We’ve come a long way since the days when overhead projectors, transparencies and grease pencils were the latest tools in the classroom. Funded in part by a grant from the Dubuque Racing Association, DWC is upgrading four classrooms with some of the latest technology, converting them into "smart" classrooms.
The primary feature is the latest generation of digital projector called a "smart projector." Like the earlier version, a computer provides the information, such as Power Point presentations or videos, and can connect to the Internet.
"But these also allow interactive usage of the projected image," said Brad Florence, DWC Director of Information Systems, who is supervising the project. "What that means is that an image can be projected onto a white board and somebody can come up and write on the board, circle things—all with a specialized pen."
Dr. Jackson Zimmerman, chair of the DWC Cross Cultural Studies Department, supported the upgrade. The project originally called for installing the more basic digital projectors, which are still strong teaching devices.
"But this will enable us to bring classroom subjects alive. For example, if I wanted them to put in the pathway of migration of a certain people or the location of the Spanish missions in California, they could do that for the benefit of the rest of the students," he said. "This is a generation that is very used to interacting with technology and it helps to keep them focused on what we’re doing in the classroom."
The applications are only limited by the imagination. Instead of still pictures and graphs, students can see video, news broadcasts, or interviews from anywhere in the world, as they are happening or shortly thereafter, bringing them to life right in the classroom. They could see, for instance, the devastation caused by a tsunami.
"It’s one thing to say, ‘Six miles inland has been inundated with water.’ It’s an entirely different thing to see it and hear it," Jackson said. "One of the things that I want to do is connect my students to students around the world via the web. This technology will enable some exciting global interactions."
The project also includes new desk top computers that will be housed in moveable consoles and connected to each Smart projector by what’s called a "rapid-run cable."
"It’s a cable that converts video, audio for the computer and audio for a VCR or DVD player, all into one single cable," Florence said. "We’ll also be installing audio speakers on the walls instead of using speakers out of the computer in the console."
Later, the system can be upgraded with, "clickers," which are small, interactive devices with buttons. With these, a teacher can pose a problem on the screen with multiple-choice answers. Students can then "click" the answer they think is correct and the computer will register how many were right and how many were wrong.
But that’s another project.