Faculty Senate President's Column - November 2011

The first snow of the season has blanketed Hays, which is normally reserved for finals week. If you see panicked faculty anywhere, they are probably confused and think grades are due in a few days. The confusion will pass quickly.

Over the last year I’ve been fortunate to be part of an FHSU task force charged with the design of a new type of classroom. Technology and student need are changing the way we teach, but the classrooms we work in are stuck in a 20th Century “stand and deliver” environment with fixed chairs in column-row organization and a podium in front made for lecture and not much else.

But today’s instructor and student want to be in a more flexible, cooperative environment. Empowering students to work collaboratively with the instructor and other students in groups, giving multiple multimedia sources to show a variety of viewpoints and instructional aides to students, allowing students to share work across groups, and provide a variety of seating options so students can feel like they’re learning in a comfortable environment should all be part of the 21st Century classroom.

Fortunately, we have that very classroom right down the hall from my office. The Mediated Classroom Redesign pilot is underway, and we have created a learning space that is inviting, group-based, and very forward thinking. We use technology to reach our students where they live, but we can take that same approach to learning and redesign our learning spaces to teach students in a way that opens them up rather than forces them into a strict format that does not conform to their learning styles. I hope we will see a shift toward these agile, student-focused environments in more classrooms as time goes on. I invite anyone who is interested to ask more about what I think will be the model for classroom redesigns over the coming decade. It’s the kind of environment our students deserve.