EDTECH: What trends are you seeing with classroom technology adoption?
BROWN: We are at an interesting point. If you look at the past 15 to 20 years, there was a revolt against the traditional lecture hall: seats bolted down, all facing one way, with students just taking notes. People like Bob Beichner from North Carolina State University and others came up with SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Program) rooms. The University of Minnesota did leading work and built a number of these rooms. There might be an instructor podium, but there’s no front or back. These rooms have circular tables and displays, so students can work on projects together, plug in their laptops and share their screens. It’s high-tech. There was a great movement in this direction, but the gear is expensive. You can’t build a lot of these rooms.
Now, people like Maggie Beers at San Francisco State University are making the case that the key things that support active learning are wheeled furniture and writable surfaces. It’s a concept called learning-ready spaces. So it’s gone from one side to another, and now it’s coming back to a middle point where it’s, “Let’s get a variety of classroom types. Let’s not leave out lower-cost classrooms, which can also support active learning.”
There is a multidimensional conversation around technology. You might call this a Goldilocks conversation: What’s the right amount of technology needed to support the foreseen uses of the room? The conversation is in a very interesting dimension right now.
EDTECH: What are the main challenges facing colleges and universities as it relates to adopting and effectively using classroom technology?
BROWN: Cost is always going to be a factor. Classrooms are an expensive infrastructure. All classrooms need some sort of projector in them. They need Wi-Fi. They need a controller board for changing the lighting settings and raising screens and controlling other technologies. You need staff that knows how to implement and maintain it.
EDTECH: How can higher education address these challenges? How can you ensure that classroom technology investments pay off?
BROWN: You invest in developing your faculty, so that you enable the faculty to learn about various pedagogical designs and learning engagement strategies and approaches. That will make the most of these types of rooms. That is probably the key factor.
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EDTECH: Is faculty buy-in still a problem? If so, how do you get buy-in to move from lectures to integrate more technology? Is it just professional development or is there anything else you can do to increase adoption?
BROWN: Faculty buy-in is hugely important. My impression is that it’s become less a need to convert faculty on the idea of teaching in these rooms. Usually, once faculty have good experiences in a room, they enjoy it and don’t want to teach anywhere else. These rooms have been increasingly successful with faculty.
The main thing is to show evidence. There are studies that show these rooms do contribute to enhanced learning outcomes. Faculty can gain confidence that what they will be doing will pay off for their students.