Transforming Uni one room at a time

Uni students returned to school in August to a newly renovated 106S and new furniture and technology in 308. Both of these changes were products of the Innovations in Learning Project, a program and fundraising initiative designed to improve Uni and change its approach to teaching and learning.

The project began as a combination of Uni, as a lab school, wanting to experiment with incorporating technology and active learning approaches into the classroom, and donors wanting to see their money turned into something tangible, Director Jeffrey Walkington said.

The project’s most recent major undertaking was the renovation of 106S. The classroom now has glass writing boards on all four walls, six tables where students sit in groups, and a monitor at each table in addition to a large screen at the front of the room.

English teacher Kathy Rodems who teaches Subfreshman English in 106S said that the new classroom design is beneficial for group work and helps the subbies get to know each other.

“Eighth grade is just a different year and it’s so important to encourage being social and friendly. That room in particular helps with that,” she said.

She has used the smaller monitors at each table to display assignments and instructions in a place that is easier for students to read, and anticipates using them for group peer reviews of writing assignments and for students to work on group projects such as PowerPoint presentations or infographics.

Subbies Ella Greer, Serenity Lilly, and Rowan Trilling-Hansen agreed that the technology was useful in class.

“Sometimes [Ms. Rodems] will broadcast what she puts on the big screen [to the monitors], and sometimes she has people plug their computers into them to demonstrate something or to work as a group,” Greer said. “You don’t all have to crowd around a computer, which is nice,” Trilling-Hansen added.

A speaker will be coming to Uni in October to help teachers develop even more strategies for how to incorporate the technology into their classes.

Looking forward, the Innovations in Learning Project will continue renovating classrooms- next up is the chemistry lab which was last redone in 1962.. But Walkington also plans to focus on other matters.

“Our priorities now are also some more practical things in addition to the active learning classrooms . . . like teacher salaries and also some infrastructure that isn’t quite as exciting,” said Walkington, citing Uni’s windows as an example.