We depend on schools as a training ground to prepare students for the jobs of the future. Code is the new second language and programming is a practical prerequisite. But, a growing shortage in tech talent coupled with a digital divide in accessibility to tech education is making it difficult for enterprises across all sectors to fill the growing demand for workers with sought-after technology skills and experience, including software development, artificial intelligence, and analytics.
At Adamson High School, Corgan has teamed up with Dallas Independent School District, IBM, and American Airlines to modernize a 100-year-old building in South Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. As an extension of the ongoing revitalization and investment in the area, the design taps into the power of the building and partnering businesses to scale tech education and support the district’s PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program—empowering students with skillsets, tools and training needed for immediate job readiness. The design for Adamson High School takes on the same goals—simulating the professional world, harmoniously and strategically gelling student and professional spaces under one roof, and expanding the performance of a historic space to prepare the student body and campus for new modes of education.
“Adamson High School is part of a national Pathways in Technology network and is quickly rising to serve as a national model for how progressive workforce development can take shape in a high school,” said Israel Cordero, superintendent for academic improvement and accountability at Dallas Independent School District.
HACKING THE COMPUTER LAB
Acting as an extension of the tech community, the immersive model offices IBM and American Airlines employees alongside high school students in a space that intentionally puts learning on display, replicates real-life applications, and encourages a culture of continuous innovation and collaboration. The new design for Adamson High School transforms the computer labs of the past into a learning lab of the future—a state of the art facility that rivals industry standards to help close the gap in access to technology tools and education.
The design liberates learning from the traditional parameters of time, space, and personnel; instead, it activates the built environment as a teaching tool to complement a program that seeks to recreate and encourage opportunities for continued learning and teaching beyond the classroom. With the advent of new technologies and new programs, the goal of education has shifted away from content dissemination to a deeper kind of learning that empowers students to discover how they learn and put to practice new skills.
Inspired by the kind of productivity found in individual work at a coffee shop, Wi-Fi WASPS, CNC routers, added power sources, and remotely accessible routers equip personal workstations with ultimate connectivity to provide “heads down” time within a public setting—reinforcing what is learned during structured, formal class time while mirroring the work culture of the tech industry. Novel work environments, including benches, counter space, and collaboration hives, strategically anchor a generously wide hallway to visually and experientially break up the space, offer flexibility and customizable options, and provide refreshing surroundings to boost productivity and engage students throughout the day.
Once reserved for the computer lab or for a computer science instructor, tech education at Adamson spills out beyond the classroom. An existing science lab will be converted into a maker space with easy access to water and power. Outfitted with equipment for robotics hardware, 3D printing, and digital fabrication, the space invites hands-on practice for students to tinker and experiment with new skills. An open floor plan, large sinks, epoxy counter tops, movable furniture, and retractable hose reels with power provide the flexibility for endless making and creating opportunities.
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The blended professional environment is ripe for relevant observation and actual application. Establishing a visual and physical connection between the professional offices, maker space, graphics labs, and classroom seamlessly integrates the mentorship program into the student experience and immerses students in an inspiring professional environment. Flexible seating near IBM and American Airlines punctuate the corridors to provide intentional and causal meeting spaces for continued problem solving, ideation, and teaching—further blurring the lines of where formal education begins and ends. As a part of the blended environment, students are naturally familiarized with the professional setting and equipped with the soft skills needed to succeed after graduation.
OLD MADE NEW
The design program not only preserved the historic building, but challenged the built environment to accommodate current and anticipated technologies, equipment, and special requirements. The historic building presented the challenge of small classroom sizes that are often incompatible with today’s larger technology equipment and structurally significant walls prevented a complete overhaul of the interiors. Corgan’s design team brought the larger technology features out of the classroom into the hallways and laboratories to create more flexible technology spaces in the larger areas of the building and increase accessibility to students and professionals. The classrooms are free to function as spaces for more individualized, focused learning with flexible furniture that encourages students to learn in their preferred style, whether that be individually or in small groups.
Celebrating the historic character of the building, the vision for Adamson complements the heritage of the building with the amenities of a 21st century workplace. While the main lobby pays homage to the past with original marble flooring, crown molding, and restored wood-paneled doors, the main hallway is a multifunction space for collaboration, presentation, and social gathering. With color digital graphics and soft seating, presentation and display zones enhance the high school experience. Traditional classroom spaces and computer labs are used for delivery of course content while specific spaces are designated as think tanks and pitch pockets for discussing, validating, implementing, and marketing ideas. The connection to the school’s history is honored with historic replicas of existing light fixtures, doors, and windows while the ambiance of a cool, high-tech space is emphasized with metal accents, vibrant colors and three-dimensional ceilings. Where historic tile and wood detailing were preserved, glass storefronts and open spaces provide contemporary updates while supporting curriculums that showcase student work and reflect a modern culture of collaboration.
Two on-campus work rooms provide IBM and American Airlines employees with the spaces to code, manage their IT, and seamlessly conduct business remotely. Like their corporate offices, these include a combination of workstations for individual work and lounge spaces for collaboration. These work rooms are placed amongst the program’s learning areas to allow students the ability to collaborate and learn from the professionals and provide students with the visibility of the professional work environment.
P-TECH stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. As part of the tuition-free program, students can choose a career pathway and take courses that provide the academic, technical, and workplace skills that are attractive to employers. Students have the potential to earn an associate’s degree in four to six years, along with industry certificates for their selected career pathway — opportunities that can potentially lead to paid internships and job placement after graduation. Students also have the opportunity to earn up to 60 hours of free college credit while pursuing their high school diploma. At Adamson, this means IBM/AA employees leed regular sessions with students to teach them everything from app development to aeronautical engineering. Best of all, this opportunity comes tuition-free.
Sangeetha Karthik, vice president at Corgan, brings 17 years of experience in education architecture in programming and visioning spaces that define and align with career-based curriculums. She specializes in environments that mimic the real world and are student-driven to foster engaged, self-directed learners that are aptly prepared for their future.
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