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Most everyone seems to agree that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is the way of the future. STEM educated workers are in high demand and have a low unemployment rate. And college graduates with STEM degrees earn far more than their non-STEM peers.

'Science is a subject with a long history, so the curriculum is in some ways quite traditional,' Yuen says. 'So then if you want to use apps and other recent technology, then you need to change. When we think the federal government, we don't usually think 'easy to use' but the US EPA's educator resource center is an outlier. The website includes categorized offerings of an array of environmental and science-based lesson plans, activities and ideas below from EPA, other federal agencies and external organizations. Healthcare latest technology has undergone massive revolution. Genomics has changed the identification of disease and its treatments. Networked devices have made the world smaller and ensured that medical solutions reach people faster. #20 Winning the Hunger Games: Technology Provides Solutions for Food Scarcity.

Yet in many parts of the world, including much of the U.S., science education is deeply inadequate. Some of this is due to lack of resources—according to the Inter-American Development Bank, some 88 percent of Latin American schools don’t have science labs. Some is due to insufficient teacher training—nearly a third of American high school science teachers didn’t major in the subjects they teach and don’t have certifications.

Chilean Komal Dadlani was working on a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Chile when she became aware of the fact that many students in her native country lacked the equipment to properly study science. So she connected with two fellow students—Alvaro Peralta, who was finishing a master’s in information technology, and Isidro Lagos, who was studying biochemistry—and founded a company to do something about it. Their company, Lab4U, develops apps that turn smartphones and tablets into scientific tools. This way, any student with access to a phone has a way of conducting research in the physical world.

“As Latin Americans passionate about science, we knew the reality of science education in schools and universities in the region where resources are limited,” she says.

Fable is a modular construction system. Students can create their own robot in minutes.Students can assemble modules together in many different configurations. Build custom robot bodies, use the inbuilt sensors and program the robot’s movement. ‘Smartphone’ Potential Standard cellphones, of course, are dowdy relatives to smartphones, such as iPhones and Blackberries, that today get the bulk of popular attention and advertising.

The Lab4U apps take advantage of a smartphone’s built-in sensors. Their physics app uses the phone’s speedometer to study things like velocity, distance and displacement, and it turns the phones microphone into a sonometer to study waves, amplitude and time. Its accelerometer is used to measure gravity. Their soon-to-launch chemistry app turns the phone’s camera into a sensor so the phone can be used as a spectrophotometer or a colorimeter. This means students can measure a material’s reflection or transmission properties. A biology app, which uses a cheap laser lens to turn a phone into a microscope, is under development. Lab4U even applied for a patent for one of its innovations, a system for determining the concentration of solutes in a colored liquid, using the smartphone as a colorimeter.

The physics app has more than 20 pre-designed experiments that students can do with the phone’s tools. In one, students play different notes on a musical instrument, then use the app's sound tool to figure out the relationship of the tone of sound with frequency. Segoe print font for mac. In another, students turn their cell phones into pendulums to understand how oscillation works. Lab4U is currently looking for beta users for the chemistry app, which will be released this year.

“Teachers lack tools and above all, support and ideas on how to make science an adventure,” Dadlani says.

Lab4U has users all over Latin America—Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay—as well as the United States. They’ve done pilots on using their technology in the Middle East as well, and will soon be in India. In total, they work with more than 50 schools and 20,000 students. User response has been extremely positive, Dadlani says.According to Lab4U’s research, students have a 40 percent increase in performance on physics testing after using the app. And teachers seem to like it to—some 70 percent use the app on a weekly basis.

Allan Yuen, director of the Centre for Information Technology in Education at the University of Hong Kong, says using technology like apps in science education is becoming more common around the world. There are many benefits to this, Yuen says, especially when it comes to cost. But there are also concerns about relying heavily on technology.

One concern is the challenge technology poses to curriculum development. 'Science is a subject with a long history, so the curriculum is in some ways quite traditional,' Yuen says. 'So then if you want to use apps and other recent technology, then you need to change the whole structure of the curriculum.'

Another issue is gender, Yuen says. There tends to be a gender gap in technology—from a young age, boys are more likely than girls to be shown how to use mobile devices by their parents, and are more likely to be encouraged to pursue interests in technology as hobbies. This means that boys may come to school already ahead in technology, and, if that technology is necessary to understand science, then girls may fall behind in that too. These issues need to be considered when implementing mobile technology-based curricula, Yuen says.

'We should design and think about this as a whole rather than just make a change in one aspect,' he says.

Recently Dadlani won Toyota’s Mother of Invention prize, which honors female entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators. The award comes with a $50,00 grant. She’ll also be speaking today at the Women in the World Summit in New York, a conference celebrating women who’ve had a major impact in their fields, dedicated to helping women and girls progress in various areas of achievement.

“It's been an honor for us,” Dadlani says.

Dadlani has had the chance to run experiments with the Toyota Mirai, the company’s hydrogen fuel cell car. One experiment, which would normally be done with a toy car, uses the Mirai and the physics app to measure position over time. Another experiment measures acceleration over time, using the physics app’s accelerometer capacity.

Dadlani hopes Lab4U will democratize science, allowing even students in low-resource countries and schools to do hands-on experimentation. She also hopes to inspire students to truly love science, perhaps encouraging more to go into STEM fields. This is particularly critical in countries like Chile, which has a much lower number of scientists per capita than other developed nations (Chile has 320 researchers and developers per million people, while Spain has 2,889, Denmark has 6,744, Canada has 4,649, South Korea has 5,380 and the U.S. has 3,867).

“We need to empower students, they need to enjoy and generate new ideas and solutions, to see the world around them, where technologies and new methodologies should inspire curiosity and allow them to have lifelong learning beyond the school,” she says.

Quick Take: Classroom design can make a huge impact on education effectiveness. Take a closer look at the:

  • Differences in old classroom designs and the need for change
  • Review multiple factors that will create a better learning environment
  • Assess the value and need for educational technology in the classroom
  • Classrooms Design Then and Now

    The traditional classrooms are quickly being replaced by a new breed of learning spaces and classroom designs that are evolving in response to shifts in technology. We will reviews this evolution, taking a look at the research that supports the evolving best practices in classroom design and briefly outlining the types of classroom design ideas and technologies at the heart of these changes.

    The use of the traditional one-to-many classroom arrangements is largely attributed to the need for expediency, a transmission centered philosophy of pedagogy, and the available technology of the time. Rows of seats made for easy setup, efficient use of space, and faster custodial cleaning. This physical arrangement fits nicely with the pedagogical assumption that instructors impart knowledge to students, as did the technology of the time: blackboard or overhead projector for the teacher, pencil, and paper for the student.

    Today education is changing at an unprecedented pace and this traditional approach is widely seen as outdated and ineffective. The transmission (or transference) model is being replaced by a constructivist approach, which emphasizes the ways in which students join instructors and one another in making connections and developing knowledge. This shift is a result of, and further propelled by, technologies like the internet, personal computing devices, interactive displays, and collaborative software. Within this fluid environment, schools are seeking to adapt and deliver classroom spaces that better supports successful 21st-century learning. These future-forward classroom arrangement are designed to provide the flexibility to support the different ways in which learners can actively conduct experiments, perform real-world problem solving and come together in groups to ask questions, explore, assess what they know and expand their knowledge, while instructors serve as facilitators, guiding activities to address and build upon student understanding.

    Many umbrella terms are used to identify these classroom design ideas, including:

  • Flexible seating
  • The modular classroom
  • Starbucking the classroom
  • Classroom cribs
  • Next generation classroom design
  • Evidence-based learning environments
  • Learner-centered spaces
  • Active learning environments / classrooms
  • A fifth-grade teacher who completely re-worked her classroom after exposure to a flexible seating environment at a charter school calls it the “Best Decision I Ever Made.” A participant in the CUE Bold Classroom Cribs Initiative, like many of today’s most dedicated teachers, she shares her experiences on her blog.

    The Research into Classroom Design Ideas and Factors

    Supporting the development of new best practices in classroom design is a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which the classroom environment affects student engagement and academic performance.
    A groundbreaking study released in 2012 found that classroom design affects a student’s academic progress over the course of an academic year by 25% in either direction – positive or negative. That is, the academic performance of a child in the best environment is expected to be 25 percent better than an equivalent child in the ‘poorest’ classroom environment. Even more astounding, the difference between the best- and worst-designed classrooms accounted for a full year’s worth of academic progress.

    The authors ultimately concluded that 73% of the variation in performance among students could be attributed to five key design factors: color, choice, complexity, flexibility, and light.

  • Color – Providing enough visual stimulation around the classroom through the use of color on walls, floors, and furniture
  • Choice – Quality furniture including interesting and ergonomic tables and chairs that support a sense of ownership
  • Complexity – Providing novel surroundings and attention-grabbing décor in balance with orderliness
  • Flexibility – The ability of a classroom to accommodate students without crowding them, along with how easily furniture can be rearranged to support a variety of activities and teaching approaches.
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  • Light – Quality, and quantity of natural light, and degree of control with the level of lighting
  • Follow up studies have provided deeper insight into the relative impact of each of these factors. At the outset of a major 2015 study the authors’ hypothesized that “clearly from the literature, it can be anticipated that the built environment of the classrooms will have a great impact on pupils’ academic performance, health, and wellbeing…” Their own study confirmed the significant impact of the physical classroom features on academic progress, finding that factors within the following three categories accounted for the differences in performance:
    Naturalness – Accounting for around 50% of the impact on learning, this category relates to environmental factors required for physical comforts, such as light, sound, temperature, air quality and ‘links to nature.

    Stimulation – This category refers to the vibrancy of the classroom balancing color and complexity for optimal engagement and positive behavior – and accounts for about 25% of differences in learning.

    Individuality – Accounting for the remaining 25% in learning differences and of particular relevance to this paper, this category encompasses how well a classroom meets the needs of a particular group of children through offering:

  • Ownership – how identifiable and personalized the room is
  • Flexibility – how well the room addresses the needs of a particular age group and any changing pedagogy
  • Connection – a measure of how readily the pupils can connect to the rest of the school
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  • Introducing Evidence-Based Classroom Design
  • Educators everywhere are embracing the need to adapt the classroom design based on the forces, philosophies, and research outlined above. The specific form these spaces take differ due to curriculum, class size, space, budget constraints and the like, however, two commonalities are consistently seen: the flexibility to deliver adaptable, active learning spaces and the integration of technology that fosters collaboration and sharing.

    Flexible Furnishings in the Classroom

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    Flexible classroom design creates learning environments that are continuously adaptable and model the resilience we want to see in our up and coming generations.
    In a case study published by, the website of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the author notes that “Flexible classrooms give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and helps them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking.”

    Tips for creating future-ready classrooms on a budget abound in the blogosphere and manufacturers of education furnishings have taken note of the trends and offer a wide variety of streamlined modular furnishings for an easy and efficient flexible arrangement.

    Flexible classrooms give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and helps them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking.

    Among the recommendations for functional flexibility classroom design are:

  • Selective seating – Offer a variety of seating options to enable student choice and facilitate different working styles/activities/projects. This can include couches, floor pillows, beanbag chairs, and traditional chair/ desk combos as well as DIY seating
  • Mobility – Bookshelves and other wheeled furnishings can be rearranged to open up the room or create cozy collaborative nooks
  • Collaborative configurations – Replace individual workspaces with a large round or rectangular tables, or put desks together to form a more collaborative space
  • Huddle spaces – Common in corporate settings, these spaces offer convenient seating plus technology (audio, display, sharing software) for small group collaboration and content sharing. Furniture marketers and educators may refer to them using an array of terms that include: teaming tables, media tables, lounges, hublets, coves, team gardens, learning suites, informal learning environments or learning labs.
  • Transformational Tech in Classroom Design

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    The most successful active learning spaces include well-matched educational technology resources. From student devices to an interactive front-of-room display and the ability for students to digitally share their work, technology matters more than ever in today’s classroom.

    Among the most common ways in which technology is being leveraged toward constructivist learning are:

  • Front of room interactivity – Today’s educators seek a front-of-room display that empowers students and instructors to actively interact with content. ViewSonic offers a range of options to fit any budget that includes interactive flat panels, interactive projectors and retrofit interactive kits.
  • Interactive software – Existing flat panel displays can often be updated with interactive software, such as ViewSonic® myViewBoard® for Education, which in addition to delivering robust interactive features that bring lessons to life, also supports direct file saving to Google Drive and encourage active engagement.
  • Content sharing – Wireless content sharing eliminates cord clutter and makes it easy and efficient for students to display content from their personal or school-issued devices. ViewSonic options include the ViewSync® 3 wireless interactive presentation gateway, the ViewStick 2 wireless HDMI adapter and AutoProject app, and Solstice enterprise-class collaboration software.
  • Huddle spaces/learning labs – Call them what you will, these tech-laden spaces foster exactly the type of active, constructivist learning 21st-century educators seek. Convenient and conducive to conversation among a small group of students, huddle spaces typically feature an interactive display or smart display and may also include content sharing capabilities such as those mentioned above for easy wireless visual data sharing from smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
  • Smart desktops – Displays equipped with an integrated Android OS or thin/zero clients offer cost-effective, all-in-one solutions that conserve space and deliver easy-to-use functionality. ViewSonic offers a range of models that let users create high-impact dual display configurations or fold flat for tablet-like performance.
  • Case in Point: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need
    Since implementing flexible classrooms, Albemarle County Public Schools have found that:

  • Students grades have improved.
  • Students seem happier and more engaged.
  • Students are participating more and having more invigorating conversations.
  • We’re really looking at how we support kids working collaboratively. And we can’t do it if they’re isolated in rows and every kid is an island.” — Becky Fisher, the director of educational technology at Albemarle County Public Schools.

    Conclusions on choosing the best classroom design

    Significant research and educator experience alike confirm that the traditionally designed classroom – and the transference model it represents – lacks what is needed to prepare engaged 21st-century citizens. Instructors and administrators are working to apply this knowledge to new classroom design practices, leveraging flexible furnishings and collaborative technology to create spaces that promote active engagement and meaningful learning. ViewSonic offers a wide range of technologies that bring greater interactivity and collaboration to any classroom’s front of room display, huddle stations, desktops, learning labs, and more. To learn more for to ViewSonic Education Solutions and talk to one of your Solutions Experts.