When administrators in the 33,000-student Keller (Texas) Independent School District needed to build a new middle school to support the district’s rapid growth, they saw a unique opportunity. “We decided to build a ‘lab school’, where we pilot and test a different school design, as well as new technologies, for the rest of the district,” says Keller ISD Chief Technology Officer Joe Griffin.
The 953-student Timberview Middle School, which serves grades 5-8 and is located outside Fort Worth, opened on August 23, 2010. “The design focused primarily upon student collaboration and social context in order to transform learning,” says principal Carrie Jackson.
Key features of the design include flexible classroom spaces with movable walls, central collaboration areas, a robust wireless network, and interactive projectors on portable carts. “Everything is flexible and mobile, and every space in this campus can be used for learning, both indoors and outside,” says Griffin. Each classroom has just one wired network connection for a projector instead of the usual nine in most other district classrooms, because everything is wireless. “We also didn’t sign a printer contract at all for this school. Because everything is digital and online, we do so little printing,” Griffin adds.
The ubiquitous use of mobile devices is another central theme. A bond issue enabled the district to purchase hundreds of devices, including netbooks, laptops, iPods and iPads. But administrators are planning for a “device-agnostic” future. “Originally, we were looking for that perfect device we were going to get for every student,” says Griffin. “But we quickly changed from thinking about the device to instead examining our curriculum and student expectations, and determining what tools can enable them to happen.”
Next year, the district plans to allow students to bring in their own devices, particularly smartphones, with Timberview as the first. “This school is our model for future construction, and we’re also looking at ways to modify existing schools to make them more like this—collaborative, mobile, flexible, so learning takes place everywhere,” says Griffin. “From the research we’ve seen and because of our success thus far, we believe this is the school of the future.”