Austin Peay State University in Tennessee has opened the Furniture Connection EdTech Studio, a comprehensive learning hub that allows pre-service teachers to gain hands-on experience using virtual reality (VR) headsets, 3D printers, LEGO Education sets, robotics, coding devices, and other cutting-edge tools.

The new studio was funded in part by a gift from Furniture Connection, a local furniture store, and will be housed within the Eriksson College of Education.

Education students can use the VR technologies to observe local K-12 classrooms without leaving the university’s campus. The school said the new capabilities will help students hone their classroom management, lesson planning, technology integration, and student engagement skills.

“We are thrilled to introduce this groundbreaking space that will play a pivotal role in preparing our teacher candidates for the classrooms of the future,” said Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the Eriksson College of Education. “The Furniture Connection EdTech Studio will provide our students with invaluable opportunities to explore and master the latest educational technologies, ensuring they are well-equipped to engage and inspire the next generation of learners.”

The concept for the studio was pitched last year by Dr. Hanrui He, an assistant professor in the Eriksson College of Education, after he observed technology use in regional classrooms.

“Educator preparation programs in Tennessee are required to provide training in virtual instruction strategies for teacher candidates,” He said. “Teachers are expected to seamlessly integrate technology into the curriculum rather than treating it as an add-on or an afterthought.”

“The role of EdTech is to make teaching more effective, learning more engaging, and professional learning more efficient,” He said. “Our lab’s various learning stations prepare teacher candidates for in-person and online teaching while also offering hands-on experience with emerging EdTech tools, ensuring that future educators are well-prepared for the demands of modern education.”

The school said that in addition to its resources, the EdTech Studio will also serve as a hub for community collaboration and technological advancement. The school said it wants ideas and suggestions from educators, industry partners, and community members to continually enhance its offerings and stay ahead of the curve in educational technology.

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