Southeast Reimagining High-Tech Learning Space for Education Majors

IRTC-MediascapeCAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, March 20, 2015 – Southeast elementary education major Jacob James says he’s always wanted to be a teacher and being born in the age of technology has primed him for teaching “one-to-one,” an initiative sweeping schools nationwide.

“Twenty years from now when (children) are my age, it’s going to be way more advanced than it is right now,” he said. “And they are going to have to be fluent in technology. It’s almost like a second language.”

James and other education majors at Southeast Missouri State University are learning to integrate technology into their future classrooms with the help of a newly transformed and evolving Instructional Resource Technology Center (IRTC) on the second floor of the Scully Building.

The changes to the IRTC are a part of the EDvolution, an initiative underway at Southeast this year to become a leader in producing graduates who are technologically ready and “who model 21st century teaching techniques,” according to Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the College of Education.

A one-to-one initiative began last fall at Southeast with all students in the College of Education using iPad Airs. The IRTC is providing a modern, high-tech environment for students to use their devices while incorporating technology into their projects. In addition, the changes are promoting collaboration between students and faculty.

“Personally, I think that the advances made within the Instructional Resource Technology Center (IRTC) provide a better environment for the students to work and collaborate together,” said Sarah Proctor, a Southeast student from Wentzville, Missouri. “With the new layout and amenities, we now have a place to prepare our lessons, presentations and classroom activities with our peers more effectively.

“Robin Smith, the coordinator of the IRTC, has been nothing but diligent and thorough throughout the transformation process to ensure that the space is tailored to fit the needs of her students, as they work to fit the need of their own classroom students,” Proctor said.

The College of Education is spearheading the redesign of the space to improve the quality of education for its students. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2015.

“Nationally, there as been a bit of a concern that educator preparation programs have fallen behind and are teaching outdated techniques and skills,” Rogers-Adkinson said. “We want to be one of the leaders in the state for educator programs. We are providing them with the tools and spaces to practice before they apply the lessons with real children. They will have the ability to enter the classroom ready to teach.”

Smith says Southeast students need to be ready to teach students who have grown up in a digital age.

“They want to use technology to learn. So our focus in the IRTC is to give students resources to use with their lessons as a tool, not the focus, to engage students, to make the learning more meaningful,” Smith said. “Their students in turn can create projects and demonstrate their learning that they could have never done without technology in the classroom.”

IRTC-collaboratoryThe first stage of renovations to the IRTC began when the Jean Whitaker Demonstration Classroom in Scully was created in 2011. Students use the room to videotape lectures. It offers  lecture capture capabilities, Apple TV and a SMART Board. Students can practice lectures in front of a video camera and then play them back to assess their performance.

In another room off the IRTC, education majors can practice teaching lessons while they learn to use classroom technology for their field assignments. The room, called the “collaboratory,” is equipped with an iMAC, AppleTV and SMARTBoard.

Other tech tools available in the Center are computers, scanners, clickers and video editing equipment and rooms for students to make their own videos and to “flip” their classrooms.

“We have practice model classrooms where students come in, shut the door, videotape themselves teaching, watch their mannerisms … and practice teaching,” Smith said. “So when they go out into the field, they have the confidence to instruct students and know that they’ve been there, done that, anticipated what might happen, and they are ready to go.”

Central to the IRTC is the newly installed Mediascape, a collaborative space with two side-by-side monitors surrounded by a u-shaped desk around at which about six students can work. At the Mediascape, students hook up their own device via an HDMI cable and beam it to one of the monitors, allowing them to collaborate and share their work with classmates. People from off-campus can Skype into discussions and participate from remote locations at the Mediascape as well.

A new work area next to the Mediascape offers a place where students can stand while working on or charging an iPad, laptop or other device.

Rogers-Adkinson says the IRTC is being reimagined and technologically upgraded from a room in which education majors previously worked to create materials for bulletin boards and where student organizations frequently created event posters. While those items are still available, they are now in a smaller, adjacent workroom.

“Those haven’t completely gone away, but we have taken the center into the future by incorporating the latest educational technology resources,” Smith said.

She calls the IRTC “very forward thinking. It’s allowing students to try things they’ve never been able to try before this year. We are ahead of the game comparatively speaking to some other places. Our students at Southeast are being exposed to cutting edge educational technology that will help them get a job and have a career and also just be happy and know that they are doing the best they can for their students.”

Southeast education majors say the modern high-tech learning space is boosting their confidence about their future as educators.

“I attribute so much of my success in my technology classes as well as in my past field experience to working in the lab. Without its presence, and its up-to-date technology, I would be a million times more worried about how to use technology in the classroom,” said Ian Diamond of Perryville, Missouri, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Education, secondary education, with a major in chemistry education.

Jennifer Boring, a secondary math education major from O’Fallon, Missouri, has recently been student teaching at Cape Central High School.

“Technology is what we are moving towards so we need to move with the times, and education is doing that,” she said.

Education is gravitating towards technology with the rest of society “and that’s a great thing because our students love technology and they want to use it,” she said. “I’m ready to go out there and see what I can do and see how I can shape the future of all of my students,” Boring said.

Southeast senior Amy Bush of St. Louis has been student teaching World History and American History at Kirkwood High School. She says she has incorporated assessments into her student teaching experience with an app call Socrative. Her students used the app to research rights during war time. Using the app and their iPads or Apple laptops, the high school students located articles to defend or prosecute the Espionage and Sedition acts to support and defend their arguments with articles from the Constitution.

“In an age where technology means everything to them and they want that instant gratification, you can get so much of that from technology,” Bush said.

Bush says Southeast has prepared her well for entering an evolving education field where one-to-one initiatives are becoming the norm.

“One of the first things my cooperating teacher said when I walked in was ‘maybe we will learn something from you about technology,’” Bush said. “I’ve been able to show them you can use Socrative or Google Classroom or these other apps that they can take away when I’m no longer there.”

Smith says cooperating teachers in the field are recognizing the technological competency of Southeast’s education students.

“Many cooperating teachers have given me feedback when I went out into the field, and they can tell our students are getting this practice,” she said. “Our students are looked as a resource when they go out because our students are sharing new ideas and they are adding to the classroom. They are not just there observing, they are actively participating” and bringing with them a whole new skill set.

Bush said, “After student teaching and really being in the field and working as a teacher, I’m excited to get a job and see where it may take me,” Bush said.

Junior Jacob James of Cape Girardeau, who has been getting field experience at West Lane Elementary in Jackson, Missouri, says, “Education is evolving kind of like everything is evolving with technology,” he said. “In the future, everybody is going to be one to one. We have to be prepared for that. We have to be ready for the field and need to be ready to teach that to students and not be learning with them but actually be ready to teach them.”

He says every lesson he plans to teach in the future will have some aspect of technology incorporated into it. He says Southeast’s EDvolution has prepared him well to educate tomorrow’s students.

“The College of Education is always evolving. It seems like there’s always something new coming in. I think it’s a good thing that it’s always evolving, always changing, always trying to keep up with the times,” James said. “It’s showing that SEMO really is interested in having us be prepared for our futures as evolving educators.”

IRTC-Whitaker ClassroomThe College of Education is seeking $100,000 from private donors to complete the Edvolution project and provide students with multiple learning spaces, including media lounges, desktop computer spaces, unique tables made specifically for working on group projects, an interactive white board area and mobile marker boards.

According to Amanda Lincoln, director of development for the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, a donor wall of “EDvolutionaries” will be created within the IRTC for donors who contribute $100 or more to the project.

“The successes of our education alumni are because of the foundation they received here at Southeast,” said Lincoln. “Because of that foundation, they have gone on to help other students succeed in their classrooms.”

On Tuesday, March 24, a fund raiser for Southeast’s EDvolution initiative will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Gordonville Grill in Gordonville, Missouri. The College of Education will receive 10 percent of total proceeds that day from in-house and to-go orders, catering events and gift card sales.

Smith said the EDvolution’s momentum is building. Students are returning from their field experiences, saying, “‘our students really love what we are doing’ or ‘I tried EdPuzzle and I use it all the time now. I’m flipping my classroom with it.’ And it’s nice to see that because with everything that’s new, you hit bumps along the way. But our bumps haven’t been very big.

“Our success speaks for itself in that administrators are asking for our students to be in their classrooms,” Smith continued. “Our students come on their own to learn more. We have Appy Wednesday where students and faculty come to share their ideas and those are well attended. They get excited about learning. That didn’t happen before the EDvolution program. It opened up a whole new way of thinking about education for us and a whole new way of partnering faculty and students.”

To learn more or donate to the EDvolution initiative, visit semo.edu/EDvolution, or contact Amanda Lincoln at alincoln@semo.edu or (573) 986-6815.