Anyone who has been following along on the journey of Austin Community College purchasing the entire Highland Mall and converting it to a community college campus will understand why I am so excited about it and why I keep inviting colleagues and friends to come see what ACC has created at our Highland Campus. When I say “college campus,” I believe most people have expectations of classroom space and perhaps those expectations lean towards the technology that might be incorporated to modernize these classrooms. What you find, however, is the future of workforce training laid out in front of your eyes.
I always make sure to walk people down the hallway in the Music Department with individual soundproof rehearsal rooms where you can peek inside and see a piano or a drum kit ready to be played. Across the ‘mall’ from there, it is fun to wander into the Radio, Television, and Film (RTF) program’s new facility and see the theater/studio spaces and instrument control rooms where each student or student pair gets their own television control board to run. As we keep walking, we end up at the new Culinary Arts’ commercial kitchen classrooms. They were kind enough to situate one with glass walls, allowing passersby to watch them roll out chocolate or stuff sausage or whatever the skill-of-the-day entails. Adjacent to the classrooms is a 75-seat restaurant that will soon be predominantly student run.
I often take people outside from here and show the lovely outside space that has been created and as a means to make my way over to the manufacturing department’s amazing shop. Here, students can design something with their new computer-aided design (CAD) skills and then walk over to the CNC mill that they share with one other student, plug in their flash drive loaded with the design along with a chunk of metal, and make it come to life. Right next to that, is our new prototyping incubator known as the Impact Lab. This maker space type facility has the capability of machining metal or wood and is also equipped with multiple types of 3D printers, laser cutters/engravers, robotic arms, and robust software to support these capabilities. Every tour ends with the Health Sciences department where they are using smart patient simulators to give students a real life experience.
What always comes from these tours is the realization that with the acceleration of technology, the way we teach has changed. The historical method of having a teacher that has an extensive knowledge base is no longer the best approach for students who carry a computer in their pocket. So, even in the standard classroom, we need to think differently and approach teaching differently. In our latest episode of Science in the Mall, Y’all, we sat down with Dr. Samantha Croft, Professor of Biology here at ACC, to discuss exactly that. Samantha is involved in our Teaching and Learning Academy, which works to expand teaching practices and focuses on teaching innovation. These are the things that they think about daily. Maybe the value that teachers now provide is teaching the discernment of what information to believe and how to determine that. Between the hands-on learning that happens at places like the Bioscience Incubator and this approach in the classroom, I know that we are teaching for the real world….like we should be. It was fun to sit down with an old friend and talk about how we can make a difference for ACC students.
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