New SchoolsFirst Learning Lab Could Be Model for Future
By Brian Hiro
What will the classroom of the future look like?
It’s a question that schools across the country are asking as education returns to some degree of normalcy from the pandemic. And it’s a question that Cal State San Marcos hopes to be on the leading edge of answering, thanks to a generous donation.
CSUSM on Monday held a grand opening for the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Education Active Learning Lab, a large and previously traditional classroom on the fourth floor of University Hall that has been transformed thanks to a $132,707 gift from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. Headquartered in Orange County, SchoolsFirst is the nation’s largest educational credit union, serving California school employees and their families since 1934.
“I am grateful to SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union for empowering out future educators with such an innovative learning space,” CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt said Monday during the ribbon-cutting. “And my thanks also to our School of Education faculty and staff, as well as the leadership in our College of Education, Health and Human Services, for making this vision of a 21st-century teaching and learning center a reality.”
The renovation project took an existing double classroom, University Hall 444, that seats 60 students and turned into a reimagined space featuring modern, movable tables and chairs, wall-mounted and portable whiteboards, and state-of-the-art technology that includes 3D printers, virtual reality headsets and “power towers” (large charging stations).
“The idea was, let's turn this into an active learning lab, let's think about how we use the space that we teach and learn in,” said Laurie Stowell, director of the School of Education. “How could we make it a model for our future teachers and our master’s students, our in-service teachers, for how we create environments for teaching and learning? I think that was the vision for how that room could be used.”
The gift was secured in 2019 by a group that included Stowell’s predecessor, Pat Stall; School of Education professors Annette Daoud and Rebecca Brooks; and the former dean of CEHHS, Emiliano Ayala. But the pandemic caused a delay in implementation. Stowell revived the effort when she took over as director in January 2021, and the next several months were spent outfitting the space with furniture and equipment.
The learning lab has been open and hosting classes since the beginning of the current academic year. Stowell said the next step is determining how else the room can be utilized and what type of programs will be adopted.
“There will be workshops and seminars,” she said. “The point is to bring teachers to campus. So the room will really become a hub of the professional development that we offer for teachers.”
The grand opening Monday was attended by several representatives from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, including CEO Bill Cheney.
“We are honored to support Cal State San Marcos as they reimagine the future of teaching and learning," Cheney said. “The SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Education Active Learning Lab will help future teachers be on the cutting edge, preparing them to develop innovative lesson plans and ways that our students of tomorrow can learn and interact with technology.”
Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist
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