Waverly eleventh graders Sarah Miller (left), Angel Hague (second from right) and friends use newly improved learning space to decorate volleyball posters.
By Jordan Jennings
LANSING TOWNSHIP — Waverly Community Schools have welcomed “COWs” (Computers On Wheels), learning spaces and huge advances thanks to their technology bond that was passed this summer.
“[From] what’s behind the walls—the wiring— to what’s in our closets —the network hardware, the servers—all the way to the desktop computers, everything is brand new this year,” said David Palme, supervisor of LEA technology services at Waverly Community Schools.
Previously two classrooms, this area of the Waverly Middle School is now remodeled into a learning space, complete with TVs on each wall.
The major technology construction project included about 25 miles of network and cabling, several alternative learning spaces and a “One-to-One” learning program.
Every classroom has a One-to-One cart. With this program, all students have an Internet-accessing device assigned to them throughout the year. Kindergarteners were assigned iPads; first through sixth graders were assigned Chromebooks (like laptop computers), and middle schoolers received a combination of the two.
One-on-One carts full of devices await use.
Similarly, high schoolers received mobile carts of PC laptops (at a computer-student ratio of about one to four) that are rolled into classrooms as needed, Palme said.
The One-on-One devices weren’t passed out to teachers immediately when the school year began. Teachers received them in October after getting settled into their classrooms and going through training for the devices. The two-fold training prepared teachers with how to help their students use the devices correctly, when is appropriate to use them and how teachers themselves can use them.
Palme said that if in a particular lesson a device is not needed, the student knows that they need to close it, put it in the center of the table, and focus on listening to what the teacher is talking about.
“Technology that isn’t implemented well can be a distraction. We took a lot of time through the way we implemented to make sure that we limited if not eliminated those distractions,” he said.
Every classroom has a Promethean ActivBoard and projector, document camera, brand new computer or iPad and a large screen monitor, Palme said. Each classroom also has a sound field system to ensure that every student in the classroom can hear teachers clearly.
A brand new Promethean ActivBoard and projector
“The goal of technology oftentimes is to reach different types of learners,” Palme said. By implementing this technological variety, he says they are “increasing [a] teacher’s toolbox to effectively reach students” as well as engaging their 21st Century learners.
Palme said everything the schools purchased was thoroughly researched to ensure they are best-of-breed.
Eleventh grader Makayla Butler said she really appreciates the high school’s “Computers On Wheels.” “Instead of going to the computer lab we can bring the computers to us—we call them COWs!”
Makayla Butler uses a new learning space in Waverly High School to do homework
As a compliment to the new technology, Waverly has also enhanced students’ work areas with well-researched furniture.
Butler has attended Waverly High School since her freshman year and appreciates the additional seating.
“When I first started here, if we were having trouble, like, concentrating in class, we would come out to the hallway but we had nowhere to sit. And now we have places to sit. And it’s a lot easier to work out here than it is in a classroom.”
From mobile seating and tables in the library to café-like lounge seating in the hallways, the schools have implemented comfortable “learning spaces” for their students. Everything’s mobile, allowing for easily rearrangeable lab and group project areas. In many labs, screens occupy each of three walls so students can always see the lesson.
Coffee shop-esque furniture in the center of Waverly High School hallways
Palme said these spaces were inspired by a visit to the cutting-edge learning spaces of Steelcase University, a learning center developed by the Grand Rapids-based corporation that designs innovative interior architecture, furniture and technology.
Angel Hague, also an eleventh grader, said that for group work the chairs and couches are helpful because they allow you to “be more personal.”
“Instead of being crowded around a couple desks, you can sit down at a table and look people face to face and get your work done,” she said.
Hague also echoes Butler’s appreciation of the COWs. She said that the computers don’t always work efficiently though. And while she likes the new technology, Hague said that the on-going construction is not “a really good learning environment” and wishes it had been completed over the summer before students returned.
Waverly eleventh grader Sarah Miller said she wasn’t sure how students would treat the new equipment. As far as she can tell, though, “everyone is just as appreciative as I am that we got the technology bond.”
She also said that while some of it seems almost overdone to her—such as the TVs in the hallway study areas—Miller likes that “it is there for use when we do need it.” All TVs in student work areas are accompanied by USB and HDMI inputs so students’ can connect their computers and work on the larger screens.
All these technology and learning environment improvements could not have been achieved without help from the Waverly community though.
“The community very graciously saw the vision that the school district had for the students and student learning,” said Palme. As none of these advancements would have been possible without the bond, Waverly Community Schools are tremendously thankful for that, he said.