Tomorrow’s school buildings could be very different from those of today. The reason? Education could be very different and since the role of school buildings is to support the needs of learning and teaching, it follows that they could be different too.


Just how different, is the question that underpins the OECD’s conference “IMAGINE! Exploring radical visions for tomorrow's schools ... and how to make them work( being held in Vienna 20-22 September and organised by the OECD’s Centre for Effective Learning Environments and the Technical University of Vienna.


There are many things that are impacting on education. The recession, changing needs of society and the relentless march of information and computer technology. Take technology as an example and you get a sense of the extent of change that could be just around the corner.


Recently, Ian Yorsten, director of IT Strategy at Radley College, UK provided a startling reminder of the phenomenal rate of technological growth. Speaking at a recent conference organised by the Council for Education Facility Planners in Australia,Yorsten pointed out that in effect computing power will continue to double every two years. ( It was Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, who predicted back in 1965 that the amount of memory that can inexpensively be placed on a silicon chip would double every year. So far he has been proven correct. If this continues, ten years from now computers will be one million times more powerful than today, and 30 years from now, that is when today’s fifteen year olds are forty-five, computers will be a billion times more powerful. What a staggering thought.


But could even this be an underestimation? Researchers have just managed to create a transistor from just seven atoms. The promise now is even smaller, more powerful ‘intelligent’ devices. Couple this with the growing capability of students to use technologies in new and different ways and the learning landscape in the near future could be very different.


Imagine, therefore, a world where schools do not have walls and much of teaching and learning take place outside conventional school buildings. Further still, imagine a world where there are no schools at all. Vienna in late September promises to be fascinating and itself educational.