The classroom as infrastructure

I recently finished a short and fun read by Elizabeth Wurtzel entitled Creatocracy: How the Constitution Invented Hollywood. The book focuses on the U.S. Constitution and how it gave rise to much of the creative and entrepreneurial success of America. One of my favorite sections discusses invention–specifically, how invention requires infrastructure. Wurtzel points out that Silicon Valley is necessary for the development of technology because there needs to be a place for techies to congregate, for collaboration to ensue, for VCs to locate prospects, etc. Likewise, Hollywood functions as the infrastructure for films to be made. Producers, scriptwriters, studio back lots, actors, and more are all on hand to contribute to the movie-making process.

Just as technology needs Silicon Valley and movies need Hollywood, so does learning need a classroom; it’s the infrastructure for acquiring knowledge. In a classroom, students develop social skills, collaborate, produce essays, solve problems, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. The teacher is there too, of course, assessing students’ needs, providing direct instruction when necessary, and guiding students through project based learning and the use of technology.

The classroom is important infrastructure, and this is why students will never be able to most effectively learn at home while attending virtual schools. Of course, some young people may need to learn at home in front of a computer due to circumstances, but the majority of students require the classroom in order to navigate life in the 21st century.