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For Better or Worse? My Experience of Teaching in the “Smart Classroom”

I was my pleasure teaching in the “smart classroom” during my first quarter in The Collins College of Hospitality Management  at Cal Poly Pomona.  The classroom installs four Apple TVs, which enable professors and students to stream the same (or different) content on four different screens.  And yes, if you wonder, there is an app for this “smart classroom.”

Teaching in the Smart Classroom +Cal Poly Pomona 
I think this is a very “cool” classroom.  It definitely provides more flexibility for professors and students.  To name a few examples, I was able to stream class lectures using the SlideShark app on my iPad, making it easier for me to walk around to engage with different groups of students or answer students’ questions.  When we were having a guest lecture session via Skype, I was able to keep one or two screens for the guest speaker (Skype) and at the same time, showed students relevant content on other screens. 

The “smart classroom,” however, is not always working for the better.  There were also a couple of times when Apple TVs did not function well (e.g., when Apple upgraded the iOS system).  I ended up giving a lecture without any visual assistance.  There were also a few times when SlideShark dropped from AirPlay too often.  I had to download the lecture file to a desktop and teach with a mouse and keyboard in the front.  To some extent, such technology failures remind me the challenges every service worker faces in the hospitality industry.  In front of the unexpected, we have to remain calm and come up with a creative way as soon as possible to fix the problem(s).

The biggest challenge actually comes from classroom control.  Because students were sitting in groups and they were “everywhere” in the room, I had to keep my attention on every corner of a big classroom no matter where I was standing.  I also needed to pay more attention to voice projection and repeat students’ questions every time before I gave the answers.  While I could walk towards those students who were wandering to “remind” them that they were being watched, I had learned soon that I should not move too often.  Otherwise, I would be “too busy” walking around, and those paying close attention might feel “too busy” following me.

Looking forward, I will continue teaching in the “smart classroom” during the winter quarter.  I am very happy about that, but at the same time, I would like to hear your feedback and suggestions.  If you have taught in a similar setting, what works for you? What lesson(s) do you learn?  Or, if you have attended a class in a similar setting, what do you like or dislike the most?  What suggestions will you make to your professors or guest speakers to enhance your learning experience?

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