Beyond the Textbook: School of the Future

Visitors to the School of the Future quickly recognize they are not in a "traditional" school. In its second year of existence, the school seems to be doing everything differently, from the way they refer to students and teachers to the way they deliver curriculum. Their project-based learning approach encourages new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.
Visitors to the School of the Future quickly recognize they are not in a “traditional” school.  In its second year of existence, the school seems to be doing everything differently, from the way they refer to students and teachers to the way they deliver curriculum.  Their project-based learning approach encourages new ways of thinking about teaching and learning.

Administrators, teachers and students are committed to project-based learning as the best way to learn.

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Students are more fully engaged in the learning process when confronted with problems to solve.

From its beginning, the School of the Future demanded more than a state of the art school or laptops and high tech equipment for students and teachers. Stakeholders are committed to changing the educational paradigm, including everything from the relationship of students and teachers to the basic structure of the curriculum. Students are referred to as “learners” and adults as “educators.” This subtle change may seem like a semantic triviality, but they are designed to focus attention on the students as a vital part of the learning process.

On a larger scale, the school’s adoption of project-based learning as their curriculum model shifts the focus from content and standards to process and personal responsibility. As new learners enter the school, educators begin to see the benefits and the challenges of their alternative to traditional instruction.

Discovery Brief: New Models for Learning

Data on Technology Integration


Project Vote engages students in the political process as they consider the importance of voting.

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Community activists help guide the students as they learn about the political process.

Artifacts say a lot about the way a school operates. A typical student schedule in a traditional high school reveals how content is delivered in subject-specific chunks. SOTF is working towards a more integrated approach in which teachers collaborate to deliver content through projects. Social studies and math educator Aruna Arjuna heads up Project Vote. Her students explore the various roles in the political process, develop materials to support candidates and engage with community activists. As their project progresses, learners also encounter the mathematics of developing a survey and the history of voting rights in the United States.


With state tests on the horizon, educators must find a balance between teaching skills and implementing project-based learning.

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Self-direction can be a challenge for students who are accustomed to more structured classrooms.

The shift away from traditional text-based education is an ongoing process and requires some reorientation. Learners on laptops are not always focused on the lesson at hand. Educators have to readjust their expectations and the practices they’ve used for many years in traditional classrooms.

Next year, for the first time, learners will face the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test. The test requires demonstration of basic knowledge and skills in the content areas, so educators at SOTF must find ways to integrate these pieces into the project-based approach. Sometimes that means students attend remediation classes during the day, while at other times it may mean taking a break from their project to practice skills.