2007 Campus Technology Innovators: High-Tech Learning Spaces

2007 Campus Technology Innovators

TECHNOLOGY AREA: HIGH-TECH LEARNING SPACES
Innovator: San Jose State University

An incubator classroom offers the latest technology so that faculty may innovate new modes of instruction

The construction of a new library on the San Jose State University (CA) campus presented a question and an opportunity: What could be done with the old library building? The fortuitous decision to turn the abandoned library structure into a state-of-the-art, 10,000-square-foot Academic Success Center sent Associate VP for Academic Technology Mary Jo Gorney-Moreno and other campus leaders into high gear for two years, to determine which kinds of formal and informal learning spaces would best serve the university's unique population of commuter students.

Extensive research. The first step in planning the new Academic Success Center was to engage innovation and design firm Ideo to conduct an independent study of the campus, to find out what students, faculty, and staff thought about the types of spaces that were needed. Ideo performed focus groups; fly-on-the-wall observations; man-on-the-street interviews with faculty, staff, and students; as well as complete surveys of students and staff. For her part, Gorney-Moreno traveled to campuses across the country to research other high-tech learning spaces.

Key among the research findings was that learning spaces should foster collaboration among students and faculty, and that faculty members want teaching spaces that are flexible, accessible, and convenient. The Academic Success Center's final design features numerous informal, flexible spaces that support collaboration—but it's the Incubator Classroom that is the center's signature offering. It combines flexible classroom furniture and configurations with an array of audiovisual technologies designed to enable two-way, collaborative classroom interaction.

A variety of technologies. The Incubator Classroom scales to seat up to 50 students in different configurations and has numerous features designed to enhance faculty/student interactions in the classroom environment. Diverse vendors such as CompView, Oliver Worldclass Labs, and many others were consulted as a rich mix of software and equipment was integrated into the top-flight facility. Faculty quickly learned to use the environmental and instructional control system from AMX, and conferencing systems from Polycom. The room features three screens: a large central projection screen and two rear-projection mobile Smart Boards on either side. Faculty are able to display multiple pieces of information and seamlessly mark up presentations on the fly. Hewlett-Packard tablet PCs and Apple MacBook Pros are available to every student, and all are interconnected through a central server housed in the room. Faculty and students can easily share information using Tidebreak's TeamSpot collaboration software. Instructors may also use TurningPoint student response systems for polling and sampling a class's level of comprehension. Software for text and image generation, such as a suite of Adobe software, is readily available, along with a range of software applications for collaboration and/or discipline-specific activities. Additionally, various classroom-capture technologies facilitate publishing of course materials and class activities and content. Faculty and student response to the Incubator Classroom has been overwhelmingly positive based upon survey data and comments gathered since the facility's opening this past academic year.

High-Tech Learning Spaces

SJSU’S INCUBATOR
CLASSROOM
combines
flexible classroom furniture
and configurations with an
array of AV technologies
designed to enable two-way,
collaborative classroom interaction.

Facilitating instructional innovations. The space is not merely a teaching space, but also a research space: designed for faculty to work on instructional innovations, and demonstrate and measure their effectiveness. Faculty who wish to teach in the Incubator Classroom submit a course proposal outlining how they plan to utilize the tools to positively impact student achievement. After only a single semester, facility administrators were inundated by innovative faculty proposals. Courses taking advantage of the Incubator Classroom technology come from all different disciplines; some examples include Archaeology Research, Industrial Design, Animation and Illustration, and Science for Elementary School Teachers. "It's been fascinating to watch faculty using the room, and finding out where they want the controls, where students want chairs, tables—how they want to work," says Gorney-Moreno. By studying how each of the disciplines leverages technologies, San Jose State is using the Incubator Classroom space to prototype technology-enhanced classrooms of the future.

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