Tampa Preparatory School embraces technology
Having spent a decade serving educators in audio and acoustics, I’m glad I still have the capacity to be awed when a school embraces technology 100 percent, and works for as long as it takes to make great choices for the greater good of all students.
One such sterling example was what I saw recently when working with the 600-student, grades 6-12 college preparatory institution, Tampa Preparatory School, in Tampa, Florida.
I met Tampa Prep representatives at a particularly busy and upbeat version of FETC in Orlando early this year. That lead to, first a product demo of our Flexcat and Redcat products, and what turned out to be — I’m happy to say — probably the most rigorous series of demonstrations, Q&A’s and diverse considerations I have ever partnered in while satisfying a school’s technology needs.
Tampa Prep had embarked this year on a total remaking of two floors of one of their buildings, to stand as a one-of-kind, tech-forward (middle school) environment of limitless learning opportunities, allowing all students equal access to information. But when I say tech-forward, I don’t mean make sure to look forward to the front of the room, kids. Because Tampa Prep also completely abolished the notion that there IS a front of any classroom. Among the dozen or so rooms in the middle school that was renovated there aren’t any of those.
No-boundries total immersion learning
There are super-advanced, touch-sensitive interactive whiteboards on either side of the room, however. And many of the single-desk/chairs are on rollers, allowing students to move at will around the room, while taking their tabletop with them. Kids can also camp out in the hallway, or on sofas here and there — moving freely in the large learning environment, just as they will live and learn in the wide learning environment of life beyond those walls.
This 360-degree environment, the school technology decision makers informed me, is one of the reasons Tampa Prep chose Lightspeed. The acoustic “invisibility” of our flat-panel exciter technology — that distributes sound so evenly through a room you, literally, cannot tell where it’s coming from — resonated with the school’s no-boundaries visionaries.
But I want to get back to their selection process, because I found it fascinating.
After demonstrating the products for my initial contact, the director of technology put me through my paces. There were questions about whether it was possible to capture recordings of lessons transmitted using the Lightspeed products ( “Yes, you can,” I responded). Others wanted to know about multi-media capabilities, to be able to deliver the same room-wide excellent sound quality for any audio media, not just human voices. (“Yes, that too,” I assured them, demonstrating the capacity).
What followed eventually was a presentation to the entire Middle School teaching staff, and even the school’s Headmaster. Everyone had questions. Finally, when I gave the school Flexcat and a Redcat systems as “loaners,” to try for themselves, the next call as a green-light.
But the caring didn’t stop there. When Tampa Prep held a celebration for the people who contributed donations to this absolutely first-class new, high-tech school renovation, I was also invited to come and make five minute presentations to three separate groups (comprising 60 people in all). Even they had questions.
In closing, it seemed to me that the process that Tampa Prep went through, at the very least, embraced these important lessons:
- HAVE A SINGLE VISION — Tampa Prep’s is to have no front of the room, a total immersion in an unlimited learning environment
- BE GUIDED BY CLEAR GOALS — As in putting the student’s experience at the center of every decision and giving every child equal access
- INCLUDE ALL STAKEHOLDERS — Many hands make light work, and more minds are very often much better than one or two
- MAKE YOUR VENDORS WORK FOR IT — Don’t be shy about asking manufacturers/solutions providers to present, and present again, asking as many questions as you need to along the way to ensure a right fit
- TRY THE PRODUCTS FOR YOURSELF: It’s in the classroom where the buck stops and the learning starts (and then never stops)
Frankly, part of my joy in having been a very small part of Tampa Prep’s successful implementation of equipping a truly first-class learning environment was how deeply involved, committed and enthusiastic everyone was (and remains) about what they believe will be helping to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.
If you’re looking for inspiration in facing your own foray into providing students with an exceptional learning environment, looking to the Tampa Prep process seems a pretty good place to start.