Friday, April 10, 2015

The Advent of the Smart Classroom

By Meghan Scarpiello

Most teachers are used to the old method of lecturing while the students take notes. While this is still an effective way to teach, technology can assist students in the learning process. Currently, being in college, I have noticed that technology has helped me take notes. Many teachers now change their lecture into a PowerPoint presentation. This gives students the benefit of printing out the notes and being able to write down even more notes as need be. They can be attentive and participate in class. It prevents students from speed writing notes and barely listening to what the teacher is saying. Not listening to the teacher can lead to missing information and lower grades. Always having the notes on hand is  beneficial. It is especially beneficial when you are too ill to make  it to class. You can ask a friend to provide the  notes, but at least you will have the majority of the notes through technology, without having to worry or rewrite all the notes from a friend. All in all, there will be less worrying for the student.

Now this is a basic idea of technology impacting a classroom, it can increase to a new level in various ways. For example, I am in a biology class and instead of it being held in a  large lecture hall or normal classroom where all the desks face the teacher, we have what is called a smart classroom. This classroom has the seats arranged so they are in small groups called pods. These pods are large tables with five or six chairs around them but one side of the table is against the wall. The side that is against the wall has a television mounted on it that the teacher projects her presentation onto. The teacher can only show us her notes if we hit a button on the television that says classroom. We can hit another button that says computer, and the television screen is now a screen for our own personal pod computer. In this mode we do research and  type up our findings. Then we simply hit a share button and we can share our work with all the other pods in the classroom. One last helpful device is having  built in  dry erase boards as a table top. We can draw and write out cell models and special molecules to review and discuss. By downloading a special application onto our phones we can take a picture of our work, hit share, and it automatically shares our work with the whole class. As nice as all these cool features may be, it still has its pros and cons.

One of the pros to having a smart classroom like this is having a very hands on and interactive experience. There is no excuses for being bored and inattentive in class. The notes are always available and being close to your pod mates helps you if you struggle with the material. Any material can be looked up on the computer at any time if needed. The students are in control of what they view on their pod screens and it is there to  benefit them only. It is a very visual classroom and can alter between a lecture type class setting one day and a dry erase board setting day accessing the tabletops. The technology used is only for the students’ benefit.

As helpful as it all may seem, there are still some cons to the system. The teacher must be taught ahead of time on how to operate all the updates in the classroom. If the teacher is lost or confused, class time is wasted. The teacher also needs to be able to allow their material to work with the technology. If they only want to lecture the entire time then there is no point in having all the extra bells and whistles. The teacher needs to want to embrace the beauty of their smart classroom to allow the students to get a solid interactive experience. The students also need to be  open and sharing to their pod mates. Everyone needs to get along and compromise on what he or she wants to view on the screen all the time. Also, when it comes to doing work amongst the pod, they all need to pay attention and do their fair share. The smart classroom has its cons, but these can easily be prevented and avoided if handled properly.

For this smart classroom, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. By using technology in this aspect  it can further education and help  students understand the material. Being interactive is better than being lectured because the mind is less likely to wander off. As long as the teacher is well prepared for the type of classroom given to them, they can embrace the luxury of new teaching approaches and really help students improve. I enjoy the smart classroom because it is interactive and all around more fun for even a challenging science topic like biology.

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