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5 Tips for Designing More Interactive Classrooms

Interactive learning is one of the best ways for teachers and educators to make sure their students are actually grasping the knowledge and skills they are sharing.

An effort to combat Mark Twain’s famous sentiment of higher education being “a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes without passing through the brains of either,” interactive learning encourages students and educators to get actively involved. In fact, some of the best interactive classrooms can, at first glance, look chaotic because of this type of engagement and often physical movement.

But, as research shows, not giving students an opportunity to interact is likely to impede their ability to really learn – not just memorize and repeat. And teachers agree. In a recent survey, 97% of all educators said that interactive learning experiences undoubtedly lead to improved learning.

Here are some tips for building and designing more interactive classrooms that will benefit both teachers and their students.

1. Provide Flexibility

An interactive classroom needs to be a welcoming, easy-to-use classroom. When designing the space, it’s important to make sure all students, including ones with disabilities, find it easy to move around, join in conversations, sit at tables, etc. Furniture layouts should be flexible, going from lecture-based to project-based collaboration spontaneously. The more a classroom is able to adapt to the subject or project of the day, and whims of the teacher and students (think about including elements like movable tables, rolling/swiveling chairs, comfortable furniture), the more interactive it will be.

2. Smart Surfaces

From large interactive walls to mobile smart boards, the surfaces in the classroom need to be functional and attractive. Teachers should also have access to multiple surfaces, preferably not just at the front of the room, to help facilitate conversations and offer guidance for specific subject material. Increasing flexibility even more, mobile teacher presentation carts allow the teacher to un-tether from a wall location and move about the room.

Mary Castle Elementary

Multiple Writing Surfaces & Mobile Technology Boards for Teachers – Mary Castle Elementary

3. Adjustable Lighting

Light plays a big role in the classroom environment. To help students feel comfortable and relaxed while interacting with each other and teachers, design lighting fixtures that can be adjusted and controlled. Dimmers as well as ambient lighting, not just the standard overhead lights, allow the environment to be changed as needed and will better facilitate conversations, presentations, etc.

4. Maximize Visibility

The best interactive classrooms don’t have a designated “front of the classroom”. Create spaces with your design that allow student seating to be optimized from every point of the room. Students should feel connected with their teachers – not separate from them. By eliminating the ability for students to be placed in designated “back” and “front” of the classroom, design can help equalize the playing field for all students.

5. Technological Savvy

Almost all modern design incorporates the latest technological needs, but perhaps it’s most important when applied to the classroom setting. In order to create interactive classrooms, technology almost always needs to be incorporated. Wireless technology provides the most flexibility in connecting students and teachers to projectors, monitors, and each other for sharing work. Provide multiple charging locations, including floor boxes with USB ports, throughout the room for both students and teachers.

While every classroom can be tailored to specific subjects and grade levels, all interactive classrooms will share the same basic fundamentals. And, because the best interactive designs allow space to be easily reconfigured, these types of classrooms are highly adaptable, making them a great asset for schools across the country.

 

If you think we would be a good fit for your next project, reach out to us!

BIM in Dispute Resolution – KGR

I had the opportunity to read a great blog post by my friend Greg Cafouros at Kroger Gardis & Regas (KGR). At Schmidt Associates, using Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a standard practice for all of our projects. We see the direct benefits it has on reducing errors and saving costs for our Owners. It is reaffirming to see those BIM benefits stretched to cover potential legal issues as well.

Click the image below to read the KGR blog post:

BIM Attorneys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any questions about how BIM can benefit your project, reach out!

A Word from our Owners – Ivy Tech Bloomington

Pam-Thompson-Bloomington Pam Thompson – Dean of the School of Nursing, Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington

Pam has served as Dean for the School of Nursing at the Ivy Tech Bloomington campus since 2010. Prior to that, she served in the roles of Program chair for the Associate of Science Nursing Program and faculty for the School of Nursing. She has been with the college for 30 years.

 

 

Jennie-Vaughan-BloomingtonJennie Vaughan – Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington

Jennie was appointed Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus in 2014. An employee of Ivy Tech Bloomington for over 19 years, prior to being named Chancellor – Jennie served in a variety of roles, including Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Executive Director of Human Resources. Jennie has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, beginning her career as Registrar and Director of Operations at the University of San Francisco.

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Schmidt Associates is hearing from more Universities looking to grow, expand, or enhance their hands-on learning facilities. We took a minute to talk with Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington about the expansion of their School of Nursing to provide you insights for your own campus.

How has your new space transformed the nursing program at Ivy Tech Bloomington?

The biggest piece is the growth in our lab space. In our ‘main’ building, where we were located prior to this new space, we had one nursing lab. Within that lab existed our simulation lab space, so we were either doing simulations or skills labs.

In the new building, the Marchant School of Nursing which is across the street, our lab space more than doubled. We now have two separate spaces, skills on one end of the building and simulation on the other. This allows us to double the number of students we can teach at a time.

Our new space provides us with room to grow our enrollment, which is right now limited by faculty and clinical space available.

 

What feedback do you hear about how the space enhances the program?

Students love simulation. They are always asking for more. We try to drop two simulations into each course, and the space allows us to do this. The simulation puts the students at the bed side with a non-human and we re-create the entire scenario like they are in the hospital without putting any patients at risk.

The fact that the students and faculty can stay in one building and be readily available to each other is great. Faculty seem to be more readily available to students because of the size of the space. The faculty is closer together now sharing office space, and they collaborate more amongst themselves, and with the students. There’s also space that is just for the nursing students which creates program comradery.

The building adds so much to campus and is great for retention and recruitment. We were worried about students being connected to the main academic building across the road, but that hasn’t been an issue. The students all express a sense of pride for having a space of their own. We also have more dedicated classroom space now. It makes scheduling easier and everything runs a little smoother because of the space.

 

If a University is looking to build a new school of nursing, what advice would you share?

Hard wire for as many computer stations as you can. Make sure everything is flexible in its use. You might all of a sudden need 100 students in a classroom. Make sure you design for it.

We love our lounge spaces, but have found we could use even more. Our students, as in most nursing schools, are there all day. They come in each morning, bring a lunch with them, and stay all day. The lounges become where they eat, relax, study, and interact with each other. They are used a lot! Something we didn’t design for since this was an existing building was student lockers. Since the students spend so much time in the building, they have requested lockers, which we have added. Make sure to understand your students’ needs so you can accommodate, and always be flexible.

If we can help you plan for or design a hands-on learning space, reach out!

Hands-On Healthcare Education

What makes a successful learning environment for training much-needed healthcare providers? Facilities geared toward experiential learning! Students today must learn differently while new information is being generate faster than ever before. Designers of healthcare teaching facilities are tasked with creating flexible, experiential learning environments to fulfill this need, and Schmidt Associates has worked with many collegiate partners to create facilities to train future healthcare providers.

Experiential learning requires flexible, hi-tech classrooms and laboratories, as well as unstructured learning spaces.

Classrooms must accommodate:

  • state-of-the art technology for technical medical equipment and information,
  • distance learning
  • digital display
  • flexible furniture for collaborative and varied learning
  • enough wireless data capacity for 4-6 devices per student

Marian University COM Classroom

Laboratories must address the many needs of simulation equipment, including technology to run high-fidelity mannequins, adequate space for medical furnishings and equipment, and appropriate infrastructure for simulated gasses and utilities.

Labs also need multiple support spaces: storage for equipment and supplies, information, display and set up space, and potentially small group meeting space. All of these may double the space need for laboratories.

Ivy Tech Franklin

Unstructured spaces are the “accidental” learning spaces that allow students to continue a learning moment with faculty, study in peer social groups, and study on their own while still feeling part of a larger learning group. Breakout spaces, extra large corridors, coffee bars, and lobby areas all provide space for enhanced learning and positive community building.

Marian COM Lounge

 

Schmidt Associates truly understands these varied learning environments and has expertise in uniting them into cohesive facilities. From the recently opened Marian University Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences (housing the first Catholic College of Osteopathic Medicine in the country), the Ivy Tech Dental Lab in Anderson that serves its community through free and reduced-cost dental care, the Marchant School of Nursing in Bloomington, and the IU Student Health Clinic, hands-on health science facilities are critical to addressing our healthcare crisis.

Ivy Tech Anderson Dental Clinic

As our population continues to grow and age, healthcare education is increasingly important to remedy the shortage of personnel to serve unique and changing healthcare needs. Higher education institutions have stepped up to fill this gap, and collaborative, hands-on training has become the standard pedagogy for medical, nursing and dental school programs.

If we can help transform your facility into an interactive environment for future healthcare professionals, reach out!

Brain-Based Design

Your brain is a vastly complex system with billions of neurons and interneurons constantly firing. And with billions of people in the world, with their own unique neural pathways to process daily experiences, it is safe to say we all think, interact, work, and learn differently than the next.

That said, our brains are similar in many ways. When we understand the patterns in how our brains work, we can design environments to help us learn better.

Our team is passionate about learning. In our roles as architects and engineers, we tailor our designs to optimize educational attainment through engaging the best in brain-based design research. This research includes findings with direct ramifications for environmental factors including, but not limited to:

    • Immersive Environments
    • Active / Passive Spaces
    • Natural Light
    • Stimulating / Enriching Spaces
    • Comfort and Security
    • Flexible Environments
    • Social Spaces

Our Brain-Based Design magazine covers each concept in-depth, and shows why it works. Click the link below to read in full screen:

 

What to learn more about how we tailor to brain-based design in our projects? Reach out!

Q&A Session with Matt Durbin

Matt Durbin, Technology Designer and Information Systems (IS) Manager, has taken an interesting path to land where he is today. Below, we journey along that path with him.

 

 

 

 

Where did you go to school?
I attended Olney College, majoring in General Studies and playing first base on their baseball team.

And your path from there?
My second year at Olney, we came back from Thanksgiving and I was out hunting with friends. Apparently, I was mistaken for wildlife. I was sprayed with buckshot in both legs. After my friends carried me back to my truck, they drove me to the hospital, where I lived for the next couple weeks. Following that, though, I didn’t go back to Olney. Instead, I got a job as a surveyor.

How did you transition from a Surveyor to a Technology Designer?
I started getting tired of being wet and cold from working outside, so I moved inside at the Civil Engineering firm I was working for. I realized I had gotten pretty good at Autodesk software and understanding computers.

At the time, there was no real degree that would support my interests, so I had to learn on the job. I joined a technology committee at my office and helped install my first network in 1990. I made several professional moves, acquired some key certifications, and eventually landed at Schmidt Associates as the Information Technology (IT) Manager. From there, I transitioned back into the design side of things and started designing technology for clients, not just Schmidt Associates. I moved from IT Manager to Technology Designer.

Obviously, Schmidt Associates is your favorite employer, but have you done anything else interesting along the way?
Actually, yes. I worked for the Indianapolis Zoo for a while. It was pretty cool to just walk outside and see an elephant or flamingo. Did you know that penguins are ridiculously loud and don’t smell like roses? I installed a camera in their habitat one time and had some up-close encounters with them!

What do you do in your free time?
I guess you could say I am an outdoorsy kind of guy. I like to fish, ride four-wheelers, tractors. It took me a while to get past being shot, but I actually do some target shooting now too, but I don’t hunt anymore.

Do you collect anything?
Hats. I probably have 50 or 60. I have always worn them, so somewhere along the way, I started collecting them. I have a wall in my basement where I keep my favorites displayed. The others are just stacked in boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt and his wife, Kristan met while visiting mutual friends at Ball State and have been married 25 years. They have two daughters, Mackenzie and Morgan, and a dog, Copper. Mackenzie is finishing her senior year at Herron College studying photography. Morgan is a sophomore at Marian University’s School of Nursing and is a student in the Evans Center for Health Sciences—a facility her Dad designed the technology for. Copper is carrying out his duty of being a good boy.

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Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia Coffee, and Eric Broemel

Clash Detection: Protecting your Budget and Timeline

What is Clash Detection?

Clash Detection software integrates with BIM/Revit design tools, showing the designers and contractors when two or more objects are intersecting and by how much. The software exports a location and physical image of the detected intersection, so you will see the actual conflicting pipes, duct runs, wires, etc. that need to be resolved.

There are three main types of clashes that can occur:

  1. Hard clash: when two objects pass through each other
  2. Soft clash: when two objects invade into geometric tolerances for other objects
  3. 4D/Workflow clash: resolves scheduling clashes and abnormalities as well as delivery clashes (for example, installation of ceilings before ductwork or plumbing fixtures before piping)

Why is it important?

Using Clash Detection is the easiest way to avoid coordination issues before they become change orders.  It allows designers to detect and correct issues in the virtual world before they make it to the real world (where they can be costly).  We can see what will and won’t work early in the design process rather than when construction has begun. Our engineers can run Clash Detection from day one and on until the project is on-site, allowing the construction process to be streamlined.

We use this technology to determine best routing paths for engineering systems. As we team with architects, we can proactively plan how to best integrate, route, and hide building systems within the design. Space efficiency is also enhanced by allowing designers to test tight configurations prior to delivering equipment to the site.

At the core of it, Clash Detection saves time and money. According to The BIM Center, an estimated $17,000 is saved per detected clash.

 

Designing Residence Halls Specifically for the Student

Integrating specific academic environments into five Ball State University Residence Halls was a key early design consideration for the combined $144+ million projects. There was an opportunity to create an interplay between pre-millennial student lifestyle, academic, and career interests while also optimizing for energy efficiency. By adding the latest technologies, new amenities, and flexible design elements into the residence halls, a new sense of camaraderie and function can be seen throughout.

Here’s a synopsis for each:

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall – Emerging Media Center

Size: 164,000 square feet
Cost: $27,800,000

  • Audio and video production studios
  • New lounge spaces
  • Demonstration kitchen—enables guest chefs to demonstrate food skills including healthy eating and unique cooking styles
  • Original structure was demolished to its concrete frame and foundation
  • It was designed for LEED Silver certification and received LEED Gold certification.

Botsford/Swinford

 

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall – A Living-Learning Community for Dance, Theatre, and Design Students

Size: 154,000 square feet
Cost: $33,000,000

  • Two-story lounge spaces and central lounge with a performance area
  • Dance studio, black box theatre, computer lab, fitness room, and drawing room
  • Strong sense of collaboration and camaraderie
  • The new facility re-images the entry into campus where students are center stage
  • Currently in review for LEED certification.

Schmidt/Wilson

 

Studebaker East Residence Hall – Creating A Home-Away-From-Home For International Students

Size: 109,750 square feet
Cost: $18,450,000

  • Student collaboration is enhanced through a new multi-purpose room and three two-story lounge spaces
  • Lounges are equipped with kitchens so students can share cultural foods
  • Provided a sense of community for present and future students
  • New highly-efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and technology systems throughout the building resulted in LEED Gold Certification.

Studebaker East

 

DeHority Residence Complex – Collaborative Spaces for Honors College Students

Size: 131,070 square feet
Cost: $21,920,000

  • Integrating social, learning, and living space so dedicated honor students can combine interests and ambitions
  • Semi-private restrooms with lockers. Each room has stackable furniture and adjustable wardrobe closets
  • Students can take advantage of the exhibition hall for meetings and presentations
  • Ball State’s first LEED Silver certified building on campus.

DeHority

 

New Residence Hall 1 – Construction is underway for the third living/learning community developed from the North Campus Master Plan.

Size: 137,700 square feet
Cost: $43,600,000

  • Built for S.T.M. students and equipped with a makerspace, fabrication lab with 3D printing capabilities, and a virtual reality pod.
  • New campus neighborhood
  • Living/Learning Community
  • Site amenities include a fire pit and hammocks
  • LEED Certification anticipated
BSU-NewResHall1

New Residence Hall 1

 

Like what we did? Need someone for your next project? Let’s Talk!

 

Tools to Inform Design

Site Analysis with Daylight and Wind

Good engineering design begins with a comprehensive understanding of not only where your building sits in the world, but how it sits on the site. Utilizing tools like Green Building Studio in Revit, the Schmidt Associates team is able to test various site configurations to inform design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, on Ball State University’s campus, Schmidt Associates was able to understand, through wind analysis, the impact of new building geometries on existing building planes. This allowed us to optimize the location of the front door, the space between the buildings, and even influenced the strength of the door closers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Regenstrief Institute’s new Headquarters, daylight analysis allowed us to maximize both a limited budget and the desire for natural light. This influenced the L-shape of the building and the type and dimension of the shade structures. Ultimately the building provides the occupants with light and outdoor views while minimizing glare and heat gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lighting Design 

The key to proper lighting design is function and user comfort. You need to provide enough light for people to accomplish their tasks while avoiding glare and unnecessary utility expenditure. Our electrical engineers use Revit to perform a photometric light level analysis. The tool allows us to take into account all facets of the building design such as light, windows, and finishes. For example, if you have a dark floor, the space needs more light than a room with a light colored floor.

Lake Central High School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This comprehensive model, ensures you have an appropriate level of illumination based on the real conditions of each unique space. This doesn’t stop at the lighting layout, it looks at the lighting controls to make sure users can operate the system easily. It also looks at when the building is unoccupied to disable the system while not in use.

Through ease of use, and comprehensive engineering, we can ensure the building performs in the real world as designed.

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Thermal Comfort

The number one complaint of facility users is thermal comfort. It has been well-documented that what is comfortable for one human is not always the temperature comfort for another. That said, a few key strategies can influence a user’s ability to be comfortable in any space. This result starts with holistic design. As we explore different HVAC system types, a variety of modeling strategies are utilized to predict user comfort. As an example, when setting a displacement system, a thermal plume model is utilized to study the effectiveness of different design configurations based on the occupied zones.

Ivy Tech – Illinois Fall Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there, it is critical to give users as much control of their space as possible, within design parameters. Strategies like individual zones, thermostats, and the ability to adjust air flow with diffusers allow users to tailor the environment to their preferences.

 

 

 

The Interactive Classroom

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times. Technology is constantly changing how we function at home, in the workplace, around town, in school, and just about everywhere else in the world. In this blog, we are going to focus on one way we’ve see classroom technology is evolving to fit the needs of 21st century students.

From raggedy pulldown maps and black chalkboards, to chunky projector monitors anchored on a bulky cart in the middle of the room, to whiteboard walls and mounted projectors, the classroom technology landscape has been shifting shape throughout our lifetime rather quickly. We are now rarely including traditional projectors in the classroom, rather we are moving to interactive display monitors that allow students and teachers to be even more in-touch with lessons. In fact, six out of the eight elementary schools Schmidt Associates has designed in the last six months will use interactive display monitors instead of projectors on smart boards.

The interactive display monitors use wireless connectivity. This allows them to sync with mobile devices such as tablets, smart phones, and even laptops to mirror the screen and share the information being worked on with the entire room. Students can display their work within the class and present on how they came to the solution they are discussing. Teachers can integrate multiple levels of engagement within one lesson plan. Students can focus on website pages, videos, and interactive activities all in one place. These display monitors turn a regular classroom into a virtual, hands-on, multi-sensory learning environment. Ultimately, students are more engaged and teachers are fitting more into one lesson.

Each school district has a different reason for moving to this technology, but a driving force is a change in teaching style from lecture style to small group learnings. If a district wants to keep to the front of the room, we wall mount the interactive display monitors. To ensure functionality for all users, we use an adjustable height wall mount unit. For a district that wants the flexibility to move the display monitor, we use a cart. The only limitation on where they can be put is based on the ability to reach a power outlet.

Crestview Elementary School – Interactive Display Monitor

Coordination and design of these systems require similar work as traditional projectors. In some respects, it is easier because it doesn’t require as much wall or ceiling infrastructure, it is all on the cart or mounted unit. We also don’t have to be as concerned about light levels like was needed with traditional projectors.

While we haven’t received many bids on these projects yet to know actual costs for comparison to traditional projection, our estimates show it to be a 10-15% premium. The cost of this technology has become much more affordable in recent years as technology advances. While this is a premium, it has been an ‘easy sell’ so far. The operating costs associated with traditional projectors are higher due to replacing bulbs every year or two. With the interactive display monitor, the warranty covers the first three years, and the projected life span of the technology is 5-8 years.