The traditional school classroom has remained pretty much the same for several decades. There is a teacher, an information board and students sitting in neat rows. A new type of technology classroom at Pepperell Elementary School is challenging the traditional education concept. The high tech learning environment was recently put on display for two committees from the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce to expose the community to the innovative learning concept. The Education/Work Force Council and the Technology SquareTable Committee held a joint monthly meeting at the school to get a look into the future of education. The classroom was put together as a pilot by Floyd County Schools to train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom and spur student interest and learning.
Craig Ellison, director of technology for Floyd County Schools, explained the features of the room that includes: Two 70-inch flat-panel touch screen displays for accessing Internet information. One of the touch screens was donated for the learning space by SMART Technologies Inc. to assist with teacher training. The SMART display is the "next generation" of interactive panels for the classroom. The room also features individual Chromebooks for students that can be connected to the large display screens for presentations, group work centers, and desks that roll to allow students to work together while learning. "The first thing that teachers question is the wheels on the desks," Ellison told the group. "We tell teachers to give the students two minutes to roll around the room at the beginning of class, because after about 30 seconds, the kids are bored with that and ready to move ahead with the lesson." The tactic works with adults too as the business and community leaders found themselves testing the rolling desks when they first took their seats in the classroom.
Ellison told the group that his vision of education in the future is collaborative learning. "That is the way things work in the real world of business," Ellison said. "If I have a problem at work that needs to be addressed, I seek out knowledge from the best resources available to find a solution." Ellison added, "That is not looked at as cheating but as being a good problem solver." Ellison sees the future classroom in much the same way. In the classroom of the future, children will be given a problem and encouraged to use the vast Internet resources available and group dynamics to find solutions.
The future is today in Floyd County Schools as Ellison also told the group of plans to expand Internet access next year and make Google Drive student accounts available to all children in the system. Each student will have a place in Cloud technology to create and store documents to track their experience in school. The group was led in a sample lesson in Cloud based collaborative learning by Lee Green, instructional technologist for Floyd County Schools. Green showed the community leaders how students can access the Internet to work on a lesson, team with other students to work on a topic and save the work in the Cloud for the teacher.
The 21st Century learning space at Pepperell Elementary School is the only such classroom in the system at this time, but Ellison would like to expand the concept to have at least one at each school in the system. "Right now, the technology is expensive, but the price of new technology drops over time." Ellison stated. "Hopefully, there will come a day, in the not too distant future, when this type classroom is looked at as a typical classroom." He concluded, "Exposure to these resources will produce higher-quality graduates from our schools and better problem solvers in our society."