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Austin Peay State University unveils cutting-edge Furniture Connection EdTech Studio

By: Megan Simpson and Payton Baggett March 21, 2024


Furniture Connection’s David Berggren and Danielle Berggren cut the ribbon to open the new EdTech Studio at Austin Peay State University on March 11. | Photo by Madison Casey

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - The immersive capabilities of virtual reality — once thought to be just for gamers — are making their way into classrooms nationwide. Thanks to a generous gift from Furniture Connection, these technological innovations are now available for college students at Austin Peay State University (APSU).

University officials ushered in a new era in teacher preparation with the grand opening of the Furniture Connection EdTech Studio on March 11. This state-of-the-art space, located within the Eriksson College of Education, represents a leap forward in equipping aspiring educators with the latest educational technologies and immersive learning experiences.

The Furniture Connection EdTech Studio is a comprehensive learning hub that allows pre-service teachers to gainhands-on experience using virtual reality (VR) headsets, 3D printers, LEGO® Education sets, robotics, coding devices and other cutting-edge tools.

Through an immersive VR experience, students can observe local K-12 classrooms without leaving APSU’s campus,honing 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 newly-opened Furniture Connection’s EdTech Studio at Austin Peay State University is equipped with online teaching stations for teacher candidates to familiarize themselves with virtual instruction tools, like this webcam that follows their movements. | Photo by Madison Casey

A Space for Innovation

The EdTech Studio's mission is to empower educators with practical and accessible resources, support and expertise, fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation and inclusivity at Austin Peay.

Dr. Hanrui He, an assistant professor in the Eriksson College of Education, pitched the studio idea last year after observing technology use in regional classrooms. Incorporating these high-tech tools into Austin Peay’s educator preparation program supports efforts to equip students for modern teaching careers.

“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. 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."

In addition to its state-of-the-art resources, the EdTech Studio serves as a hub for community collaboration and technological advancement. The facility welcomes ideas and suggestions from educators, industry partners and community members to continually enhance its offerings and stay ahead of the curve in educational technology.


Dr. Hanrui He, education assistant professor and coordinator of the Furniture Connection EdTech Studio, sets up a virtual reality headset for a recent class demonstration at Austin Peay State University. | Photo by Sean McCully

Supporting Teacher Candidates

A ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by university leadership, faculty, students and special guests showcased the studio's resources and provided attendees with an opportunity to experience the immersive learning environment firsthand.

“Our Austin Peay family is thrilled that our friends at Furniture Connection are continuing their commitment to the Eriksson College Education, which they began in a meaningful way in 2021 when they established a new endowed scholarship to benefit our talented junior and senior education students as they pursue teacher licensure,” said Dr. Mike Licari, president of Austin Peay State University. “Their thoughtfulness and generosity is an inspiration, and we know this space will serve new generations of educators for years to come.”

Endowments are permanently restricted funds managed by the Austin Peay State University Foundation. The scholarship award amount may vary based on the endowment's value and the Foundation spending plan.

"We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of Furniture Connection, whose partnership has made this innovative space a reality," said Kris Phillips, Austin Peay’s vice president for Alumni, Engagement and Philanthropy. "Their commitment to advancing education and supporting the next generation of teachers aligns perfectly with our mission at the Eriksson College of Education and Austin Peay State University."

For more information about the Furniture Connection EdTech Studio, visit apsu.edu/education/ed-tech-studio. To support APSU fundraising initiatives, contact the Office of University Advancement at 931-221-7127.


Austin Peay State University students work with a LEGO® Education set, which can be assembled and coded to light up, display different colors and move. These sets are used in the classroom to teach STEM skills in an engaging, fun way. | Photo by Sean McCully

About the Eriksson College of Education
The Eriksson College of Education prepares dynamic teachers and educational leaders to positively impact communities and schools in the 21st century. The college offers initial and advanced licensure and non-licensure programs. The college’s programs, including the nationally-known Grow Your Own Teacher Residency, are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP). To learn more, visit apsu.edu/education