The recent financial injection into the education system has focused on the infrastructure of the school environment, including the development of many new school buildings. The design development in the current education system is considered as part of an integrated approach within the whole community.
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has issued a document which illustrates its vision for education. Its new approach to capital investment for school buildings is intended to deliver higher standards of education while transforming learning and working environments in schools; thus modernising the school environment and making it more conducive to learning for both teachers and pupils. The document defines four factors designers and developers of new buildings must adhere to. These are:
? driving reform of the secondary system and improvements in educational standards;
? ensuring schools are good places for teachers to teach and pupils to learn, supported by ICT;
? ensuring schools are used by the community; and - ensuring schools are well designed, built on time and at a reasonable cost, and are properly maintained over their lives.
The education space is not only considered as four walls in which lessons are conducted. It must invoke learning, and so provide the ability to use learning methodologies to ensure there is stimulus for all the senses. In this way, it is argued, the maximum number of students should be able to digest a maximum amount of information. There is a paradox here. Has the changing nature of learning influenced the current need for modernisation, or is it that our progressive technologies have forced changes in education?
The high expectations of young people, and the many demands being placed upon them, are subject to change. The structure of the learning environment and the technologies available will be integral to teaching and learning. ICT will not be a bolt-on, but will instead facilitate community-tailored education to fulfil the needs and aspirations of individual pupils.
The tables overleaf highlight the ways in which technology is used in schools, and the positive or negative impact that their implementation can have on the school environment.
It is essential to get this right, as schools represent the hopes and aspirations of every community. Many more schools are doing a better job of using technology to create a healthy environment for the next generation. But too often they are hampered by buildings that are, at best, inappropriate for new learning styles and, at worst, a real barrier to effective teaching.
This is why an understanding of new technology is essential in the design of today and tomorrow.
See overleaf for tables detailing ICT teaching aids and their design requirements.
This series of articles and online briefings, prepared by Gardiner & Theobald, covers various aspects of designing for ICT. To see more, and in particular our new briefing on data storage, visit www. ajplus. co. uk
THE APPLICATION OF ICT IN THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT TEACHING AIDS WHITEBOARDS What do they involve?
Touch-sensitive projection screens that allow the teacher to display and control a computer by touching the board (or using a keyboard or mouse). This technology requires a computer, a projector, speakers and the whiteboard. The computer is often connected to the internet or delivers preconfigured classes to the students.
? greater interaction of pictures, moving images, text, speeches, music and other multimedia;
fast access to material; and lectures developed by others can easily be shared over the internet/network.
poor classroom ergonomics may produce health-andsafety issues. They may exclude students with poor vision or hearing; and there may be poor proficiency in ICT because introducing the technology too fast may result in the whiteboard only being used as a projector and there may be difficulties in accessing teaching material.
PERSONAL COMPUTERS What do they involve?
Students have access to personal computers during the lesson (or other study period).
greater access to information; and computers may help disadvantaged students, for example those with dyslexia.
ergonomics is a very serious issue. An office may spend £100-400 per chair or desk. Can schools afford such a budget?
DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR HOUSING NEW TECHNOLOGY Design considerations include:
mitigating screen glare by the control of internal, external, natural and artificial lighting;
implementing classroom acoustics, including speaker positioning for interactive whiteboards and PC; and use of wireless networking (see previous article [AJ 27.04.06]) Classroom ergonomics require:
appropriate lines of sight from student to teacher, to other students, to computers and to whiteboards;
desks that cater for learning both with and without a PC and whiteboard;
chairs that protect students against bad posture and repetitive strain; and knowledge systems that reflect the high number of computer workstations; for instance, a library may focus on quiet study and computer-access areas rather than bookshelves.
DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPLEMENTING SECURITY SYSTEMS Schools need a careful balance between providing 'environments that will inspire learning' and providing the safer environment demanded by the community and the Police Commission.
Considering the following design aspects can help balance the level of ICT needed, making it easier to harmonise the learning environment while maintaining the demand for safety:
minimal number of buildings;
minimal number of entrance/exits;
minimal lines of sight from secluded areas;
careful positioning of student gathering areas;
minimal distance between parking and school;
careful selection of rooms that are lockable;
ensure only authorised members can gain access;
ensure student lockers are robust and easily available;
strong communication to enhance security;
availability of lockable storage;
availability and prominence of security alarms and fire protection;
availability of exterior lighting;
warning signs for trespassers and searches;
adequate fencing and gating;
single and visible route to building entrances;
careful planning of landscape and tree lines; and alarm and physically secure equipment, e. g. lockable stands and housing.