Wallenberg Hall: Opening the Door to New Technologies
Wallenberg Hall, the Stanford University teaching and research facility that
is home to some of the most advanced technology available to educators today,
is a vibrant center for innovation and experimentation. But the high performance
classrooms where professors offer courses from oceanography and Shakespeare
to biomedical informatics and engineering aren’t just about offering Stanford
students the best technologies. They are a part of a thriving community of researchers
and scholars dedicated to finding out what technology can do for education,
and which technological tools and advances will most benefit students and teachers
everywhere.Two years ago, the sandstone building at the front of the university’s
main quad was completely renovated, leaving only its original exterior. Funded
jointly by the university, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and the
Marcus and Marianne Wallenberg Foundation, Wallenberg Hall is now a four-story
combination of research and teaching space that is pushing the limits of technology
in the classroom.
From its exterior, Wallenberg Hall matches the other buildings on Stanford’s
main quad. Walk inside, though, and light floods the two-story open lobby that
leads into the Peter Wallenberg Learning Theater. Created for larger gatherings,
the Theater has three giant retractable screens, each with its own computer,
yet all operated by a single wireless mouse. Presentations can simultaneously
include video, audio, Web pages and even video conferences. Flexible, lightweight
furnishings allow the space to be reconfigured in seconds from a lecture hall
to small discussion groups around rolling tables. Portable “huddleboards,”
small stacking white boards, encourage collaborative group work. The windows
on the second floor allow students to listen in to classes from above, while
the sliding doors into the Theater double as transparent white boards that are
often covered with notes, ideas, and outlines arising from class discussion.
Left to right: The front
of Wallenberg Hall on Stanford University's Main Quad; student's exiting the
Peter Wallenberg Learning Theater; and an open space of Wallenberg Hall's fourth
floor--devoted to research and collaboration.
On a typical day, the class agenda might appear on one screen in the Learning
Theater, a slide listing key points for the session is displayed on an opposing
screen, and in the center, a video clip plays. No flipping lights on and off,
no starting and stopping a VCR, no hard-to-read overheads. Rather than presenting
an obstacle to be overcome in the midst of a lecture or discussion, the seamless
multimedia technology makes good teaching better.
Across the hall from the Learning Theater, smaller “loaded” classrooms
provide instructors with myriad technological tools to enhance teaching and
learning. At the front of the room, two computer-driven Webster digital white
boards offer live access to the Internet and the ability to make notations and
write on displayed pages with a specialized “pen” that acts as an
eraser, highlighter, and note maker all in one. Students can also send their
own work—notes, Web pages, or PowerPoint slides—to the Webster boards
via their laptops. The Webster system captures everything so that it can be
posted to the class Web site for easy access later.
“These classrooms were designed so that instructors and students could
make their thinking visible,” says Roy Pea, professor of education and
co-director of SCIL. “Technology makes possible entirely new representational
forms and facilitates the development of new activity systems that can use these
forms in entirely new ways.”
On the top floor of Wallenberg Hall an expansive research center houses graduate
students, visiting scholars, and researchers whose projects span such areas
as new video technology for training teachers to medical model simulations to
international collaborations between researchers at Stanford and their counterparts
in Sweden, South Africa, Germany, and Switzerland.
A recent experimental performance provided a prime example of international
networking in the form of an improvisational jam session of jazz musicians in
Sweden and at Stanford. Over an Internet2 connection that spanned 5,400 miles,
the musicians performed to audiences who could see one another on floor-to-ceiling
video screens. Stanford communications professor Christine Samuelson, the principal
investigator on the project, described the performance as “erasing space
and time barriers.” The global experiment could have ramifications for
future collaborative teaching between two distant locations.
SCIL’s multi-disciplinary teams of researchers continue to evaluate and
analyze technologies and their impact on education with the goal of improving
knowledge exchange from professor to student, colleague to colleague, and among
A Short History of Wallenberg Hall
The building that is home to Wallenberg Hall was completed in 1900 and was
first known simply as Building 160. A massive sandstone structure of 55,000
square feet and four floors, it has served as a library, law school, and political
science department over its 100-year life span.
||In 1999, Building 160 was selected to showcase Stanford University’s
commitment to furthering advances in the field of education. The university
redeveloped the interior with $9.5 million in grants from the Knut and
Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Marcus and Marianne Wallenberg Foundation
of Sweden. The Wallenberg Hall gift is the largest such grant ever made
by these foundations, and the first made outside of Sweden.
Today the transformation of Building 160 is complete, unifying the past and
the future by keeping the original 19th century exterior, but re-inventing
the interior into a 21st Century infrastructure designed to support the technologies
of today and tomorrow. From the soaring Peter Wallenberg Learning Theater
and technology-enhanced classrooms on the first floor to the prototyping research
incubator on the fourth floor, Wallenberg Hall is a working laboratory where
the learning tools of the future are being forged.
The vision for Wallenberg Hall as expressed by the founders was to establish
a facility that would enable the sharing of experience and knowledge in the
use of modern technology in education. Wallenberg Hall provides the facilities
for Stanford faculty and researchers to experiment with the use of technology
in real courses. At the same time, by working with promising international
partners the building’s occupants have the opportunity to experiment
with and develop innovative approaches that can be used world-wide.
“We are already seeing promising results that indicate we are on the
right track,” says Stig Hagström, professor emeritus of Materials
Science and Engineering and co-director of SCIL. “We must remember that
in our enthusiasm, we may sometimes overestimate the short-term effects of
the ongoing educational revolution, but we may also grossly underestimate
the long-term impact of this revolution.”
“The building is an evolving laboratory,” says Sam Steinhardt,
executive director of the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL),
the building’s main occupant. “Every day, teachers, researchers,
and students are experiencing what it is like to work and learn in a setting
where the technology is seamless, and where wireless connectivity and our
other tools enhance collaboration and interactivity.”
Each Wallenberg Hall classroom offers a platform for a new level of teaching,
at the same time serving as
a laboratory for testing and analyzing the value and potential of new technology.
Some of the tools will prove invaluable, SCIL researchers believe, while other
tools may not be worth their expense. Such information could prove useful to
everyone, from an academic department deciding whether to invest a small amount
of money in several tablet PCs for the classroom, to a university redesigning
or creating a new multimedia auditorium, to a college seeking funding to reinvent
its learning spaces.
“The teaching and research happening here in Wallenberg Hall could be
of enormous value to our colleagues at all levels of education regardless of
their geography,” says Steinhardt. “Wallenberg Hall represents the
university’s commitment to explore new ways of enhancing learning and
education through targeted investments in technology.”
Research and Teaching at Wallenberg
The broad range of multidisciplinary projects includes:
- High-Performance Learning Spaces: A multidisciplinary
team of researchers is examining two years’ worth of audio and video
records of Wallenberg classes, related interviews, activity surveys, and
focus group data to assess the effects of technology on teaching and learning.
Results will assist educators at all levels in how to best employ technology
in the classroom.
- DIVER: Created by a team led by SCIL co-director Roy
Pea, DIVER software enables users to focus attention on relevant portions
of any video footage, then annotate and analyze the video to share it with
colleagues and peers. This year, student teachers utilized DIVER to reflect
on tapings of their own teaching to evaluate their performances through
“guided noticing.” DIVER also has promising applications in
the fields of law, medicine, film study, and architecture.
- Folio Thinking: Based on the hypothesis that documenting
and tracking learning through the use of an electronic portfolio deepens
learning, students in an engineering class in Wallenberg Hall are the focus
of SCIL’s current research on ePortfolios. Findings will help researchers
understand more about how students learn and what tools most complement
- Virtual Video Collaboratory: Supported by a grant from
the National Science Foundation, a team of SCIL researchers is creating
the world’s first Digital Video Collaboratory—a multimedia library
that will be available on the Internet. The library will allow the viewing,
annotating, and editing of a vast array of useful footage collected and
catalogued from sources around the world.
- Teachable agents: The CAT2 Lab at SCIL, which has developed
its own “learn by teaching” software, is studying the idea that
a powerful way to learn is by teaching.
- Interactive toys and robots: This broad project involves
the development and testing of interactive toys and robots that teach and
entertain, utilizing concepts and ideas from psychology, sociology, linguistics,
computer science, robotics, communication, and education.
- Social responses to communication technology: This new
research is examining the extent to which human interactions with computers,
television, and new communication technologies are conditioned by real social
relationships and the navigation of real physical spaces.
Since Wallenberg Hall first opened its doors to classes in 2002, it has grown
from a magnet for early adopters to a widely sought-after learning center
for faculty and students from more than 20 departments and schools at Stanford
University. Courses offered in the high-performance learning spaces of the
hall have included anthropology, history, biochemistry, classic Greek, engineering,
and Hebrew, reflecting the fact that virtually any subject can benefit from
a well-designed, technology-enriched environment.
Every day from early in the morning until late into the evening, teachers
and students utilize the frequently updated classroom equipment such as interactive
Webster boards, video conferencing tools, in-class laptops, tablet PCs, and
reconfigurable furnishings to create a seamless multimedia experience. As
faculty and students employ these technologies, researchers from the Stanford
Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL), who also reside in Wallenberg Hall,
evaluate and analyze the impact in an ongoing study of technology in education.
Highlights from some of the innovative courses taught in Wallenberg Hall
- Using iRoom software, Prof. Russ Altman had his students download Web
pages on particular diseases each was studying, then asked them to share
the material with the class. PointRight, experimental software, allowed
them to “beam” their material to the computerized Webster white
board. During discussion, the Webster screens were jointly controlled by
the students from their own computers so that anyone could point out highlights
and issues without passing around a keyboard or leaving their seats.
- In her course, “Introduction to Hebrew,” instructor Vered
Shemtov used the three large screens in the Peter Wallenberg Learning Theater
to present diverse content, from written p'ems, to music, to video clips,
maps, and artwork. One screen could display the course outline for the day,
while another showed a piece of literature and a third ran a related video
clip. Moving from one medium to another occurred without hesitation, all
controlled by one remote computer mouse.
- The Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), directed by Prof. Andrea Lunsford,
is a requirement of all freshmen and sophomores at Stanford. Freshmen practice
everything from working individually on their laptops, to working collaboratively
in small groups with one computer and a large plasma display, to whole class
discussions utilizing the Webster smart boards. The PWR program is an excellent
example of how Wallenberg Hall allows teaching and learning to keep pace
with technological advances.