Research in Wallenberg Hall

High Performance Learning Spaces Part 3

January 2007

3.c. Multiple Surfaces for Public Writing, Sharing, Saving, and Retrieving

Inscribing and displaying information are fundamental activities in classrooms, whether these activities are accomplished using a simple blackboard or through large-scale displays and electronic whiteboards, as in Wallenberg Hall. This is the area of functionality in which the ARCs have shown both the greatest promise and also the greatest difficulty, perhaps because of the centrality of these activities to the teaching and learning process. On the one hand, the availability of technologies – particularly large-scale displays linked to the Internet, and small portable whiteboards – for managing information contributed to the learning process. On the other hand, faculty in some ARCs found the lack of a simple way to write on a whiteboard frustrating, and the large-scale displays could be distracting as well as enabling.

Large displays are typically used in high technology classrooms as a response to the large number of students in a lecture course. In a lecture setting, with dozens to hundreds of students, the major work that the display does is to make it possible for all students to see the material simultaneously. In extremely large spaces, this may involve multiple large displays all showing the same material, or smaller, “local” displays that provide an alternative display for students.
In the Wallenberg Hall HPLSs, by contrast, the large displays function to broaden the range of interactions that faculty and students are able to have with course material, by supporting a range of operations beyond simple display. These include writing “on top of” digital material, capturing screen shots and whiteboards for later use, interacting with software applications in a public setting, and so on.

Teachers interviewed mentioned that these displays were great for making presentations, and some mentioned the ability to bring in high-resolution images to show to students. One professor felt the screens could be a distraction to the class when they were on and not in use. The Webster tools associated with the screens were not mentioned frequently in interviews, but those that did mention them seemed to feel that they were potentially useful, but somehow not an ideal match for the activities in their class.

3.c.1 Recording and Sharing Diagrams, Images, and Texts with Webster™ Digital Whiteboards

Each of the four seminar rooms in Wallenberg Hall has 2 large screen displays that can project an in-room computer, a laptop, a DVD/VCR player, or a videoconference. These screens are known as Websters™, a commercially available product that can function as a digital whiteboard. Instructors and students can interact directly with the screen using a special stylus to click through websites. They can also use the stylus as a “marker” to take notes on a digital whiteboard or to mark-up web pages, documents, diagrams, or any other file that can be shown on a computer.

Professor Stephen Monismith used Wallenberg Hall’s digital whiteboards for writing complex equations, sketching diagrams, and explaining the content of his course, Introduction to Physical Oceanography (CEE 164). At the end of each class, he saved the whiteboards and posted them to the course website where students referenced the equations and diagrams in more depth or printed them out. Because the work on the board was being saved, students could pay more attention to Professor Monismith while he explained the content, and pay less attention to reproducing the diagrams into their own notebooks. As the end of the quarter, students reviewed all of the work that Professor Monisimth had done on the whiteboard to help prepare for the final exam.

In Richard Martin’s Horace class, students shared control of large screen displays to translate and analyze texts together. Just before class began, Professor Martin downloaded ancient Latin texts in Microsoft Word™ files to both of the Websters at the front of the room. On one screen, one team of students used a digital marker to annotate a poem. On the other screen a second team of students parsed the poem by sharing control over the editing and reorganizing processes. Professor Martin led the entire class through a comparison of how the two teams analyzed the same material.

3.c.2 Displaying Multiple Media Simultaneously

The displays in each of Wallenberg Hall’s rooms have been used to show multiple media simultaneously during lessons. In the best cases, instructors have used two or three screens to facilitate comparisons and to deepen the context of particular lessons.

Professors Brigid Barron and DeeDee Perez-Granados have been able to pack more activities into a single class by taking advantage of both large screen displays and the accompanying SmartPanels. In one class for example, they used the SmartPanels to switch between showing VHS movies, movies on the internet, pre-loaded powerpoints, student presentations, and finally a guest speaker’s presentation from his laptop. The faculty and students in this class can do more activities in a fixed period of time because the transitions between technologies are smooth. In another class, the professors were able to show video from a research project on one screen while displaying a PowerPoint presentation on the other screen. Because there are two screens in the room, faculty and students could compare the findings and theories shown in the presentation side by side with the evidence that was presented on videotape.

Dr. Shemtov also taught her Hebrew Land and Literature class in the Peter Wallenberg Learning Theater. In this course, she took advantage off the three screens to On one screen she had the poem translated into English. On a second screen, she showed the class photos from the neighborhood that was referenced in the poem, and on the third screen she had artists paintings of that same scene. In this activity students were able to see, simultaneously, three different representations (text, photo, painting) of a specific place in Jerusalem. Dr. Shemtov guided her students through a discussion of the poem; the room’s technologies allowed her to create a layered context for their discussion.

In Professor Harry Elam’s Sophomore College Course, Social Protest Drama, Students produced a ten-scene play that highlighted social justice issues on Stanford’s campus and throughout society. They used the three large screens to play a complex montage of revolutionaries that had been authored specifically for a three-screen presentation. They also created “sets” for each scene: images of neighborhoods and people, or videos that all played from Wallenberg Hall’s computers. The performers were able to change the sets by simply clicking a mouse to bring up a set of images on the screens behind their stage.

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