ISTE 2014 Update: Gamification, Makerspaces, Minecraft: The Classroom of the Future Is Now!

Posted by Matt Berringer on July 18, 2014

ISTE 2014At ISTE 2014, Douglas Kiang—computer science teacher and head of the Curriculum Resource Teacher group at Punahou School, Hawaii, and author of five bestselling game strategy guides—emphasized that technological innovations will not in themselves create the classroom of the future.

“We throw these terms around like gamification, Minecraft, Makerspaces. How do we get that classroom of the future? I think the secret is not just that you’re doing some number of those things, sort of throwing them in there,” Kiang said. “I think it’s really thinking about what is it that we’re really here to do. How are we here to help our students learn? How do we build those learning environments, not only from a curricular standpoint but also in terms of their physical space? And I think most importantly, how do we create that sense of community that’s so important?”

Kiang said that the classrooms of the future:

  • Empowers individual voices;
  • Creates spaces for whimsy, play, and incongruity; and
  • Brings the outside in—whether nature or people.

He stressed that the ideal curriculum in the classroom of the future is flexible, adaptive, allows for many points of entry, and is designed in a way that kids learn. He suggested that this curriculum will:

  • Create chefs, not cooks. Students stop memorizing recipes for success, but instead bring creativity to their work. “Your kids and my kids are part of the maker generation, the DIY generation,” he said. “This is really driving informal learning for kids.”
  • Involve the community. As students create, Kiang says they will be motivated to share. “Technology becomes the way that you share [a project] and develop that community around it. So the technology is a means to community, but it’s not the activity itself,” he said. “Community is the sum total of all of the interactions in your class--between your students and between you and your students. Our challenge is to build those bridges and get kids to talk to and trust each other and widen that conversation so that it’s really about more than you’re turning in the work and I’m giving you the grade.”
  • Give them a map. Kiang said that a curriculum can be analogous to a map, helping students understand where they are, showing them where they need to go and giving them an impulse to move forward, and giving them a purpose. “I think a good map does that. I think a good curriculum does that,” he said. “And to the extent that we want to let our kids take risks, to let them explore, you also have to give them a map.” Kiang shared the Challenge-Based Learning framework ( as the roadmap that he uses in his own classroom.
  • Build something that matters. According to Kiang, the curriculum of tomorrow will create shared value together. “When you have things that you want kids to learn in your class, what you are trying to do is you are negotiating for understanding. You are trying to create shared value that we each come out the richer for,” he said.

Kiang emphasized that a key ingredient in this classroom of the future is the educator, and compared the educator’s role to the stone bearer in the children’s book, Stone Soup. “Our role as teachers is to facilitate student collaboration—to know our students, to know what their individual strengths are, to bring out those talents, and to together make a soup that we can all benefit from,” said Kian. “As teachers, your job is to bring the stone. Your job also is to bring the map—give kids a framework, give them a structure around which they can truly care about, and help to create a sense of community that creates shared value together. And if we do all of those things, I think we take the best parts of what we see as the classroom of the future and we’re able to make those the classroom of today.”

Topics: technology, education, K-12