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Technology changes classroom delivery at BCC
slt classroom erin renard 2019
BCC instructor Erin Renard demonstrates new technology in an active learning classroom at Barton Community College. The teacher’s workstation features a powerful touchscreen interface. Images are projected to the screen on the wall behind her, and to four other screens where students can work together in small groups. - photo by Susan Thacker

The chair desks in Barton Community College classrooms may not be original furnishings from 1969, but they definitely are “50-year-old technology,” Barton Vice President Elaine Simmons said. You could call them antiques. 

The classroom of the 21st Century shouldn’t always be rows of students facing a teacher giving a lecture at the front of the room, said Brian Howe, dean of academics. Howe, along with Zach Bauman from the IT department, spoke to college trustees Tuesday about “active learning classrooms” that are equipped for collaborative learning. Then trustees visited a classroom in the Fine Arts Building where instructor Erin Renard demonstrated some of the new technology.

The Fine Arts classroom, Room F-111, is a smaller version of the Nex-Tech Active Learning Classroom unveiled last month at a Chamber After Hours event. (See “BCC to host Business After Hour to unveil Nex-Tech Active Learning Classroom,” in the Sept. 18 Great Bend Tribune

The college tried twice, and failed twice, to secure grants to help purchase the equipment for an active learning classroom, Howe said. Then Nex-Tech agreed to sponsor a classroom outfitted with everything needed to provide a modern educational experience for students. 

As Renard stepped up to her Hovercam Pilot teacher station, trustees found their way to desks or stood on the sidelines looking at the interactive display screens placed on three walls of the room. That’s when Simmons commented on the old chair desks. In the Nex-Tech classroom, even the chairs are designed for mobility and collaborative learning. The chairs have castors and can easily be moved around the classroom as students gather in small groups at tables or move to individual work stations, which are also mobile. The tables can be arranged in various configurations or flipped on their sides and moved out of the way.

Only two rooms have the technology pieces, for now.  “We hope to do more but there are no solid plans,” Howe said.  “Ultimately, we are continuing to think about our learning spaces and consider how we can help the spaces to be more flexible.”

For her demo, Renard invited trustees to pull out their smartphones and participate in activities. As they texted answers to questions, the results appeared on the screens in various formats. Using her own touchscreen, the instructor circled a word on the display and then called up related images and content.

Teachers like Renard are still learning how they can use the technology, but they are embracing it, Howe said.

“People really want to teach in an interactive way,” he said. As a result, students are more engaged in the content.

The technology allows teachers to redesign their learning area, Howe said. “We’re beginning to give them the spaces that allow them to do what they want to do.

“To do it (instruction) right, you have to switch your lesson planning and how you present the material."

Watching a teacher stand at center stage to deliver a lecture can be as out-of-date as those old desk chairs, Howe said.