A 21st century classroom with state-of-the-art technology is scheduled for construction in the former School of Nations Language Lab starting in Fall 2012. So how is this vision coming to life? What will this futuristic classroom look like? How will this classroom benefit the students at Principia and what will this cutting-edge technology hopefully inspire in future years?

Dean of Academics Dr. Scott Schneberger said the future of Principia College brings a new age of “exploring frontiers of advanced classroom technology.” The 50th Alumni Class donated over half-a-million dollars to benefit Principia’s students, faculty, and staff. The class decided that building a technologically-advanced classroom would be the best way to benefit the community.

The library is one of many builings currently available to students looking for a quiet atmosphere to do their homeowork. Junior Liza Hagerman takes advantage of the space to work on her sketches for Graphic Design I. photos / Mia Shotwell

Dr. Schneberger said this classroom will “break geographic boundaries for education and facilitate interactive learning in a highly advanced technological environment. Students will be able to collaborate with other universities worldwide.” This alumni class recognized the need for Principians to be ambassadors of higher education, represent Christian Science throughout our global community, and expand awareness of our liberal arts offerings.

Academic Technology Director Christian Borja is still developing a strategic plan for the room’s design, but some impressive technology has been promised. For example, two large displays will be installed at each end of the classroom. Borja said these displays will have “multi-touch capabilities for collaboration. This will allow people in the room to work together on the screens by touching them. The room will have videoconference capabilities to bring people into the classrooms. There will also be technology to allow people [off-campus] to participate and collaborate in the classroom activities whether the displays are being used or not.” This means that a professor living abroad could teach a course via advanced videoconference.

Dr. Duncan Charters, the Chair of the Language Department, uses various media inhis Spanish classes. photos / Mia Shotwell

It is College President Dr. Jonathan Palmer’s goal that every student be fluent in at least two languages by graduation. To that end, the new classroom will support the trend of multilingualism and prepare students for cross-cultural communication in professional settings. By having the potential to connect with classrooms worldwide via online videoconference, there is no limitation to the languages students can learn.

Language Department Chair Dr. Duncan Charters said this technology will “promote stronger international relations with other universities in both our language programs and in other areas.” This classroom is not limited to the language department, but intended to fit the needs of every academic department.

Let’s ask a bold question: What’s the deeper purpose of this kind of academic development? Dr. Charters said this 21st century classroom will have the “potential for us to connect with other Christian Scientists across the world. Then we can reach out to others who could benefit from what we have to offer.” He continued: “It is important that citizens across the globe can get close to the language of Mary Baker Eddy’s revelation. This shows our interest in facilitating English skills among potential students abroad as well as other people who could not come to the Elsah campus.  Just as The Christian Science Monitor is an ambassador for the Christian Science movement through the quality, objectivity and hope inspired by its constructive news reporting, Principia has the potential to communicate its educational vision to the broader higher education network by offering a unique quality of educational programming online.”

As a student body of highly motivated liberal arts extraordinaires, the potential of this classroom is infinite. The design of this classroom will be very flexible. Borja said its furniture will not be bound by cement or innumerable screws, but “showcase many multi-purpose characteristics. The strategic flexibility of this multi-purpose furniture will enable students to share the space harmoniously.”

enior Josh Curry and classmates work in the School of Government computer lab, which serves as the temporary language lab. photos / Mia Shotwell

Students can individually or collaboratively communicate with other students or academic scholars in a team or mentor-based fashion. Students will be able to push boundaries, think more broadly, and develop meaningful connections with other learners at Principia and beyond. Dr. Charters also said this classroom will “create job opportunities for students who wish to pursue specific languages we don’t offer in the classroom here. These experiences would facilitate career opportunities that may involve what are designated as ‘critical language.’ Interactive dialogue with partner schools (such as “La Amistad” school in Uruguay) has already shown its value.”

Last but not least, one final question arises: What will this cutting-edge technology inspire for further on-campus development? There are big plans for renovations of academic buildings across campus, including the library, School of Government, School of Nations, and Concourse. Ultimately there will be one School of Government comprised of administrative offices, the Student Union, and the Core Academic Building. The 21st century classroom may help to determine the design and technology incorporated in future projects. With this knowledge, the new buildings scheduled for reconstruction across campus will be filled with world-class technology that best benefits and blesses students at Principia and beyond.

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