A crowd gathered around a large flat screen television in a newly constructed School of Education wing to watch an elementary school teacher lead her students through a math lesson.
While viewing footage of a teacher’s class is not uncommon in the School of Education, this scene would not have happened one month ago. University leaders, including School of Education Dean Deborah Ball, Athletic Director Dave Brandon, Provost Philip Hanlon and Dean of Libraries Paul Courant, gathered Friday for the grand opening of the Brandon Center for the Study of Education Practice — a digital library and communal area for students to access a collection of teacher video footage and materials, collaborate on projects and spend time between classes.
The facility — located on the second floor of the School of Education — is named in honor of Brandon and his wife, Jan, who donated $500,000 to the University for a digital library in 2006. The University also funded a “significant but lesser sum” to build the new space, according to the University’s School of Education spokeswoman Jenny DeMonte.
Brandon, a School of Education alum, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily at Friday’s event that he wanted to contribute to the University in a meaningful way, and Ball’s enthusiasm for the project convinced him that the college would benefit from the center.
“I want it to be used,” Brandon said. “I’m going to sneak over here every once in a while, and I want it to be a hub of activity. I want this to be a place that people get joy (from) and benefit from.”
The $500,000 the Brandons donated to build the center was part of a $4 million gift the couple gave to the University in 2006. Two million dollars were allocated to help construct the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, $750,000 was set aside for the Athletic Department and another $250,000 was earmarked for athletic scholarships.
The center’s seven private rooms, four alcoves and two large common rooms all feature flat screen televisions and other cutting-edge technology. The common rooms also collectively feature a kitchen that will provide free drinks, a miniature basketball court and seating areas.
Ball called the center “central to the mission” of the School of Education.
“It will provide a set of resources (such as) records of class practice (and) records of student work that students and researchers can study,” Ball said. “It all happens really fast (in teaching). If you’re trying to watch what a good teacher does, it’s gone. Being able to start and stop (a tape) is really important.”
First-year Rackham student Drew Webb said he will use the Brandon Center for various academic needs.
“It’s great for group projects, and you can practice presentations,” Webb said. “Everything is first class (and) the newest technology. It’s really conducive to the type of (work) we’re doing.”
Nathan Mueting, also a first-year Rackham student, said he plans to come to the Brandon Center often and thinks other students will frequently use the space.
“I think it will be really busy,” Mueting said. “My only concern is a lot of people will be here.”