Fermilab LInC Online

Educational Environment of the Future


Summary Student Pages Rubrics Index of Projects


Teachers will participate in an Engaged Learning course. In this 13 week course participants will gain a hands-on view of the validity of the Engaged Learning teaching method. In order for the participants to "feel" the process they will be challenged to create a learning environment of the future. As the learners progress through the development of their future school there will be ongoing, constant teachable moments which highlight the indicators of Engaged Learning and attributes of Best Use of Technology.

Getting Started

The facilitator, Gina says, "Welcome to the Engaged Learning Course. I am eager to work with you to develop a valid, authentic project for you to incorporate into your curriculum. In order to fully feel and grasp the Engaged Learning concept you will experience a shortened version. We will begin with this method and I would ask you to post any thoughts and comments in the bulletin board ,Journal section, that come to mind as you work through the process. This journal experience will help all of us capture what it feels like to work through the project. Since all of you posted your reasons for wanting to take this course on the bulletin board and chatted with me before our first class I know you have knowledge of how to use the programs. Journals will be checked each week and recorded as part of your evaluation."

The facilitator explains that the evaluation methods used for the course will be, journal responses on the bulletin board, observations and note taking of group discussions and activities, evaluation of project "parts" using rubrics developed by the groups and instructor, and posting of final project.

Gina says, "I have a challenge for you. The NFT and AFT are sponsoring a contest to design the best learning environment to take our youth into the future. By "best" I am referring to what research tells us is the most effective or successful learning environment. It is my belief that you are the prime candidates for such a challenge. Why would you want to get involved, you ask?-Some view our schools as failing the youth of America. Low test scores and ineffective practices are being brought into the spotlight. This is your chance to make a difference. Another reason is because you may be chosen as one of the top 3 proposals. You would be a paid consultant and educator to see the educational environment put into action. Have you ever voiced the thought If I had my own school I wouldÖÖÖ? What would you do? What questions would you need to answer to create this environment?"

John answers: "What does the learning environment look like? Where is it? Who will attend?" Mary says, "Is it a building? Is it a virtual environment?" Jerome asks, "What is the mission? What is the curriculum? How do the students learn?" "

Gina replies, "Great" Let's look at the task again. You will be designing a learning environment of the future. The project is defined on our site. Find the link for "Future School Challenge" As a team, you will develop a short presentation for the AFT and the NEA on the key components of your learning environment. Let's see what you can come up with. I would like several teams to investigate and prepare a presentation.

Now that you have selected your groups what do you feel is then next step in developing your project? We are going to brainstorm ideas that your team may wish to investigate. Mary could you please record?"

Middle/In Progress

The groups brainstormed the following list of ideas:

What We Want In Our Future Learning Environment What We Don't Want In Our Future Learning Environment
students collaborating in groups to solve problems stagnant curriculum
teachers moving between students as they learn and work stagnant teachers
teachers and students being challenged together ritualistic, mandated schedule
an open atmosphere for learning behavior problems
students generate topics to study the state telling us what to do
teaches as learners uncooperative staff
parents and community as experts uncooperative students
teaching staff that is invigorated uncooperative administration
exceptional teachers uncooperative parents
alternative assessment  
high tech facility that constantly changes to keep up with progress  

Next the groups meet and determine what path to take next. The facilitator circulates among all the teams to assist as needed.

Team 1

Harry says" OK, so we want to look at alternative teaching and learning styles. How can we research them?" Julie responds, " "I know of a school on the web that is kind of like this-maybe we can email them for some tips on what makes their school work" Juan replies, "Governor Ryan wants a virtual school, we can look at the website for that" Terry notes, "We can look online or in the library to see what they did in the 60's for the "Open School" concept, or, "Modular Teaching". Peggy says, "We can research what is being done in California and other progressive areas today"

Gina tells the group, "You posed some options for investigating the information. On the website for this class you will see a link for "Our Future School". There are some links that may help you as you progress through your research. The Internet is open to you for research. Behind you in the media room are all sorts of professional materials for you to peruse as well." Please remember to have a recorder post your ideas on the bulletin board by 6:54 for all to see.

Team 2

Michael is asking, "We want a staff that is exceptional but we don't know where to begin. Do you have any ideas?"

Gina replies, "It sounds like you are asking How can we identify criteria for analyzing best practices in teaching? What other questions does this bring to mind?"

Tome replies, "How to come up with criteria to assess lessons and instructional methods?" Penelope responds, "I want to know which opportunities and styles have the most promise for the future of educating youth?"

Gina responds, "Great-now where can you go from here?"

Michael again, "We need to look for models of teaching that we know have worked like problem-based learning and critical thinking. We could use the Internet for that. Also, aren't there teaching standards we can look at?"

Gina answers, "There certainly are, and if you go to our class website under resources you will see them. There are also some other links that may be helpful." Please be sure to post your ideas on the bulletin board for all to see.

Team 3

Megan begins, "We already know that we want a "home" building for bringing staff and students together for some face time. How about we talk with some architects online to see what they suggest?" Billy says, "I like that, there are books in the library on school architecture, too. I will check some out" Agnes says, "Harold and I can come up with a list of things we think should be in the building while you all are looking"

Gina says, "Your discussion is centered around the physical structure. I see that you have come up with some ways to find out what is currently being constructed or tried. Have you considered asking what students may want in a building?

Haroldo comments, "There are some links on our site I saw, we an go there to look."

Gina says, "All right then, please be sure to post your ideas on the bulletin board for all to see."

Team 4

Jerold asks, "What are we going for here?" Tom answers, "How does learning impact students?" Pamela next, "How have students learned the best?" Candy asks, "What keeps kids engaged?" Anthony says, "What keeps staff invested?"

Gina asks, "You seem interested in what is actually going to be taught and learned. Have you considered ways in which you can get that information?

Tom says, "Yes, I have a bunch of expert sites on educational impact on students. Lisa and Joan are going to start with those" Meredith says, "There is a website on that charter school we toured last year, I can look at it and email the principal, too" "There are always the state and national standards, also. I can get them online says John"

Gina responds, "Sounds great, Please be sure to post your ideas on the bulletin board for all to see."


The facilitator gets the attention of the small groups. "I saw some amazing things going on in each of the groups and says, Now comes the challenge of creating a presentation for the AFT and NEA. Each of your groups has worked on a key component of this new learning environment. I would like you to review the ideas the other teams came up with. Use the bulletin board to retrieve the information."

After reviewing the information Gina asks, "How can we pull all the components together to create a presentation for the AFT and NEA?

Jesebel, "Well, we could each do a mini-presentation on just our part."

Clyde, "How about we each do some web pages that are linked to the main page. That way the NEA and AFT can revisit our work any time they want."

Samantha, I'll design the opening page since I have been floating between groups"

The facilitator reminds the group that Dreamweaver is loaded on all the computers. The participants were required to take a class on Dreamweaver as a prerequisite so they all know how to use it. She also reminds them she is available through email, phone and during chat office hours for any assistance. Gina reiterates the use of chat for the participants that are unable to physically meet to work on the presentation.

With 20 minutes left to go in class Gina says, "OK everyone, please go to the Journal section of the bulletin board and post your response to tonight's work session. Please include positives, constructive criticism, and suggestions for ways to enhance the project. " Prior to our next meeting I need you to read the article "Designing Great Rubrics" and check out the following sites. Record notes of what you liked and didn't like about the examples:


2nd Meeting

Gina says, "You have done a wonderful job working on your project. As a classroom teacher I would want to evaluate the work you put into the process as well as the final outcome. I have passed out to you a blank rubric. Please take out the article I gave you on rubrics and your notes on the sites. What I need from you now are criteria you feel should be in the rubric for this project. Please form partners and discuss these items."

After 20 minutes the teams generate a list of criteria they wish to use. After a lively discussion as a whole group they narrow the items down to four categories and determine the attributes for each:

Needs Developing
Research Missing Key Information, Experts Not Contacted, Online Resources Not Utilized Missing Key Information, Experts Contacted, Online Resources Utilized Complete Information, Experts Contacted, Online Resources Utilized
Collaboration Worked Independently, No Group Interaction, Contribute Little to Project Worked Together, Group Interacted Positively, Most Contributed to Project Worked Together, Group Interacted Positively, All Contributed Equally
Presentation Information Incomplete, Web Page Not Functioning, Information Disorganized Information Incomplete, Web Page Functioned, Information Organized Information Complete, Web Page Functioned, Information Organized

The facilitator explains that the rubric the group defined will be used to grade their work on the Educational Environment of the Future project. The rubric will be posted on the site for future reference. She will score the rubric for each team so that they can get an idea of how the rubric works and how it relates to them. Rubrics will be developed throughout the rest of the course for the Engaged Learning projects the participants will be developing.

Gina says, "I would like you to individually rate what you have completed on your project. Please spend the next 15 minutes rating the work"

At the end of the time period Gina called on participants to get their view of how the rubric worked. In the discussion key ideas were brought up including: "The rubric helps us see instantly the areas where we are weak", "Some of the attributes do not work for all projects", "Now we know what to go back to and fix". Gina responds, "That is great-you can see benefits of the rubric and at the same time note that a standard rubric may not work for all and should be edited accordingly".

Over the next two class sessions the participants worked on finalizing their projects. They used the Chat and email to keep in contact with each other and the facilitator between class meetings. The participants presented their projects on the 5th night of class. The projects were diverse in presentation and content. All of them contained aspects which were engaging to the learners and teachers.

The next few class sessions will be used to break down all the parts of the project so that the participants can respond to the components such as: Hook, Authentic Task, Learner Outcomes, Best Use of Technology. Through each of the sessions participants will analyze what is best for each attribute. Working in teams that they have selected for the project the groups will develop each component with many revisions.

The remaining class sessions will allow the participants to develop the final part of their own projects and prepare to use them in the classroom.


Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Barbara Holdiman, Gina Keifer, and Lucianne Sweder
Lincoln-Way High School District 210, New Lenox, IL
Lockport High School District 205, Lockport, IL
Professional Development Alliance/Regional Office of Education for Will and Grundy/Kendall Counties, Joliet, IL
Learning Technology Center One South, Joliet, IL
Created: February 25, 2001 - Updated: February 27, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/futureschools/presentfs.htm