February 29, 2012
By Josh Oldham |Ranger Reporter
Amarillo College’s smart classrooms are the result of an effort to introduce more technology into courses on the campuses, according to the information technology department.
A smart classroom includes a ceiling-mounted projector wirelessly connected to a computer console, which includes a variety of audio and visual devices.
Each classroom upgraded to a “smart” classroom costs about $15,000, said Jeff Gibson, director of the Information Technology Center.
The money is not taken from the AC treasury. Instead, the technology is purchased and installed using funds from the 2007 bond election.
“They were budgeted for in the bonds process, “ Gibson said.
The faculty and students generally agree that the smart classrooms can lend a new dimension to the learning process.
“Every classroom should be a smart classroom, “ said Dr. Deborah Harding, an assistant professor of psychology and social sciences. “We shouldn’t have any class not have that setup.”
Margaret Vitale, a senior advising associate, also supports the idea of smart classrooms.
“It enhances the lecture,” Vitale said. ”Our job is to educate. The real world is full of technology. Without this, it’s not preparing our students for life.”
Unlike Harding and Vitale, Dr. Brian Farmer, a social sciences professor, is among faculty who prefer to leave the technology alone in favor of more traditional teaching methods.
“If you use all the smart classroom stuff, your class is going to be highly structured,” Farmer said. “I like to go in whatever direction I feel like. What I do works. Why do I want to mess with something that seems to work?”
Farmer does not dismiss smart classroom technology, however.
“Some professors use it and use it effectively,” he said.
Some students share the opinion that the use of smart classroom technology is more dependent on the subject and the situation.
Lance Garza, an English major, said while his only on-campus class this semester is a smart classroom, his instructor rarely uses the technology.
“Half the stuff she shows on the projector comes out of the book,” Garza said.
Garza said he is not critical of the classrooms or their technology.
“I don’t think they take anything away,” he said. “I would say they add a different element.”
Other students are more enthusiastic about technology in classrooms. Kenneth Suhl, a pre-architecture major, has classes in three smart classrooms. All three of the professors in those classrooms use the smart classroom technology.
“You can see what the instructor is doing, what he’s showing on a computer,” Suhl said.
Suhl said seeing what is being done on the computer is helpful because the computer technology leaves little room for error.
He said that while he does not care for online courses, the smart classrooms mix the right amount of human interaction and technology. Like Farmer and Garza, Suhl said the use of smart classrooms depends on the course.
“It wouldn’t be as beneficial to some classes as it would to others,” he said.
The classrooms themselves are easier to maintain, Gibson said.
“We can tell from our desktops what resources are being used,” he said. “We can diagnose problems on other campuses without having to leave the office.”