Don’t call it a media center — or a library, for that matter.
A $342,000 refitting of the Steele High School space has stripped it of print books. Gone are the long-unused and out-of-date encyclopedias.
Rebranded as the “creative learning center,” the new design is the brainchild of district tech guru Mark Kostur.
“The old term was ‘media center’ or ‘labs.’ This is none of that,” he said, showing the News-Times around. “The whole thrust here is learning and not so much teaching… this is a space for the students to explore and experiment and create. It’s a space for the workers, not the teachers.”
Now there are small clusters of booths, of desks, of tables, of high-topped counters, benches, and stools — different configurations all aimed at the same idea. Kostur said they’re variations on a theme of letting students research and use technology in the way they find most comfortable and idea-sparking.
The goal is to make teens solve problems, brave academic frontiers, and sate their curiosity on their own terms.
Rather than rote memorization and lectures, students will be asked to put their learning in action. That way they’re not just regurgitating a teacher’s words when it’s test time, they’re thinking through issues and applying knowledge.
The center features four glass-enclosed “collaborative spaces” with conference tables and screens where teens can work on group projects with tablets and other tech, crafting presentations and teaming up on research.
Nearby, Kostur proudly showed off the “one-button creation studio,” a room with a camera and projector system that will guide students and teachers through making videos with the press of a big, red “easy button.”
Once made, those videos will be put online. Teachers can make test review or tutoring videos, while students can share their hard work with family and friends outside of the classroom.
Another open space, which Kostur calls the “mediascape presentation lounge,” will host small groups and classes mapping out projects and brainstorming on whiteboards.
There’s also a large area for board of education meetings and other gatherings with room for 150 chairs and big screen monitors.
There are also simple couches for relaxing and outlets everywhere for charging digital devices, since kids are encouraged to use their own phones and tablets today just like their parents used pencils and paper and heavy tomes.
But Kostur’s pride is the “active learning room,” a glass-walled area with all kinds of furniture on wheels so students can rearrange it to fit their learning needs.
For example, some might break off to work on group projects in one corner while a teacher gives one-on-one help at the front. At the same time, others might be working on a multimedia show on another side of the room.
It’s a work room, giving students the ability to present and sell what they’ve learned.
It will also be a training facilities where teachers will learn to teach differently.
Principal Michael May listed off a half-dozen he’s already tasked with experimenting with using the creative learning center to package lessons in tech-savvy ways students will better digest. Teacher Amanda Sears has been assigned to train her peers in active learning models to see what approaches work and which don’t.
They’ll be evangelists to others in their department, sharing ways to use screens to get teens more engaged.
“We have to see what works better, since everything has changed since I went to school and you went to school,” Kostur said.
Don’t worry — books are still used. They’re just not printed on paper anymore.
Students checked out more than 150 books during the spring semester from Overdrive, cloud-based service that allows them to open works from not just the “library” but anywhere inside Steele and even at home.
Before, kids had to wrangle with long waits to check out some titles from the public library. By having access to those digital copies at Steele, students are competing with fewer readers, which means few if any wait times.
The entire creative learning center design was inspired by visits to the Lorain County Community College library and “The Hub” at Mentor High School — and it is possible because of a $200,000 contribution from the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation.
Check it out yourself: The creative learning center will be open to the public during Steele’s open house from 5-6 p.m. on Aug. 24.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Plastic-wrapped furniture is delivered to the former media center at Amherst Steele High School, which has undergone a complete transformation this summer.