where other people see only chaos. Kids also must learn to think across disciplines.
  • Becoming smarter about new sources of information. With overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what's coming at them and distinguish between what's reliable and what isn't. "It's important that students know how to manage it, interpret it, validate it, and how to act on it."
  • Developing good people skills. Emotional intelligence "EQ" is as important as IQ for success in today's workplace. "Most innovations today involve large teams of people."

Mission StatementEdit

Prepare students for the "conceptual age" with the empowered self-discipline of problem-solving, creativity, extreme info/media literacy, inter and intra-personal knowledge, and the desire to improve this world. To be free to explore without the constraints that smother interest and breed mediocrity.[1]

Emotional/motivational issuesEdit

Responsibility: To learn responsibility through self-reliance.


We recognize that diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, and beliefs makes us stronger.


Caring for each other, for the environment, and for our institutions.

Professional DevelopmentEdit

See: New Approaches to Professional Development

Subjects & CoursesEdit

This brainstorming tries to identify what subjects should be taught and what they would encompass in scope & sequence. Please add your thoughts!! Just click "edit." Which courses would be required? Which would be elective? It would be important to create connections and engage in project based learning that ties these subjects together. Innovative scheduling would be a big piece of this.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking
    • study skills & the research process
    • reading for fun
    • media literacy
    • creative writing
    • public speaking & presentation
    • literature (elective)
  • Math
    • math in the real world
      • basic operations
      • understanding statistics
    • algebra (elective)
    • geometry (elective)
    • calculus (elective)
  • Science
    • earth science and environmental health
    • sustainability (combines geography, science, math, social studies topics)
    • biology and human health; bio-mechanics
    • physics (elective)
    • chemistry (elective)
  • World Language
    • language of your choice focusing on real-world spoken proficiency
    • reading and writing proficiency (elective)
  • Arts & Creativity
    • music, drama, & storytelling
    • intro to drawing, painting, sculpture
    • multimedia production
    • digital photography & editing (elective)
    • art history and critiquing
    • architecture and elements of design
  • Economics:
    • micro & macro economic theory
    • bank accounts, saving & investing, borrowing, budgeting, & home buying
  • History
    • history of the world
    • history of our country
    • 20th century history
    • citizenship & participation in a democracy
  • Philosophy
    • logic & "what we know and how we know it" - theory of knowledge class
    • world religions
    • foundations of philosophy (elective)
  • Computers & Technology
    • basic necessary knowledge (Office, Internet, etc)
    • media production
    • programming (elective)
    • literacy (evaluating web-sites, plagiarism, etc.)
  • Entrepreneurship
    • skills, importance (career path, job creation, global contributions)
    • Entrepreneurship (elective) and k-12 curriculum inclusion
    • Human Resources
  • College & Career Prep
    • choosing a college & the applications process
    • how to do well at college
    • senior research project
    • test prep
  • Service Learning component
    • application of acquired knowledge from above curriculum to directly and positively impact specific community members (required!)


Thanks to Will Richardson for posting these on his blog, and to those who added to his list by commenting.

Students will be:

  • Networked–They’ll need an “outboard brain.”
  • More collaborative–They are going to need to work closely with people to co-create information.
  • More globally aware–Those collaborators may be anywhere in the world.
  • Less dependent on paper–Right now, we are still paper training our kids.
  • More active–In just about every sense of the word. Physically. Socially. Politically.
  • Fluent in creating and consuming hypertext–Basic reading and writing skills will not suffice, but students without them will struggle terribly.
  • More connected–To their communities, to their environments, to the world.
  • Editors of information–Something we should have been teaching them all along but is even more important now.
  • Self-directed learners
  • Be able to participate in virtual aspects of the following enterprises: commerce, learning, churches, etc.
  • Synthesizers of information and knowledge, no matter where they are. Kids will need to be able to retrieve information from several places and merge it into a relevant and succinct format.
  • “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction - how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.” ~Herbert Gerjouy as quoted by Alvin Toffle in “Future Shock, 1970, p. 414)
  • Become better at recognizing and framing problems: Our students need to learn to recognize problems in order to be problem-solvers. Outside the classroom problems seem to get out of hand before we recognize the impact and then we try to solve things.
  • Develop a sense of empathy for different people and different cultures. The best communicators I’ve seen are the ones who can relate to their audience.
  • Be willing, able, and confident enough to tinker.
  • Be design aware.
  • Be courageous enough to go (or even stay) outside the bricks and mortar school to acquire education.
  • Be futures-oriented
  • Exert more personal initiative, calculated risk-taking, and entrepreneurship to have what parents have today.

Thanks to Doug Johnson for compiling these.

From Daniel Pink's "Conceptual Skills" in A Whole New Mind... 1. Not just function, but also DESIGN 2. Not just argument, but also STORY. 3. Not just focus, but also SYMPHONY. 4. Not just logic, but also EMPATHY. 5. Not just seriousness, but also PLAY. 6. Not just accumulation, but also MEANING.

From Costa and Kallick's Habits of Mind:

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humor
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning

Authentic AssessmentEdit

How do we assess 21st century skills and competencies?

  • Portfolios
  • Narrative Reports
  • prove written and spoken proficiency in a second language
  • write a 4,000-word college-level research paper
  • complete a real-world service project
    • see above - that it would be part of curriculum as well as assessment
  • pass rigorous oral and written subject exams
  • The NCREL enGuage site has some good thoughts on assessment of meaningful technology use.
  • ETS iSkills (computer-based exam designed to measure information-and-communication-technology literacy)
  • Reflection & Accountability: To reflect on their growth to adulthood, while preparing the written arguments and public defense of their belief that they are ready to be responsible and productive adults. Proof of this, to the satisfaction of the school community of students, staff, and parents, is the requirement for graduation.

Trends to WatchEdit

  • Entirely web-based applications for productivity (office apps), student information system/data-warehouse, assessment, creativity and collaboration at a distance.
  • User-created content & emerging forms of publication; personal broadcasting of text, audio and video material
    • blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS
    • digital video and mashing
    • other Web2 tools
  • Social networking Learning in a network
  • Open-Source Software & Content
  • Mobile phones/devices for every person. The delivery of educational content and services to cell phones is just around the corner (improved network speeds, Flash Lite, and video).
  • Virtual reality and simulation activities
    • Second Life
    • VR Links
      • Augmented Reality and Enhanced Visualization - these technologies for bringing large data sets to life have the potential to change the way we wee the world by creating three-dimensional representations of abstract data.
  • Educational Games, Gaming, Video-Games for Learning
  • Simulation Activities
  • Video Conferencing
  • Social Computing: Replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual collaboration tools, working on a daily basis with colleagues a thousand miles away, or attending a conference held entirely online.
    • An interesting aspect of social computing is the development of shared taxonomies-folksonomies- that emerge organically from like-minded groups.
  • Context-Aware Environments and Devices: devices and rooms that respond to voice, motion, or other signals... an environment transparently responsive to its occupants.
  • Archiving of Instruction: MIT is putting all of its materials on-line, and many schools are now podcasting audio of lectures and webcasting video of lectures. If the process is easy enough for faculty to use, then we can address the policy issues if there are any. Having visited schools that do this already, students just love the convenience of getting access to lectures that they missed - for whatever reason or having the ability to go back and review a lecture. Couple that with our initiative to interface student mobile devices (PDAs, iPods, cell phones) with Topnet and Blackboard and you have a natural and seamless technology access to materials and services from wherever you or your students happen to be. [2]

Student VoicesEdit

Here are some excerpts from students who presented at NECC in 2001. (See this article at edutopia)

  • Learning spaces should be open and airy.
  • The curriculum should be comprehensive but student driven.
  • Activities should be hands on and related to real-world work.
  • An array of technology tools and access should be available at all times, from home and school.
  • Varied learning styles should be honored.
  • Emotional and intellectual support should be offered to students.

Information Technology FactorsEdit

  • Ubiquitous Computing
  • Ubiquitous Wireless Network
  • Projectors mounted in every classroom
  • Video conferencing equipment in various configurations (desktop, whole class, etc)
  • Interactive whiteboards or tablets for teachers
  • Large panel displays in common areas for announcements & broadcasts
  • Ergonomic Furniture
  • Online safety, ethics, appropriate use
  • Game-based learning (see Marc Prensky)

The School Library 2.0Edit

See Libraries in the Digital Era on this wiki.

Environmentally SustainableEdit

  • design emphasizes natural light, thermal cooling and heating
  • constructed out of sustainable materials
  • plants are integral part of construction
  • flexible multipurpose spaces (dining / lounge / library) (gym/auditorium)
  • modular-reconfigurable

Schedule IssuesEdit

Connections to the communityEdit

  • academic
  • business
  • government
  • use the close, supportive community of the school as a base from which to explore local, regional and global communities, through trips, personal contacts, and telecommunications.

Brain based research & child psychologyEdit

  • Mel Levine's work
  • Flow states (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
  • Multiple Intelligences (Howard Garder)
  • Retention of learned content increases with instructional approaches that use multimedia creation
  • Create a detailed data model of each student's cognitive state (would need to be very private)

Design LinksEdit

Other sites for envisioning schools of the futureEdit

Architecture, Furniture, and Design of Future SchoolsEdit

Articles & LinksEdit


David Warlick blogged: "I grew up believing that when I became an adult, the system would have adequately and appropriately prepared me for my adulthood and all of its responsibilities. I believed that there was a body of knowledge that would be taught to me, and after that moment, I would be ready to be an adult. I’m still waiting ;-). Waiting learners are not what we should be cultivating in our classroom. Waiting learners have no energy to drive the learning engine. Waiting learners are not fearless learners. I believe that the message that we need to be delivering is, 'We don’t know what you’re going to need to know in the future! We can not describe the jobs you will have or the opportunities you will enjoy! We do know that you must have the skills to teach yourself, and that you will need to understand and be a part of the place, people, and the time in which you live and from where you have come — and we will do everything that we can to help you do that.'"

Bob Irving responded: "You see, I think kids are mostly bored with school. That innate curiosity we all have as children gets squashed out of us, and by middle school, lots of students are just gaming the system. And by high school, the transformation is complete: from fearless learners to waiting learners. Kids have learned not to take initiative, not to question, not to follow their instincts. The way to success is to sit down, shut up, take notes, regurgitate them on the test (word for word, if possible), and slide on through. My inclination when faced with passivity is to immediately throw the responsibility for learning where it should be: on the students. Not in a mean way, but involve them, whether through debate, collaborative work, answering essential questions, some real-life learning…. And then to gracefully step off the stage.

From InnovativeLive: "Employers are expressing increasing dissatisfaction with the ability of college graduates to access, evaluate, and communicate information; to use technology effectively; and to work well with people across cultural lines. The underlying assumption of this presentation/discussion is that a change of instructional paradigms--from passive to active (authentic) learning strategies, such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, and inquiry-based learning--is needed to address this situation. The purpose of this seminar is to discuss an approach to modifying organizational culture so that professors will be more receptive to adopting active learning methods and using information technology tools to enhance these methods in their classes. A detailed description of the rationale and approach of this seminar may be found at (See ELME 2007 Conference description)."

Gardner Cambell writes about the dichotomy between "sandbox and theme park." Meaning that the educational process is either something that is exploratory, experimental, and self-directed, or it is something that happens to you. His post goes on to talk about the importance of mixing these two modes.

Laurie Bartels writes about the importance of more experiential field-based learning, more indvidualized learning, student participation, and the potential of asynchronicity for allowing students to participate in the "school" when their schedule permits.

Innovative SchoolsEdit

See: Innovative Schools

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