“Everybody is impressed with the setup. They go in there and see kids using technology not as a distraction but as an educational tool,” Herring says. Pre-K enrollment went up in the district after the new facility was opened, he says.
The technology investments build on kids’ existing interests in mobile devices and games in ways that promote learning, he adds.
“That’s what kids use today,” he says. “We wanted to take that concept and apply it to an early educational environment.” He adds that the interactive space not only drives learning, but also engagement.
“These kids want to come to school because they have things they want to learn about,” Herring says. “At that age, when they’re 4, it’s kind of hard to pull them away from mom and dad. But when you make the classroom interactive, that’s a driving force for the kid to want to come in. That’s the whole goal.”
Build a K–12 Classroom to Fit the Students
When officials in Yorkville Community Unit School District 115 sat down to design a central co-working and lounge space for teachers, they didn’t visit other districts. Instead, they took a field trip to Google’s offices in Chicago.
“Their philosophy is, the more features or amenities they have at work, the more they’re going to get from their employees,” says Ryan Adkins, the district’s technology director. “It was really about climate and culture. There’s a lot of collaboration taking place, and we wanted to bring that here.”
When room became available at the district office, officials built out a 4,000-square-foot innovative center with a 110-inch LED display wall from NEC, several Samsung video displays connected to Cisco Webex, robust Wi-Fi, flexible furniture and even sliding barn doors with writable surfaces.
“We wanted to have an open concept,” Adkins says. “We want our teachers to be comfortable and have an environment where they can come together and work.” The district has long promoted flexible working spaces for students.
And the new space is meant, in part, to help teachers discover the benefits of technology-rich, flexible learning environments and embrace such spaces for their own teaching, Adkins says.
The center opened in September, and while it’s already used every day, Adkins says that teachers and staff continue to come up with new ways to get the most out of the space.
“Our football coaches may go there and watch film,” Adkins says. “Reading specialists and special-assignment teachers, who serve multiple schools, meet there. Teachers hold meetings after school. We wanted to provide a space to collaborate. Eventually, we hope that trickles down to the classroom and increases student achievement, which is the ultimate goal.”
MORE FROM EDTECH: Read more about how K–12 schools can embrace an unconventional classroom design.
Give K–12 Students What They Really Want
Ensuring technology would be used was a key driver at Valleyview Middle School, where educational leaders sought to do more than simply purchase new versions of old resources as they built out a new library.
“A lot of the library resources weren’t being used,” says Cindy Costanza, technology director for the Denville Township (N.J.) School District. “It was time to clear out some of the books.”
“There was no sense in keeping the reference section anymore,” Valleyview Principal Paul Iantosca says, noting that virtually all of the information in dictionaries and encyclopedias can now be found online.