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Building for tomorrow

Building for Tomorrow [Facility design for technology]
St. Peter School Hilites, Dec 1990

I have to confess that I’ve spent more time looking out the windows this year than I ever have before in my career. Boredom? Daydreaming? Weather anxiety? No. I’ve been watching the amazing transformation of a street and hillside being turned into the high school addition which will contain new science classrooms, a guidance center, and new media center. I’m excited. I’m sure Mrs. Colby is happily watching North Elementary’s new wing take shape as well. Why are we building new “media” centers? Well, for three very good, very important reasons.

The current high school library was built in 1958. While we did have Edsels, Ike, and Howdy Doody in black and white, things like computers, videocameras, satellite dishes, CD-Rom, faxes, on-line databases, microfiche, and laser discs were all still in education’s distant future. A yearbook from about that time cited film projectors, tape recorders, 35mm cameras, and the PA system as the equipment used by the Audio-Visual Club. Libraries were built to hold books and magazines. Technology was kept in a closet “down the hall” and used primarily by teachers. The tools available with which to teach children have changed.

If you’ve ever tried to find a good place for a microwave oven or dishwasher in an old house’s kitchen, you can understand why it is not always easy to make new technologies work in old school buildings. And whether we understand computers or videocameras or faxes ourselves, our children must to be successful in college and in most careers. The new media centers will have places for the new technologies.

The second reason students will benefit from new media centers has to do with research telling us how children learn. Not everyone learns everything best from books. Some children have difficulties reading - the act of reading gets in the way of the information. (By the way, very bright students also can have reading problems.) Children can successfully be taught the same concept using a computer program, videotape, sound recording, or book. Some materials lend themselves to visual presentations. I’ll have a better idea of “shark” if I see a videotape of one instead of just reading about the subject. Math becomes an enjoyable game on a computer rather than pencil and paper drudgery. The uses and devices of persuasion are more fully understood when the student has a chance to make a presentation using the videocamera. The new media centers will give students and teachers the space and resources to learn and teach in a number of ways - not just by books and reading.

Finally, the additional space and resources in the media centers will give teachers the ability to help your children become life-long learners. How many times will today’s students change occupations and need to retrain themselves? Current studies are saying 4 to 7 major job shifts. Knowledge itself is increasing exponentially. The best teachers know that they cannot relay to students all the information they will need to know for the rest of their lives. Students need practice in becoming informed decision makers, effective users of information, and competent communicators. Adequate facilities and resources are critical if teachers are to move from the traditional lecture, read, test classroom to one which encourages group and individual problem solving, individualized instruction and self-teaching.

Good buildings all by themselves can’t guarantee schools will provide students with a good education. It is possible to have a Volkswagen engine in a Mercedes body. But with adequate space, equipment and materials, the media program can become an important part of the education your child receives in the St. Peter schools.


The high school media center is scheduled to be ready for use when school starts next fall. The new center will have five main areas: a circulation-reading area with seating for about 120 users, a computer lab, a television production studio, six conference rooms, and a AV workroom area. English classrooms and the curriculum director will occupy the current library’s area.

The main reading room will have a specially built circulation desk which will house the computerized circulation system, bookdrop, and work area for the library staff. Directly in front of the circulation desk will be stand-up carrels holding the card catalog terminals. The reading area will have a display area, formal and informal seating, shelving for about 15,000 books, and study carrels to house computers and other AV equipment. Power and data lines will run under the floor in a large T-shaped tunnel. As the media center’s use of computerized information sources grows, additional access points can be opened along the tunnel. The media center should be as attractive as it is functional. The science department’s greenhouse will extend above the circulation desk, and the media center will share its skylight. Six conference rooms for small group work will line either side of the main seating area. Students and teachers can work together without disturbing the individual media center users in the large area.

A computer lab with 30 workstations will be off the main entrance area. Separated by a glass partition, the networked lab will be used both by whole classes from every subject area as well as by individual students. Across from the computer lab, the TV studio will be visible through large windows. Here students can tape and edit video productions, or the room can be used as a “mini” auditorium or classroom. Also originating from this area will be the school-wide video system. When finished, a tape can be played in the media center and viewed in a classroom or student performances can be videotaped in one classroom and shown in another. The receiving equipment for the satellite dish will also be housed here.

Finally there will be a work area consisting of two offices for the media generalist and AV director, and a large workroom for equipment repair and storage. The school’s large photocopier will also be housed in this area.


For a larger image, click here


Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 07:30PM by Registered CommenterDoug Johnson in | CommentsPost a Comment

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