THE COLLEGE’S fi rst collaborative computer classroom opened this fall in 28 Pardee Hall. “The custom design is unique at Lafayette and may be the first of its kind anywhere,” says Courtney Bentley, director of instructional technology. “Rooms in other places have some similar features, but the way we’ve incorporated the technology creates a highly flexible collaborative lab that meets the varying needs of our faculty and students.” Courses in economics, English, and engineering are being taught.
“I teach writing with digital media, which requires collaboration,” says Timothy Laquintano, assistant professor of English and assistant director of College Writing. “The design helps make that possible. Students can project a document they are writing and revise it together. They can also project individual writing, which is beneficial for whole-class writing workshops. We’ve also used the technology to work with tools like mind-mapping software that helps students organize their writing.”
Jonathan Lafky, assistant professor of economics, agrees, adding that the layout has a big impact. “Being able to interact face-to-face with 25 students at once leads to a higher level of student engagement in class discussions.”
Designed to function as a teaching and small group collaboration space, the room has six custom tables, each with five computers. The computer displays are mounted on motorized lifts controlled via the touch panel on the instructor’s workstation so they can be lowered until needed. Each table also has a 55-inch LCD display on the adjacent wall and connections for laptops, iPads, video cameras, etc.
In “breakout mode,” the tables function as independent pods where students control which computers or auxiliary sources are displayed on the large screen. In “presentation mode,” the instructor controls what appears on the six large displays. Instructors can select from their computer, the student computers, Blu-ray, or the digital document camera to present 3-D objects. Software is available to capture the camera image and distribute to the class.
Ceiling speakers provide quality sound for video presentations.
The complex system, containing almost 300 individual components and over a half-mile of cabling for interfacing, switching, and controls, was designed by Instructional Technology staff in collaboration with engineers from Extron Electronics, says E. J. Hudock, instructional technology systems engineer.