New classroom uses advanced technology

Jessica Addington

Room 260 in the Daktronics Engineering Hall is a technology-based classroom designed around the concept of active learning. This semester, the room is being used as a trial model for other classrooms of its kind.

“The room was designed around a team approach to active learning and enhanced with the latest and greatest technology,” said Michael Adelaine, vice president for Information Technology.

The room is set up for easy access and sharing of information. Six circular pods surround a center podium from which the professor controls what shows on the room’s five plasma screens. The pods are circular so that groups of about nine students can work together. Both PCs and Macs can be hooked up to the tables so that professors can display student teams’ work on the screens, and students can write on the room’s whiteboard walls with erasable markers, just as they would on a standard whiteboard.

“We are looking to move forward in learning,” Adelaine said. “The faculty and students craft it so they improve learning for all involved.”

Because of its technology, the room is classified as a second-generation cloud classroom. A first-generation cloud classroom such as Rotunda D uses multiple projectors to broadcast information to the front of the room, but a second-generation cloud classroom focuses on student-based activity to learn.

The university held meetings to see which professors would be interested in teaching in a classroom with this new room’s design. Many professors had to change the way they taught based on this new concept of a room. The idea was not to lecture but to come up with a topic for the day and have the students lead a discussion based on information they had collected.

“The faculty had to be trained to use this new technology,” said Shouhong Zhang, instructional design team manager for SDSU. “Without training, the buttons controlling the information on the screens would be frustrating.”

Funding for the room was coordinated by Provost Laurie Nichols, who was supportive of this new concept of learning. The layout came from an active learning room at Minnesota State University that had round tables for group activities. The plan is to expand the design to multiple classrooms across campus during the upcoming summer and add more wireless technology to make the classes run more smoothly.

“The initial response to the room is positive,” Zhang said.

Assistant Professor Mary Bowne teaches Early Childhood Education classes in the room. Her approach to teaching in this environment is based on collaborative work on questions posted by herself and others on D2L. Students look at the class content from D2L and bring back more information from sources other than the ones Bowne discusses in class.

“At first this kind of learning was somewhat daunting because of the numerous tools and options available, but now it’s enjoyable,” Bowne said.

“It’s definitely a new style of learning,” said Danielle Walder, one of Bowne’s students. “When Professor Bowne asks us to summarize our readings for that week by writing notes on the wall, it is something we actually look forward to. It’s a great room, but I think it is important for professors and students to use the room in moderation because it can be overwhelming at times with all of the technology.”

Kayla Warkenthien, another of Bowne’s students, said she enjoyed the new classroom.

“It is very simple to bring up something off of my computer and put it up on the TV screens or projectors’ screens when necessary,” Warkenthien said. “Our instructor is very knowledgeable about all of the different tools to take advantage of, so our classes run very smoothly. The only part I dislike is having the podium in the middle of the room for when I have to go and speak or present something.”