The iCenter is becoming the new hot spot and hang out at West Bloomfield High School. Formerly, the iCenter was just a normal school library, but since the start of the 2015-2016 school year it has become something more. Furniture was rearranged, games were purchased, new forms of technology were installed, and a new media specialist, Mrs.Julie Abeska, was hired. Along with the physical changes, the iCenter became a brand new and exciting environment. One of the biggest changes was the opportunity to eat at the tables during lunch. This became such a popular trend among students that regulations were put up and the lunch pass system was created to help save the room from becoming a wild cafeteria.
With the increasing buzz, Spectrum thought it was only right to interview the lady behind the plan, Mrs. Abeska. When people walk into the iCenter they are met by the aroma of warm coffee and instantly feel calming hospitality. The giant projection screen dominates the room and clusters of chairs surround the space. Fun games sit on the tables and music is playing in the background. Mrs. Abeska and her partner Mrs.Rozenberg are welcoming and help anyone with a smile.
How does the iCenter this year compare to years of the past?
“The iCenter Specialist who was here in the past was a fantastic person, and I’m not just saying that because he is my brother! Which he is! Mr. Palizzi has great talents and knowledge, especially in areas like research, English and Literature. However, my focus and talents grow out of the elementary school, and at the elementary school we had a really lively iCenter! Mrs. Rozenberg and I wanted to find a way to offer sophistication and scholarly resources in a fun, relaxed, and social venue. By dovetailing these two pieces we were able to create a fresh and innovative space for students. We wanted to create a space that spoke to teenagers and all the different aspects of their lives: social, academic, physical, and emotional.”
With the addition of chromebooks, how has the role of the iCenter changed?
“Students bring their chromebooks here and do a lot of work at the tables or on the bean bag chairs. There’s a lot more collaborative work that goes on with the chromebooks, so I see students interacting and collaborating a lot. With the addition of the chromecasts, students can project their work to one of the flat screen televisions and everybody can see what they’re working on as opposed to gathering around at one tiny chromebook screen. Students still come into the iCenter for printing purposes but we’re hoping one day to have airprint capabilities. Students no longer need to have color print passes. Instead, each student is allowed 100 prints per semester, black and white or color. I love it when I see the kids curled up in a chair with their Chromebook or when a class comes in and does research using this new technology. If students have technical issues with their chromebooks, the technology department is available to help on Tuesday and Thursday during all three lunch hours. Simply stop by and ask for Jason.”
What is your vision for the iCenter and what do you hope students use it for?
“At the beginning of the year, we created a student survey and asked students to give us their opinion about how to improve the iCenter space. I really wanted to hear directly from the kids rather than speculating on what they would like. At the end of the survey, we asked students whether they would like to be a part of our iCenter Student Advisory Team. This group would talk, brainstorm ideas, make suggestions, and dream! Ultimately we would consider short and long term planning of what we want the iCenter to be in 2-3 years. I think that the best libraries understand the importance of having many different spaces and evolving with the time. In the WBHS iCenter, I envision a place where students are eating lunch while socializing and charging their cell phones. Combine that with kids working collaboratively at a large table with the most up-to-date technology. Picture moveable furniture, tables and chairs on wheels so working as individual or a group is simple and quick. Include quiet study spaces and rooms. Surround all of that with the best works of fiction, non-fiction and reference books! Imagine a makerspace section with electronics and engineering materials. Include a coloring station for relaxation and creativity. And then, just to add a bit more ambiance, throw in a fireplace and some leather furniture to give it that old world library feel. I want the space to appeal to all students and to reflect their needs, wants, and interests.”
What is your response to the overwhelming positivity students are showing for the iCenter?
“I absolutely LOVE it! I’ve heard students say the iCenter is best place to hang out in the school and I am so flattered by that. I love having the iCenter filled with students. More and more teachers are signing up to bring their classes to the iCenter and I think that’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful space and it should be used all day, every day. The kind remarks from students are heartwarming but the smiles and laughter in the iCenter are the best! There is nothing better!
I’m lucky too in that I get to work with a wonderful partner in the iCenter. Mrs. Rosenberg is cheery, smiley, and friendly. She is usually the first face students see when they enter the iCenter and her support and positive attitude make my job even more enjoyable. Honestly, both of us are overwhelmed by the support from administration, students, parents, and the community.”
What new changes are you adding/thinking about soon?
“I’m really waiting to see what students are interested in doing based on the survey results. I did chuckle when I looked at the survey answers because some of them were very serious and others were super funny. Like, “we would like you to add trampolines and napping pods to the iCenter”. I actually looked up how much a napping pod was because I thought that sounded cool, but… they were a little out of reach at $3000 each. Our immediate focus is incorporating a Makerspace and and a cozy reading area with a fireplace to help get us all through the Michigan winter.”
Why should students come to the iCenter?
“Well first of all, it is just the greatest venue in the school. I think that we have a friendly and welcoming staff. We really are here to help students. It’s a place where kids can hang out, relax, and study. They can collaborate with one another, they can find books on topics they really enjoy or gather materials that will support their school work. It is just a really positive place. We don’t give tests, we don’t have assignments. Our main goal is to just make your day better. Depending on the day, it can mean using the iCenter to enjoy a hot cocoa and a book, or as a place to find support on a research project or paper. Some days it means a quiet lunch and board game with friends, while other days it is a place to study quietly for an upcoming test. Regardless of your needs, try us first. We may be able to help or at least point you in the right direction.”
After asking Mrs.Abeska some serious questions, Spectrum thought it was only necessary to include some fun ones as well.
Get To Know Your iCenter Specialist
Name: Julie Abeska
Favorite Food: Pasta and seafood
Favorite Music Artist: Carrie Underwood or Tim Mcgraw
Favorite Book: The Glass Castle or The Book Thief
Favorite Writer: John Green
Favorite John Green Book: Paper Towns
Favorite Actor/Actress: Ryan Reynolds and Annette Benning
Favorite Movie: An American President
Spectrum also talked to Mrs. Abeska’s ‘partner in crime’, Mrs. Rozenberg whose comment regarding her time in the iCenter was “I am loving it.” She added, “It’s busy every minute! From the minute we open until the minute we close. Not to mention I’m running back and forth from here to the book room, 3 times a day.”
Along with the two ladies who run the iCenter, we also talked to some students to get their opinion on the new space. Freshman Cole Cassar shared their opinion on the changes. “I like the iCenter so much because of the recent improvements they’ve done to it, like the TVs and the music and all that. I like how they have an individual room where it can be quiet so if you need to do independent work you can go in there. I usually come right after lunch or during lunch.”
Overall students are loving the iCenter. They feel it’s a nice place to unwind, relax, and have a coffee. They are really expressive over the changes and are excited to see what exciting changes will happen in the future. The new features have given students a reason to go and enjoy. If anyone is interested in suggesting ideas for the iCenter, they should keep an eye out to see when the next meeting is, or contact Mrs. Abeska at [email protected]