SMARTspace@NIU offers engaging, interdisciplinary projects that promote students’ creativity. Our eLearning communities encourage participants to develop community-based online projects that integrate art, literacy, and technology as well as to share and discuss their work. Most of our online activities are interdisciplinary and address topics in science, math, art, reading, and technology (SMART) and help students to meet state and national standards for K-12 learners. We love showcasing exceptional student work and seeing students inspire one another. Let’s get creative!
If I could make one recommendation to any future candidates, it would be to try out the eTutoring program. Not only will you use fun new technologies to support learning, but you will also have a chance to make a positive impact on students. You will be amazed at what a difference eTutoring can make.
I have been fortunate to have had many wonderful opportunities to work as a tutor during my time at Northern Illinois University. I felt that I had a fairly strong handle on what was expected for a one-to-one tutoring experience. During the spring 2013 semester, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer for the eTutoring program at Northern Illinois University. During my time as an eTutor, I learned that no matter how much experience we have or how well we plan for a tutoring session, oftentimes things will not go according to plan. To be an eTutor is a special opportunity for both the tutor and the tutee. I recommend that all elementary education students take this opportunity.
The eTutoring pilot program was extremely innovative and original. This program benefited me as a future educator by expanding my knowledge with incorporating technology with learning. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone looking for a change in the traditional approach for tutoring.
Who We Are
SmartSpace@NIU establishes eLearning communities that encourage collaboration among K-12 learners, current and future educators, and the community. Our online experiences are designed to promote creativity and to help K-12 learners engage in technology- and literacy-based activities and make connections across various disciplines.
We open doors for pre-service candidates to become well-prepared educators by engaging with highly diverse student populations and cutting-edge, technology-based instructional delivery modes. In addition, we provide NIU with a direct link for faculty to work closely with youth and teachers to explore innovative learning opportunities in academic and career areas.
SmartSpace@NIU utilizes part of the iFiber broadband network, which connects institutions throughout northern Illinois to high speed internet access.
The pedagogical framework guiding curriculum development for SmartSpace@NIU integrates learning theory, learning standards, and best practices in online interaction culminating in a P-20 learning community. At the foundation is acknowledgement that successful learners integrate their creative, practical, and analytical abilities within a sociocultural context (Sternberg and Grigorenko, 2007). The pedagogical model stems from “successful intelligence” as a platform to support the learning conditions, including transformational learning, responsive assessment, and a holistic environment.
These learning conditions are designed to facilitate experiences for P-12 learners and pre-service teachers and the professional development of in-service teachers in achieving the relevant standards (21st Century Skills, National Educational Technology Standards, Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium,Social-Emotional Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core State Standards).
For more information, read the full Pedagogical Framework document
Organization of SmartSpace@NIU
SmartSpace@NIU is made possible by participants, community partners, project teams, and the steering committee. Mary Baker coordinates SmartSpace@NIU-related initiatives.
The SmartSpace@NIU Steering Committee is comprised of Northern Illinois University administrators, faculty, and staff. The committee monitors progress toward goals, builds internal and external support, and oversees the development of a viable business plan for SmartSpace@NIU.
Project teams are responsible for developing, implementing, evaluating, and improving each SmartSpace@NIU activity.
The external partners include community members who provide direction and guidance for SmartSpace@NIU.
Program and course participants provide valuable feedback on their experiences and influence school, program, and course development.
Clinical Experience and Student Placement Coordinator, CLAS
Director, Pre-Collegiate Programs and Upward Bound
Assistant Director, P-20 Center
Director, eLearning and the Digital Convergence Lab
Director, Office of Education System Innovation
Director, Center for Secondary Science and Math Education
Associate Vice Provost, University Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation
Andrew Pemberton (Co-Chair)
Outreach and Engagement Associate, Outreach Communications
Sharon Smaldino (Co-Chair)
Morgridge Endowed Research Chair, Office of Partnerships
Assistant Professor, College of Visual and Performing Arts
SmartSpace@NIU began as The Virtual Lab School (VLS). The original concept was one of many proposals submitted in 2011 by NIU faculty and staff members to Great Journeys Strategic Planning and to Vision 2020. The Provost’s Office found the general concept to be innovative and worthy of seed money. Since many units across the university would be involved in testing its promise, responsibility for developing an online lab school initiative was assigned to the P-20 Center, which coordinates university-wide projects.
NIU faculty and staff played significant roles in launching The VLS during 2011-2013 to originate the VLS concept, work with partners across campus to write proposals, and provide guidance during the start-up period. These faculty members included Lara Luetkehans, Rebecca Hunt, Sharon Smaldino, and other faculty members in the Education Technology, Research and Assessment Department in the College of Education.
Kristin Brynteson and Mary Baker of the Center for P-20 Engagement, acted as coordinators, created extensive documentation for the project, led project teams, and developed many of the initial online components.
In 2013, the Provost’s Office restructured The VLS. A steering committee renamed the project SmartSpace@NIU. Housed in the P-20 Center, SmartSpace@NIU continues to develop, pilot, and improve its university- and community-wide projects.