21st Century Classroom excites students and staff while encouraging collaboration

Members+of+Sherri+Alexander%27s+junior+English+class+get+their+first+look+at+working+in+the+21st+Century+Classroom.

Photo: Riley Smith

Members of Sherri Alexander’s junior English class get their first look at working in the 21st Century Classroom.

The start of a new school year brings with it many changes. The school has added new security measures, teachers have updated their lesson plans, and students have a whole new set of classes. Fairmont even held its first ever College Readiness Day. Among the changes at FHS is the addition of the 21st Century Classroom.

Some teachers have brought a class or two to this fabled classroom so far this year, but many students don’t even know where it’s located. And some are asking, “What exactly is the 21st Century Classroom”?

Well, it is exactly what the name implies. This classroom is the most tech-savvy room in all of Fairmont High School. Located in Central Unit in the adjoining rooms 228 and 230, this classroom was designed for group projects.

The room is equipped with three Smart Boards, roughly 60 chairs (all on wheels), and five “media scape” tables that students can position their chairs around. A computer monitor mounted to a vertical wall stands perpendicular to each table, and the tables have special adapters called “pucks,” which are connection cables that allow students to plug in their laptop and display every file from their laptop on the monitors. The room has two Wi-Fi hotspots, and up to 60 people can be working on laptops at any given time.

Fairmont Technology Coordinator Kim Broomhall describes the room as one where students can collaborate, brainstorm ideas or give presentations in a positive group work environment.

“In workplaces these days, there’s a strong emphasis on having workers who can collaborate and meet to work on ideas to solve problems,” said Broomhall. “And that’s what this classroom is designed for: to help students get used to working in an environment where you might move from one spot to another and collaborate with different groups to get some goal done.”

Work on the classroom began in early 2013 and was finished by the end of the summer. Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf came up with the concept, and Kettering Sports Medicine funded the project. After months of preparation and discussion, teachers were able to construct their “dream classroom” and watch it all come together.

Although the classroom isn’t oriented specifically toward research projects, many teachers have been using it in this manner. They are able to book the room by the week and use it as needed. In fact, Broomhall says the room has already been booked from the first week of September through the first week of October. She’s excited that Fairmont teachers are eager to use the room.

Kettering is on the cutting edge, especially with access to this amazing room. It enhances what we can do as teachers.”

— Tiffany Lobertini, Social Studies teacher

Junior Holly Mercs recently got a chance to use the new room. “It didn’t feel like a regular classroom. It felt really laid-back, and I felt encouraged to work hard and study because I didn’t feel like I was in a boring classroom,” Mercs said. She said she was excited to finally use the room, and she says she knows other students and teachers are also enthusiastic.

Social Studies teacher Tiffany Lobertini recently checked out the room for her IB History class. She said her students loved the idea of the room and said they felt like it gave a whole new dynamic to teaching and learning.

“I am a very visual learner,” said Lobertini, “and I’m not a fan of the traditional classroom. The room reminded me of my college, where we often moved around and collaborated, unlike in a standard classroom.” Lobertini also praised the district for creating the 21st Century Classroom. “Kettering is on the cutting edge, especially with access to this amazing room. It enhances what we can do as teachers.”

Broomhall says this classroom is full of opportunities and mentioned that the district has taken special interest in how it can be used to teach both students and staff. She described the possibility of using the room to teach new staff members within Kettering. She also noted the room would be good for testing new technologies and finding out how they could work in a classroom before they are introduced into the teaching environment.

However, Broomhall noted that while the school was very fortunate to be able to create the technologically advanced classroom, most of the technology in the room will stay where it is. She said it would be very difficult and expensive to turn every classroom into a version of the 21st Century Classroom.

With all of the new technology and endless opportunities to improve the room, Broomhall says its potential is astounding. “It’s not only the students learning in here,” she said. “It’s everyone learning in here.”