SHOREWOOD – The new "idea lab" at Shorewood Elementary School is all about connecting technology with what students are learning.
The converted computer lab differs from the average school technology setting. The largely open space is equipped with 10 iPads, 14 Google Chrome boxes, a large flat-screen TV for projections, and a green screen for video projects.
"It's a new age, 21st century computer lab," Principal Julie Mancione said. "The kids are coming with knowledge. So this makes them comfortable and motivated, and it broadens their world so much."
The lab, as well as new national learning standards, are part of a greater focus on science and technology at Troy School District 30-C.
"We want to be out in front of technology for the kids," Superintendent Todd Koehl said. "They're tech natives. We're pushed by them."
The intent of the idea lab is to promote inspiration and creativity in students, Mancione said. The lab is being piloted at Shorewood before the rest of the schools in the district make the change.
"It's definitely a philosophical shift," Mancione said. "The blinds were all closed in the computer lab because of the reflection on the computers and everything was just linear. Now there's just a natural light and a free and colorful open space."
The total cost of the project was about $15,000, Mancione said. Koehl said the budgeted renovation was done in house.
Educational Technology Coordinator Jenna Woodland said the idea lab is an integration of technology embedded into the curriculum.
"It's a philosophical shift, but an environmental shift too," Woodland said. "We're using technology as a tool to talk about the digital footprint."
Each class has a designated time to use the lab. But teachers can also reserve the lab for lessons that fit their curriculum Mondays and Wednesdays.
Next generation science
Even though it's not yet required, the district this school year started implementing nationwide Next Generation Science Standards into the curriculum of William B. Orenic Intermediate and Troy Middle schools.
The standards aim to increase interest in science by focusing on four areas: earth and space science, life science, physical science, and engineering and technology, Director of Curriculum Daniela Fountain said.
"In the past, we would dig deeply into content and text," Fountain said. "Now we're working more through practices rather than memorizing content. They're asking questions and defining, planning and carrying out an investigation."
For example, when learning about solids, liquids and gases, instead of just reading about them the students go through experiments to see how the states of matter affect the world.
Fountain said the standards are still being discussed by a science committee to determine how to implement them.
"We're thinking about where students will be five to six years from now," she said. "They're thinking product-, outcome- and solution-based rather than just consuming information."