Centennial HS media center goes digital

Transforms into 21st century learning environment

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ROSWELL, Ga. – Come August, students at Centennial High School will find that their media center has dramatically changed and so will be the way they use it.

Centennial High School is in the process of completely renovating its media center making it more digital friendly.

Many of the old encyclopedias and reference books will be gone.

The change crystalized two years ago after Marie Yelvington, the media and educational technology instructor at Centennial High School, began having discussions with English teacher Scott Kent.

“We’ve had this running conversation about the direction for media centers and media specialists, and it started with that conversation,” said Yelvington.

Then she attended a media conference where the speaker shared ideas for turning media centers into digital media centers that use databases from all over the world.

“It sort of steamrolled from there,” she said.

But Yelvington’s idea would have never gotten off the ground until Centennial was given a Fulton County grant for $190,000. The grant came during the transition of Cohort 1 schools to the charter school system. The grants allowed schools to do what each thinks will best improve their school.

Yelvington’s friend Kent, with whom she had bounced around ideas, was now on Centennial’s governance council.

The two came up with the idea of revamping the media center and presented it to the school governance council.

The idea took off and was well received by the council, but Yelvington says the credit has to be shared by many.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things – what I saw at that conference, what I see in magazines and research that I’ve done,” said Yelvington. “What I think is unique about us is the way we came up with this idea.”

Yelvington formed a team consisting of parents, four students and an administrator to go on a field trip to see what cutting-edge media centers were doing.

“After the trip, we let the kids brainstorm and our idea evolved and became more of what they wanted too. It was very much a collaborative effort,” she said.

The initial idea for a media center overhaul was sparked from what Yelvington witnessed in her day-to-day observations working in the Centennial High School media center.

“When students would do research, they used the databases for the non-fiction much more than they would go get a book off the shelf,” said Yelvington. “Our students are very good. We push the databases and they use them. Instead of going to get an encyclopedia off the shelf, they would look it up on the computer.”

This observation made Yelvington realize that the way her students learn is evolving and she needed to keep pace.

“The way students are learning is changing,” said Yelvington. “We need to keep up with the students and what they’re doing. We realized they don’t need to be sitting here with a book when that’s not what they’ll be doing five years from now.

“It’s not that books are bad, and it’s not that the old way of teaching is bad,” she said. “People are simply doing things in different ways now.”

The updated media center will feature plenty of space for students to work on group projects, updated databases and a room for distance learning. Additionally, students and teachers will have access to resources including a 3D printer and a poster maker.

One thing will not change, however. Yelvington said they will be keeping half of their print books, mostly the fiction collection.

“I still love the feel of a book,” said Yelvington.

So she is not getting rid of books – far from it. She says students and teachers make incredible use of the media center, and will continue to do so.

“But I think it’ll be a different way of learning,” she said. “The students are really excited and when you can get that kind of excitement from a high school student, then it can only be for the good.”

RN 07-10-14