For the last year, the Classroom Committee (chaired by Professor Michael Turelli) has been meeting to discuss improvements to the classroom technology around campus. The Registrar approved their resultant proposal, which has put the Facilities Management team at UC Davis to work this summer. In addition to updating the projectors in 25 classrooms, relocating screens and projectors to provide more chalkboard space, and placing clocks in every classroom, the team is “refreshing” three general assignment classrooms: Peter Rock Hall, Veihmeyer 212, and Wellman 27.
Peter Rock Hall, which seats 416 students, will receive a 10,000 ANSI Lumens projector, which puts it among the brightest on campus (this means it’s easier to see and you don’t have to dim the lights as much). There will also be two large screens; faculty can project a single image on both screens or two different images simultaneously.
The classroom will also be outfitted with equipment to “untether” the professor. In addition to a desktop computer that allows faculty to bring their materials on a thumbdrive and a wireless microphone that allows them to move freely about the classroom, Joe Kelley, facilities supervisor at Academic Technology Services, explained that his team is exploring the potential of tablet technology. Tablets would allow faculty to essentially “write on the chalkboard” while they move about the room, annotating the images they project without turning their backs to the students. Plus, the larger, brighter screens mean students in the back of the room will have a much easier time seeing what the teacher has written.
You can image how this annotation technology allows for a more coherent marriage between projected images and hand-written explanations. Or, if the images you project do not lend themselves to direct annotation, the two-screen system will allow you to project an image on one screen and your explanations on the other.
Veihmeyer 212 (which seats 95 students) and Wellman 27 (which seats 34 students) will be outfitted with similar technology, though Wellman is receiving two, 90-inch LED monitors instead of a projector. The move to LED is smart because it removes the need for lamps—a projector typically needs a new $300 lamp after 2,000 hours of use; the LED monitors should sustain through 60,000 hours.
The goal is to have all three classrooms ready for fall, and the next step is start piloting. As Kelley put it, “these changes are faculty-driven, not technology-driven.” Consequently, Peter Rock Hall will become a “test bed” for instructors to use the equipment and talk with facilities about what works and what doesn’t.
It was clear from my conversation with Kelley that he and his team are excited about the technology, and enjoy working with faculty. He also showed me their remote asset management system, which allows the software engineers to remotely access the physical classroom technology and provide instantaneous support for faculty members. A similar system allows them to monitor the projectors around campus and see which ones are close to needing a new lamp.
Every change they make, Kelley explains, is motivated by the goal of moving UC Davis out of the analog age and into the digital one. It will take some time before all classroom technology is digital, but the changes this summer are a clear step in the right direction.