What does the classroom of tomorrow really look like? How can educators, parents, and communities learn the skills and gain the resources to provide their children with the high-tech education that will move them into the 21st century?

On Aug. 17, the second annual Tomorrow’s Classroom Exposition at Seattle’s new Washington State Exhibition Center will try to answer these questions.

What started as a grant project for an organization called The Learning Space has turned into the largest free, one-day education exposition in the country, according to one of the event’s founders, Diana Eggers.

The initial grant from the U.S. West Foundation/NEA Teacher Network funded the purchase of laptop computers and telecommunications training for 70 Washington state teachers in June 1996. The Learning Space web site was created as a meeting place without geographic borders for this group of educators.

“We have since applied for nonprofit status, which was granted in April 1999,” said Eggers, who is executive director of The Learning Space.

“When The Learning Space grant program ended last year, we wanted to invite all the teachers who received laptops through the grant to get together and showcase the projects they had been working on. At first, we just wanted a space for 2,000 to 5,000 attendees, but we found the Kingdome and rented it, so we decided to open our doors to parents, teachers, students, and the community,” Eggers explained.

The initial August 19, 1999, Tomorrow’s Classroom event was an unqualified success, drawing 10,000 attendees to Seattle’s Kingdome.

According to event organizers, Tomorrow’s Classroom has three main focuses:

• To serve as an exhibition for teachers to share successful applications of technology and new classroom teaching practices with other teachers;

• To create a learning event for teachers that connects them with each other and the business community; and

• To foster public awareness of educational issues among parents, students, and the community.

“I think it was successful because of all the enthusiasm,” Eggers said of last year’s event. “Also, never before has everyone been invited to an event like this free of charge. We had a lot of business and advertiser support, and I think a lot of people were curious about the event.”

According to statistics from The Learning Space, 60 percent of all attendees were teachers, 15 percent were students, 15 percent were parents, and 10 percent were other community members.

“It’s really one of a kind, because there is nothing that brings all these groups together. Since Washington’s school funding is based on tax levies, it’s important for the community to understand how technology can benefit classrooms,” Eggers said.

Like last year, the event this Aug. 17 will include an extensive, 300-participant exhibit hall with student/teacher booths highlighting special projects, as well as education resources and vendor booths. A “model classroom” exhibit will compare and contrast classrooms and issues from the past, present, and future. Students enjoyed the classroom of the past at last year’s show, which featured an old-fashioned victrola and dunce cap.

New to the 2000 show are seven hands-on learning pavilions, addressing topics such as distance learning; the internet and its role in homework, curriculum, assessment, and administration; virtual museums and field trips; transitioning from school to work; and other Learning Space projects.

Also featured will be a Grants and Funding pavilion, sponsored by eSchool News, producer of the Grants & Funding for School Technology conference. Teacher Universe will unveil and demonstrate its new RightGrant Online, an internet-based grant locator.

“The eSchool News presentation is beneficial because participants can see what’s possible,” Eggers said. “The Grants and Funding pavilion will be there because last year, people said, ‘Wow—I’d love to do that sort of thing, but how can we with only this old Apple II? This way, they can find ways to search for funding.”

According to Eggers, there will be 20 computers at each pavilion.

The 2000 Tomorrow’s Classroom event also will feature a brand-new, on-site shopping mall for technology literature, software, hardware, and school supplies. “We find that tech vendors can benefit, too, by talking with teachers prior to product development to see what it is that they really want,” Eggers said.

The keynote presentation will be given by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com and Time’s Man of the Year.

Those wishing to attend the event can register online at the Tomorrow’s Classroom web page or at the event itself. For more information, visit the web site (see link below), contact Diana Eggers at deggers@learningspace.org or Bretta Beveridge at bbeveridge@learningspace.org, or call the Tomorrow’s Classroom hotline at (425) 313-8918.

Tomorrow’s Classroom Exposition