Cardinal receives gift for technology upgrade
ELDON – Cardinal High School is in store for major technological improvements thanks to a gift of nearly half a million dollars from the Ottumwa Legacy Foundation.
Cardinal Superintendent Joel Pedersen made the announcement at a school assembly earlier this afternoon. The purpose of the assembly was kept secret. Attendees were only informed that the district had “big news” to announce.
The foundation’s gift comes to $470,000, which will pay for new computers, televisions, furniture and other technology-related equipment for the high school. In addition, the money will pay a portion of the salary for two instructors who will be hired as “tech coaches,” responsible for educating the teachers in the use of the new hardware.
The school district, for its part, will pay for the necessary remodeling to convert a couple of classrooms into a tech center, which has been dubbed the “genius hub.” The school will remodel the current entry lobby into an area it’s calling a “learning lounge” for students to study or for guests to congregate before and after a concert or game. Pedersen hopes to show live footage of events transpiring inside the gymnasium so people could watch them on televisions in the learning lounge.
The third piece of the puzzle involves creating a grander entrance on the school’s west side featuring a new vestibule. The school district will end up paying for about half the cost of the project, which will come from its Local Option Sales Tax revenue.
Pedersen describes the creation of the genius hub as combining two classrooms to form a “21st century learning space.” The genius hub will not be a traditional classroom where the teacher stands at the front of the room and lectures the students. Instead, the students will break into small groups to complete a project. The teacher will not be so much a lecturer as a facilitator, helping each group work through its own unique challenges.
“When kids get into the work place, they often work in small groups,” Pedersen said. “Sometimes they’ll need to work alone in a quiet place for a little while before sharing their insight with the group. Instead of giving the students the same work, some kids might need extra help, while other kids could be accelerated learners.”
Pedersen envisions all of the chairs being on wheels, to allow groups to form and disband easily throughout a class period. Computer monitors at each table will allow the group to watch educational videos or produce content on their own. The genius hub will not be for one particular teacher or class, but rather a room that high school teachers could “borrow” throughout the year depending on the nature of their class project.
“Maybe the science teacher checks it out for a few weeks, and then the math teacher might come in for a project,” Pedersen said. “It would be open to different classrooms depending on what they need.”
Cardinal High School obtained the gift from the Ottumwa Legacy Foundation by presenting a 20-minute proposal to its board of directors in March. The school district learned in April it would receive the money, but waited until today to make that knowledge public.
Construction on the project will begin this summer. Pedersen expects the entrance and learning lobby to be done first and likely in time for the start of the 2014-15 school year. He said the genius hub would probably be done later in the school year.
The two technology coaches will be Alecia Gardner and Sheila Fetter, both of whom are already teachers in the district. Gardner is a fourth grade instructor and Fetter teaches middle school math. Their replacements will be announced at the school board meeting tonight.
The gift from the Ottumwa Legacy Foundation will pay for three-quarters of the two coaches’ salary for three years. Pedersen said the school plans to retain the positions after that, and to pay for them through other educational grants.
Pedersen said schools oftentimes overlook the importance of providing teacher support because they assume the teachers learned all they needed to know about computers in college.
“We’ve missed the boat a little bit since we tend to think that when teachers come out of college and should know everything,” he said. “This is one place where we hope to do a better job with that. We want to raise the technology skills of all our teachers.”