‘Smart classroom’ moving teacher preparation into 21st century

Aiming to bring teacher education into the 21st century, UF’s College of Education is working this summer to convert a vintage 1979 reading clinic—Room 2309 in Norman Hall—into a prototype “smart” classroom, where professors will incorporate the latest educational technology into their teaching to transform student learning and increase teacher-student engagement.

The college received $141,000 for the project from UF’s Office of Academic Technology through a campuswide grant program supported by student technology fees.

The “reinvented” classroom will feature the latest educational technology to increase teacher-student interaction and collaboration. New touch-screen SMART boards will complement the traditional dry-erase boards, and students will sit in groups for collaboration at seven movable media pods outfitted with iPads or laptop computers where everyone is connected to each other via a shared screen.

“The reading clinic room originally had an odd shape that made student engagement difficult. The biggest part of this grant isn’t the SMART boards or the iPads—it’s  the use of technology to redesign the classroom into collaborative thinking stations,” said Suzanne Colvin, associate director of teacher education in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning.

The classroom’s media pods will each face a large screen for the students to share their computer-monitor views with the group. Each station can connect to one of two 40-inch monitors at each end of the classroom. With the screens at each station and the capability to connect to the 40-inch monitors, the instructor can see what each group is working on from a distance, even with large classes.

The redesigned classroom will help instructors to create a collaborative, problem-solving experience for students, Colvin said. She said students can get an experience in the new classroom that isn’t possible with distance learning or a traditional lecture-style class.

“There’s decreasing reliance upon “stand–and–deliver” instruction in campus-based classrooms,” Colvin said. “The advantage to being on campus is that instructors can guide students through group thinking, if the tools are available in the classroom to do so.”

Colvin said she got the inspiration for the media pods from similar classrooms she’d learned of at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota.

The classroom is scheduled to be completed by summer semester of 2013 with renovations beginning this summer. The classroom will serve education courses and other electives from outside of the College.

The Academic Technology Office’s technology fee advisory committee accepts grant proposals for technological improvements across campus every year. The money for the grants comes from the technology fee that is built into tuition at $4.42 per credit hour for undergraduate students and $5.52 for graduate students.