Teresa Durham, Staff Writer
The foreign language classrooms in Gamble Hall received dynamic new seating over the winter holiday. The new, colorful classroom seating was commissioned by the Foreign Language Committee and paid for with excess grant money accumulated in recent years.
To enhance communication and conversation in the three foreign language classes, the committee felt that wheeled chairs were the best solution to class time lost to rearranging furniture. The faculty explained that conversations and class flexibility are an integral part of learning in any language class.
“Communication is important. Ideally language classes would be held in a semi-circle, but the classroom sizes are not big enough,” explained Dr. Dorothee Mertz-Weigel, director of International Education and associate professor of French.
These innovative chairs in navy blue, sky blue, and fire engine red have been a huge success with faculty and students alike. “They are perfect for a language class,” said Dr. Ana Torres, associate professor of Spanish. “The [students] also seem to interact more.”
Instead of holding faculty meetings upstairs, the professors like having the meetings in the language classrooms that now have nicknames based on their new look. Gamble Hall Room 107 has been dubbed the “Spider Man” room due to the eye-catching red chairs that now occupy the space. The LLP department has also created buzz for the chairs by posting a photoshopped image to their Facebook page depicting space travelers from popular movie franchises seated in the chairs.
The chairs come from a local family-owned company called Mason Inc., who suggested that each room sport a different color so that moved furniture about the building will be obvious. Each room contains 23 chairs, two of which do not have tabletops for students with special seating requirements.
As the chairs move in three separate ways, they can be difficult to use at first. The tabletop moves in a semi-circle, making it easier to get in and out of the desks. Left-handed writers can now sit in any seat, as the chairs sport dual armrests. More importantly, group work is now a breeze since the chairs swivel smoothly a full 360 degrees.
Gamble’s language professors admire the ease with which the chairs glide on their wheels, though some students see this as the most distracting aspect.
“They’re comfortable, but it makes the rows uneven and a little hard to navigate. The desk space is also a little awkward,” said senior Professional Communication Ashleigh Thompson who has class regularly in Gamble room 119.
Students should expect to see even more changes in Gamble Hall in the semesters to come. Dr. Beth Howells, LLP’s department head, has applied for at least two more grants that will better reflect the higher quality of learning in the classroom.
The first grant will allow for more of the dynamic new chairs to outfit smaller classrooms on Gamble’s upper level. The second grant will be for a technology cart outfitted with Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets. This cart would allow any classroom to be transformed into a computer lab.
Dr. Howells sees this process happening in stages.
“First, we had to set the stage with all of the renovations of the building and what we’ve done is make sure all of the classrooms are smart classrooms. Now, we’re making sure the furniture is as smart as it can be, too.”
These changes do not merely affect those in foreign language classrooms. Gamble’s updates may set the stage for classroom upgrades and modifications all over Armstrong’s campus.