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The 21st Century Classroom

By: Mubarak Abdessalami

A different classroom with different methods and tools to teach differently and learn in a different way.

Introducing the conventional classroom

Teachers as well as students had always been dreaming of the most ideal learning environment. Many designs had been set up until they reached the traditional classroom we still use today, but its start goes back to the beginning of the 19th Century.

The conventional classroom is a semi-squared room with

The educational tools varied according to subject areas:

How to get rid of all these "primitive" tools?
Let's focus on the dusty samey blackboard first!

The new era requires change and this change is not up to us to make, it has already imposed itself when new and sophisticated gadgets enter in the scene to enrich the learning immediate environment, facilitate the teachers' work and boost the students' skills.

So a classroom, like the outdated one depicted above, needs to be modified to meet the new generation expectations from school. To remodel the learning environment becomes a must in a world where students are used to things like

Their jargon is different so they need a quite fitting mentor able to speak their jargon and use their usual digital sources of information. And this requires that the mentor could teach through these tools. If we still insist on applying the old methods and tools, this generation looks misplaced and degenerated in a conventional classroom. When the tools are outdated the methods are inadequate and therefore the learners feel aliens. They will surely feel frustrated. This epoch is digital par excellence; accordingly integrating ICT (Information and communication Technology) in teaching is not a superfluous action at all.

E-Learning makes it feasible for a student anywhere to take lessons from institutes anywhere else in the world from home. And possibly a teacher can teach students from different nationalities and locations thanks to

In the digital era, our irreplaceable traditional classroom may have found a friendly virtual assistant, notably TECHNOLOGY

With all the facilities it provides, technology comes to give a hand to our old classroom as a support tool for both teachers and students. Hence terms like ICT start to flirt with the old decaying classroom.

New Teaching Tools

Just a few years ago teachers and students were prompted to learn technology. Nowadays technology is the vehicle through which the interactive learning should take place. Consequently, today teachers are obliged to switch to technology based instruction, but with moderation in the start.

The teacher must always be there

Besides, since the tools and devices used in teaching evolve and vary rapidly, Teachers are compelled to: Otherwise they will lag out and their teaching methods quickly become obsolete!

Old Vs Cyber Classroom

The old classroom currently looks foggy compared to the Cyber classroom which is well-lighted full of digital resources for learning. Technology can turn the old classroom into a valuable environment for learning, ready to resume its noble objectives but in a new fashion. No chalk, no blackboard and no duster, what a relief!

Collaborating with Technology.

Technology has provided alternative tools that are more practical and they only require less time and effort for great achievements. However, Technology can never work without a human instructor, so ...


What do we mean by technology as a collaborating tool?

The old classroom owes technology a lot. The fundamental change in the teaching and learning processes, approaches and illustrative materials are due to the massive functional technological devices in the field of education.

Is it necessary now to name all the instructive tools technology provides to make the traditional classroom an authentic modern setting for learning: more lively, updated, motivating and purposeful? I guess no way! Yet we'll try to introduce some of them.

The white board.

This is completely beneficial for both teachers and students as it is dust free and easy to use. It replaces the blackboard and it is relatively practical as it gives the teaching & learning field a new look and clean conditions of work. Nevertheless we still need a special pen to write upon.

The smart board

The Sympodium Board

You are already in the e-classroom.

This sophisticated teaching assistant creates notes and mark-up interactive content such as PowerPoint slides or web pages, all instantly during a class.

The Sympodium board is more practical since all that the teacher writes on it appears on the screen ahead of the students. Its particularity goes even further to switch from the mouse mode to the Sympodium interactive pen display.

It reminds us of the so missed chalkboard in the sense that both of them are used in the same way, but the effect is completely something else.

Because the 21st century learners are keen on being taught through visualizing, the large projected image naturally captures their attention and allows them to take part in the learning process more and more intentionally. It is the age of the image, isn't it?!

Is there anything else?!

Now the entire planet is becoming a large classroom where teachers and students from all over the world could exchange lessons, practices and experience thanks of course to the delivery of information via internet. There are more sophisticated programmes which allow the learners to learn from far distances in the real time span using www-based courses such as The Web-CT.

Internet has really revolutionized the field of education. Global peers for instance has become a usual term. The teachers as well as the students from all over the world could compete while collaborating to exchange ideas via ...

They can even chat in the real time span on line through different on-line services like:

The means of communication vary and evolve permanently; however their objective is to bring people together why not the teachers and the students of the world. The world is gradually becoming a classroom for everybody to learn from everybody. "The sky's the limit".


Are there any other programmes? Yes, but we are not yet there. "Access Denied" is the most disgusted message ever appeared on the screen. The more the world is open the more access codes are needed for membership. Is it a good or a bad thing? Let's not go further in this discussion. I guess some level of security, protection and privacy are required though. We should think of everything before we object.


This marvellous software is excellent as a means to make use of technology advantageously in the classroom.

    • It encourages a more active learning environment.
    • It adds a lot of clarity to the lessons.
    • It increases the effectiveness of lessons.
    • It is easy to manipulate and control.
    • etc

It is true that PowerPoint presentations are mostly visual but seeing does not always mean understanding. Fortunately this software has more other powerful features which makes it own an influential impact on the learners

sound=relaxing accompaniment
slide sequence=Involvement (what next?)
scripts=interest & challenge

Unlike most of the other programs, PowerPoint tolerates text, diagrams, graph, images, animation, videos etc. and it is the least demanding software as far as equipment is concerned. Even in a conventional classroom, PowerPoint works perfectly well provided that there are a laptop, a projector and a screen. And the curtains on the windows of course.

It is also practical for students' school projects or exposés. It makes their work irrelevant when they exploit it well. It allows them to manage their product easily and flexibly. It allows them be able to use images, sounds, animation and so on to make their final work eye-catching, persuasive and engaging. And it seems that they like to do the work light-heartedly because using PowerPoint is more like a game and most of all it is part of the digital nature of their epoch.

It offers them endless illustrative tools to employ if they are a little imaginative and creative.

Working with PowerPoint is helping oneself do the tasks far better than the conventional script work on word processor for instance.


Many teachers are willing to take risks applying the new technology assisted teaching approaches and engage in the new digital world seriously, nevertheless, some others are still sceptical about the effectiveness of the new trend. They deem it a waste of effort and time and they prefer to stick to their old usual methods. Some of them even argue that Multimedia resources in general and PowerPoint in particular have enough disadvantages to reject them.
  1. They are distracting;
  2. They are teacher centered not learner nor content;
  3. They need complicated tools to make use of them;
  4. They are difficult for assessment;
  5. They render the students passive;
  6. They kill imagination and creativity;
  7. They require extra effort to maintain the digital equipment;
  8. When the lights go out, the learning process stops as it relies completely on electricity;
  9. All the students need to have a personal computer to do assignments;
  10. And so on and so forth.

I guess this vague list of shortcomings is just a blurring justification which is not valid because it is driven essentially by fear of the unknown and most commonly by computer phobia. They are simply indications that some educators resist the change and try to find reasons to make their attitude plausible but in vain. We are already in the 21st century and we cannot draw back because it is impossible to stop the tide that is roving towards Globalisation and the one tiny village planet. We cannot ignore these means otherwise our students will surely have hard times coping with their peers who learned through those technological devises and gadgets. We are not ostriches so we cannot just put down our heads in the sand and pretend there's nothing worth caring for. These tools are imposing and we cannot just ignore them. What we must do is stop whining and try to limit the bad effects by teaching our students the right function of these tools.

The learners of this critical epoch are digital natives and they engage much more willingly in learning if the techniques and tools used respond to their interests. They rely greatly on the senses in their apprenticeship especially the visual and the audible. They are used to animations through the multitude TV channel programs and video games; they are also acquainted with the Internet. They are keen on interactive learning as they associate it with challenging games; and PowerPoint for instance is a game, why not try it to draw their attention and trigger their motivation. Furthermore, the learners attitude towards games are more constructive than instructive, therefore their passivity is of a very low degree. So what can the blackboard and the printed textbook together offer them better? Nothing except for nostalgia! But boredom is the general mood.


Unfortunately, it is already the 21st century and there are still classrooms (as well as mentalities) which belong to the 19th century. We need to accept the global change. Our way of thinking, teaching methods, and tools should all be renewed. The dying conventional classroom is not completely dead yet; it can turn out to be as robust as it used to be generations ago. With a little mending and refurbishing, the decaying classroom can perk up again like the phoenix and turn into a Cyber class. These multimedia digital tools, which some sceptical teachers refuse, are imposing and they will surely pump some young and fresh blood in the usual classroom veins. All that we need to do is not to reject them but on the contrary accept them and tame them to extract their side effects only and use them to the perfection for the future of our students. Finally, "Tell me which teaching tools and methods you use and I'll tell you to which epoch you belong". Hopefully, things will soon get mature enough to match the century our students are supposed to live in the future as adults.

Thank you for your attention and forbearance.



Education & Information Technology

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