Central Manor’s Digital Learning Island

Penn Manor recently hosted the annual IU13 Partnership Convention. District board members and school leaders converged on our school to celebrate and tour our latest school building renovation project, Central Manor Elementary School. The school features several new facility and technology updates. However, the key showcase zone is the new digital learning island located in Central Manor’s primary wing.

During construction, workers uncovered a large section of beautiful hardwood flooring dating back to the original school building, circa 1930. The original hardwood floor area was preserved and has became a distinctive artifact of the renovation. For about a year, this section of the building had affectionately become known as the “bowling alley.” Our mission was to amplify this unique location and build a fun, interactive and creative learning space suitable for digital presentations and small group collaborative work.

The large space and beautiful flooring lends itself to special treatment and a unique ambiance. Individual breakout spaces are technology-rich. However, the technology is designed so that it may be stowed away when not needed. Flexibility is key; the open classroom provides active, passive and collaborative learning spaces. Students may deliver a group presentation or cluster into small teams for project work.

Five large LCD monitors are powered by lightweight Nettop PCs running Ubuntu, the free Linux based operating system. Each PC is connected to the building WiFi network and features a wireless keyboard with an integrated mouse. The PCs are loaded with our standard suite of learning software, which enables our students to research, write, program and design. Finally, building laptops may also be connected to the LCD monitors, if needed.

Denny Coleman, Penn Manor’s Director of Building and Grounds, deserves special recognition for making the unique learning environment a reality. Denny and his team fabricated a stage and hanging fixtures, installed the monitors and electrical infrastructure and provided the furniture. Denny’s creative touch really brought the space to life.

A big thank you to Mr. John Matusek and his 6th grade students for demonstrate how classrooms might use the new learning space.  Mr. Matusek was an early adopter of the digital island and helped us work out the bugs. Below, Central Manor student, Zach Schucker, demonstrates that three computers are better than one as he prepares student presentations for the learning island debut. One laptop was running a video loop, one was used to aggregate student work from Google Docs, and one was used to create the slideshow to be shown during the IU13 Partnership Convention on Wednesday April 11, 2012.