Sunday, February 23, 2014

Creating Our Own Unique Learning Environments #DigiLead

Over the past couple of months, the staff at New Milford High School has been diligently creating our own unique learning environments for our students.  Building on the success of our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative and with the addition of a new, innovative staff member two noteworthy advancements have been made since September 2013. That new staff member is Laura Fleming and she has done nothing less than blaze a trail since joining the NMHS team.  She embraced the autonomy that she was given in a position that functions as a librarian, media specialist, and educational technology integrator to push the envelop.  Lucky for her, NMHS already had many innovative teachers on staff and students yearning for changes in how and where they can learn since NMHS is an ancient building (i.e. 1928).  

LED stools at the Little Bits bar

One of the most amazing transformations that has taken place at NMHS is the creation of the Makerspace in what was our traditional library.  A space that could once be compared to a barren wasteland is now a thriving learning metropolis where students flock to tinker, invent, create, collaborate, work, and most importantly, learn.  When I hired Laura I basically told her what her budget was and that she had complete control of how she wanted to use the money.  I could never have imagined how quickly she could radically transform this outdated space, using money that in the past had always been spent on books, magazines, and electronic databases.  Some quick highlights include the following:

She just launched an updated site for the Makerspace at NMHS that I highly suggest you visit.  Not included on the site is the recent purchase and addition of an LED chessboard and cafe style seating.  This has resulted in many spirited chess matches between students and NMHS teachers over the past couple of weeks.  For more information on our Makerspace check out this post that I wrote earlier in the year.

Laura is also working on bringing the campus of New Milford High School into the cloud.  This 3-D virtual learning space will enable students to participate, create content, and to collaborate with others, physically and virtually, nearby or anywhere across the globe, through their chosen media.  We will be exploring how we can use the virtual terrain for face-to-face collaboration, and how we can embed collaboration into the planning and the outcomes of instructional design and the learning process. Our virtual environment will be made possible by a solution called ProtoSphere, a 3-D collaboration environment created by a company called ProtonMedia that connects people from all around the globe, at any moment in time, from virtually any device. Mrs. Fleming will be collaborating with Ms. Jennifer Lyons, Ms. Vicki Smith, Ms. Lisette Morel, and Ms. Rebecca Luzuriga along with some of their students.  This project was recently featured on Getting Smart

I'd say we are well on our way to creating learning environments that our students need, deserve, and value.  Stay tuned as we continue our transformation!


  1. Love the idea of maker spaces - I wonder if it is possible to set something like this in an elementary school.

  2. It is definitely a scalable model for all levels, especially elementary. You would just need to investigate what makerspace components would work best your younger students. I LEGO table could be a great starting point to build around.

  3. "tinker" and "collaborate" are two very important words that jumped out at me. All schools should be offering the chance to do this. Makerspaces sounds terrific.

  4. As Laura Fleming's former coworker I am in awe of all that she has done at NMHS in such a short period of time. I would love to be a frontrunner of this in the elementary school world! We are just too embedded in test scores and nothing else matters. :(

  5. Thank you, Eric for sharing evidence of Laura Fleming's teacher leadership. We can all learn from her creativity and innovation.