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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Classrooms for the Tech Savvy

Think of a classroom. In all probability the image that flashes across your mind is of a professor, a blackboard, and your watch. However, if initiatives by the Instructional Technology Center (ITC) and Chancellor Jo Ann Gora are any indication, the classroom may soon be the coolest place to be around. This spring the ITC has introduced ten new technology enhanced classrooms (TEC) that are part of a $300,000 project by the chancellor to foster technology in teaching and learning.

The classrooms, five in Wheatley Hall and five in McCormack Hall, were existing classrooms which have been updated with ceiling mounted data/video projectors, video cassette players, sound systems, wall panels for connecting laptops and Internet connections. Both PC and Mac laptops are available for use in the classrooms and the center also provides faculty with assistance and support. But not every student in these classrooms has a computer. Most courses don’t warrant a computer for each student, but if a need does arise, the Computer Center can provide laptops on request.

Formerly known as the Learning Center, the ITC is a place for faculty and staff to learn, create and connect with technology. It is also dedicated to increasing the awareness of informational and instructional technology as well as support for distance learning technology. So when some faculty members wanting to make their classes more interesting approached it, the ITC was more than willing to lend a helping hand.

“We want to open the doors to new teaching methods. The interactivity at these TECs make classrooms a fun place to be,” says ITC director Sara Baron. But what use would computers be in, say, a history class. “Think of this,” says Baron, “the professor is teaching about Martin Luther King and instead of reading blandly from the text, he switches on a DVD and plays the speech on a big screen. It’s almost like being there. For most students, the learning experience is mind blowing. That is just one example. When you think of other courses, you realize that the possibilities are endless.” The thought of English majors watching classics, geography majors viewing animations on climate change and so on comes to mind. The idea is truly appealing and the wish list suddenly grows. What about satellite-based video conferencing? Wouldn’t it would be terrific to get live feed from some explorer in the Amazon, for instance.

Unfortunately, the TECs don’t have satellite linkups. That facility is restricted to faculty in distance learning. However, Baron says that if a group of students approach the ITC for using satellite video conferencing, the ITC would be open to the idea. So far there has been no such request. But the TECs have had positive feedback from students. Most students enjoy the audio/visual effect while learning. Teachers also enjoy the captive audience and the ease with which new ideas can be explored. The ITC too has taken notice. “We plan to introduce more classrooms next year,” says Baron. “Financial constraints may slow progress for a while, but eventually our goal is to make every classroom a technology enhanced classroom.”