Imagine a typical high school classroom — standard desks all facing forward, teacher lecturing at the front and waving at notes and diagrams on the board.
That’s the classical setup. But what if it were rearranged, remodeled, reshaped?
Now imagine this: A large space divided into college-style work zones where groups of five or six students could wirelessly share a screen to creatively solve problems, build presentations, and experiment.
That’s the vision Amherst Schools educational services director Michael Molnar and technology supervisor Mark Kostur have.
They plan to give the board of education some ideas Aug. 10 on how to reconfigure the Steele High media center into what they dub an “active learning pilot classroom.”
“We want to make this classroom a place for teachers to try new things outside of the confines of rows and columns,” Kostur said. “There are teachers who are already trying to teach this way but in their rooms they don’t feel they can do it.”
Molnar echoed those thoughts, saying traditional classrooms do have limitations, especially when it comes to preparing kids for jobs in the tech-laden 21st century workplace.
He said many educators want to use computers, tablets, and cameras to make the leap to the next level of learning, they just need a suitable space.
Here are some tools Molnar and Kostur think would work well in the new-style classroom:
• Video, audio, and presentation-creation hardware, including a “one-button video studio,” an “easy button” that would allow anyone to make a video lecture.
• Distance learning equipment, including the ability to do online coursework. Molnar said many college courses have online components or are taken entirely online now.
• Small-group collaboration stations.
• Mobile desks designed to roll so teens can break up into groups and move around easily. A few of these desks have already been purchased (we tried them out) and they feature surfaces specifically suited to notebook computers.
Kostur and Molnar don’t just aim to tailor the space for students, either.
They see the new media center concept as a place where teachers can learn, taking professional development courses and upgrading their skills. They’re also vetting the idea of opening the center to the public after hours.
Many of these ideas were part of Amherst’s Straight A Grant applications to the state in the past couple of years, though that money went mainly to Columbus-area schools.
Molnar and Kostur also drew inspiration from visits to the campuses of Lorain County Community College and Cuyahoga Community College, as well as Mentor High School, which earlier this year transformed its outdated library into an active learning center called “The Hub.”
“Really there is not much architectural work we’d need to do for something similar,” Kostur said. “We have the space. We just would need to make it work.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times A new model of classroom would have kids generating content, working together to solve problems, and being far more mobile, says Amherst Schools educational services director Michael Molnar.