Two rooms in Rocky now 'smart classrooms'

by John S. Leyba, | 11/19/97 6:00am

The College spent more than $120,000 last summer to make two classrooms in the Rockefeller Center "smart classrooms."

Besides new carpet and furniture, the projectors in Rocky 1 and Rocky 2 were outfitted with dual platform computers that run both Windows 95 and the Macintosh Operating System, as well as multimedia kiosks containing compact disc, cassette, videocassette players and "document cameras."

Document cameras are high-tech overhead projectors that allow professors to project images of books, magazines and other paper media without having to make transparencies.

Focused lighting ensures that the blackboards stay lit while the lights near the video monitor are dimmed.

What differentiates these rooms from other "high-tech" facilities on campus is the integration of diverse media. All the apparatus -- lighting, slides, video, audio -- can be controlled from the lectern using a touch screen.

Other recently renovated classrooms have included some of the various high-tech features, but none has been as sophisticated. According to Mark Vogel of Instructional Services, the project manager for the Rocky "smart" classrooms, "the benefit of Rocky 1 and 2 is that it takes the burden of dealing with technology off the shoulders of the faculty."

The goal of the latest project, begun in October 1996, was to do more than simply reduce labor for instructional services, Vogel said.

Geography Professor Laura Conkey, who teaches in a semi-high tech classroom in Fairchild, said it is "easy to have the equipment all there for using if you wish."

She said she is unsure whether smart classrooms make a big difference in students' learning abilities, but notes that the students are able to use the equipment and present "nicely polished papers."

Faculty members were asked about their needs in several "visioning sessions," as the project went from drawing board to finished blackboard. "The classroom is the tool that the faculty member uses to do his or her job," Vogel said.

When asked about the impact to his department, Director of Instructional Services Mike Beahan said, "I think that it has changed the nature of our work. The work has shifted to planning and development." Historically, Instructional Services has been responsible for deployment and setup of electronics before class time.

Planning for more "smart" classrooms in Berry Library has begun, and Moore Hall, the new psychology building currently under construction, will include large and small "smart" auditoriums, plus other technologically equipped classes.