The ‘Duh’ List

Katherine GraysonPresenting 13 great ideas I heard at the Campus Technology Winter conference: Wish I had thought of them!

Ever find yourself faced with great ideas that seem like no-brainers- and yet you never thought of them? That's just what happened to me when I soaked up Jim Frazee's information-packed talk during the Dec. 11th workshop "High-Tech Learning Spaces That Succeed and Engage," at CT's Technology Leadership in Practice conference Dec. 10-12, 2007, in San Francisco. Frazee, San Diego State's (CA) director of instructional technology services, was presenting along with colleagues from Emory (GA) and Stanford (CA) universities, and track leaders Mary Jo Gorney-Moreno and Menko Johnson (San Jose State U [CA]).

Without further ado, here are the 13 nifty "intelligent classroom" tips I jotted down as our presenter zipped along. Have you tried any of these?

  1. Before you invest in a made-to-order 'smart' podium, let your faculty try out a foam core mock-up of it, so that they can get the feel of where buttons, controls, and devices will land, and you can get feedback about what works and what doesn't.
  2. Obtain 'loaner' smart classroom equipment from local vendors so your faculty can try out everything possible before you buy. Brilliant!
  3. Make your podia modular; that way you can test each part in the shop before you roll out the works.
  4. Check your architect constantly. Architects often think "big picture" while functionality loses out. Because Frazee's team oversaw the architectural planning on a daily basis, they caught such errors as misplaced lighting.
  5. Don't forget electrical outlets for wheelchair locations. Physically challenged individuals often bring transcriber friends who need outlets.
  6. Bring in a 'smart classroom' pro from another university, to conduct a workshop for your faculty and tech folks so that you all can decide what gizmos you'll go for.
  7. First weeks after rollout, place general assistants in classrooms to note all problems, usage patterns, positive feedback from instructors, etc.
  8. Don't forget the tables! Faculty need lots of flat table space to prepare. Make sure it's available so prep time is minimized.
  9. Consider reducing hallway noise with a vestibule right outside the room doors. What a difference a buffer zone makes!
  10. Don't tether audience response clickers to seats-tethers make it impossible to service the devices, and they get vandalized anyway. Better solution: Institute student fees for the clickers and students will be more likely to hang onto them and protect them.
  11. Or, instead of clicker fees... Get your campus bookstore to sell the devices and then buy them back at end of use for a nominal fee ($10 or so). At San Diego State, the bookstore even sponsors faculty training lunches to encourage faculty to use the clickers in classrooms. (Students engage, and bookstore revenue gets a boost.)
  12. Keep devices in place with Velcro, but take heed: Velcro strip adhesive actually comes in different strengths-and it's got to be sticky enough or the strip won't stay put.
  13. Not happy with your intelligent classroom consultant? Fire him and hire another, says Frazee. If he's not delivering, on to the next!

-Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: kgrayson@1105media.com.

About the Author

Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology, education, and business issues.

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