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Chaparral 2013-2014: 22.2 Future of Our College

Future of Our College (November 2013)

The Future of Our College: Building a Culture of Inquiry

Roger Bowerman

Staff Development Officer

Over the next two years Glendale Community College will be working to reinvent itself. With the construction of the new Lab/Services building we will be consolidating our student services with an eye to better serve those students. But more will happen across campus once the building is completed. The reallocation of existing space provides an opportunity to create exciting new experimental classrooms. The experimental classroom in SF102 -- along with the Faculty Innovation Center next door in SF101, the math center, and our robotics lab -- serves as an opportunity to evaluate what facilities work best for our students. The lessons gleaned from these temporary spaces will help us plan new facilities that are functional as well as innovative.

What might these new rooms look like? For one thing, they will not need projectors that take minutes to warm up and require $300 bulbs that always burn out at the most inconvenient times. Gone will be the awkward “computer desk” that dominate the front of so many of our classrooms now. Even the traditional whiteboard might not be necessary. Envision a room with two moveable 48” flat screens linked to an information management station located unobtrusively against the wall. Students can “push” information from their iPads/tablets up to the screen to share group work with the class, or they can play presentations created at home and saved on the Cloud. Videos will be streamed seamlessly, with picture quality unimaginable in the world of projectors. Instructors will use a moveable podium, and have access to multiple small moveable white boards that can be maneuvered to be used by anyone in the classroom. What an exciting learning environment.

But space does not create learning.

It is not enough to design and build these classroom spaces. The exciting potential presented by creating new learning facilities can only be realized if we take the same care in rededicating our faculty as we do reconstructing our campus. Innovative space requires our college to embrace new approaches to student learning. To effectively use these new classrooms, our institution must also invest in developing the human resources required to use the new physical facilities.

This is where Staff Development comes into play. Over the next two years, the Office of Staff Development will focus on providing training so that the campus community can use and support the new facilities: training for faculty, for classified staff, and for administrators. Despite the insufficient budgeting of Staff Development, it is possible to effectively address this central need using the resources we already have on campus. We can do this together because this is our College!

The Staff Development Committee’s vision for building a culture of inquiry has already begun. The series of three “Innovation Friday” workshop offered this November and December are the first step in a year-long project to engage faculty from across campus in examining and reevaluating student learning. The three 2-hour sessions (11/1, 11/22 and 12/6 in SF102) will introduce ways to engender student engagement. These three areas of inquiry will then be further expanded through a series of in-depth workshops during the winter 2014 intersession. These workshops will help interested faculty to become “discipline experts” who can then apply the insights gained in winter to their spring classes.

But it will not be enough to have interested and equipped faculty using the new classrooms that will come online in fall of 2015. Those rooms will require technical support. Staff Development will work closely with the classified leadership to identify areas of training for the classified staff. Issues of hardware, software, integration, communication – on and on – will be identified before the new facilities are ready to use. Administrative assistants will need to understand how Moodle functions in these classrooms, and IT will be called on to trouble shoot hardware issues in the new “smart rooms.” Employees in Admissions and Records could require an understanding of these new rooms if they will be fielding student questions about the technical requirements of various courses. The best time to address these issues is before the new facilities are built, instead of trying to learn them in a haphazard manner while trying to manage regular job activities. By looking at periods of relative “down time” (fewer students and classes) such as winter and summer, the Office of Staff Development hopes to provide the training necessary to support the new facilities before they are even completed.

The last branch of this Staff Development initiative will be to help our administrators understand how changes in technology, instruction, and the student population can be incorporated into institutional vision and planning. Evaluation of programs and design of program review processes should reflect changes in teaching and learning. The budget committee should understand how these new rooms work and what is required to keep them functioning in order to make better decisions about resource allocation. An understanding of instructional innovation should become part of the image that GCC projects to the community. The more the administration understands the potential for student success – not only at GCC, but in the world outside our institution – the more the administration can understand how to support and promote the systems that make the success possible.

So, climb on board and participate in building our culture of inquiry. The future is here for all of us, all we have to do is embrace it.


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