Whitman may see smart classrooms in the future

Derek Thurber

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Brattain Auditorium

Class is about to start as a Whitman student walks in on the first day. The classroom looks new and fancy and when he sits down at his desk instead of finding some old wooden writing surface there is a laptop waiting for his personal use.

This dream of the future is now coming to reality in several classrooms across campus which were recently revamped to be “smart classrooms.” These fully smart classrooms are so far only installed in a few auditorium-sized classrooms like the Brattain Auditorium in the Science Building, but may start appearing in more places across campus in the next few years.

Walking into one of these classrooms appears no different than walking into just a normal, if somewhat fancy-looking and new, classroom. However at all of the desks there are several black rectangles with a sticker in the bottom left corner saying “push here.” Upon duly pushing upon said sticker the black rectangle opens up to reveal a fully functional, completely new Apple laptop.

These computer stations are positioned so that every two or three people can use a single laptop. As one of the more fancy attempts at modernizing classrooms and reducing our environmental footprint, these classrooms are among a wave of programs Whitman College is implementing to try and reduce its paper use by as much as possible. Among the other possible ways to reduce this pollution are putting quotas on free printing for students in the library.

Many professors have not yet figured out how to incorporate the laptops into the class. The Principles of Astronomy class has used the laptops several times, according to Professor Ulysses Sofia, but they have not been used more than a few times.

When using the laptops the screen that appears on the laptop simultaneously appears on a computer at the front of the classroom so that the professors can see what the computers are being used for.

For the professor’s sakes this cuts down on the misuse of the laptops during class time and insures that students are not just surfing the Internet while class is being taught.

The trend towards making classrooms more technological is a recent shift in many colleges and universities besides Whitman. In another few years it may become standard for classrooms to have laptops at the desks, but for now it is still a new phenomena.

What the laptops benefit in helping with class interactivity and reducing the need for paper, there are still problems with the implementation. It is very expensive to build and maintain these smart classrooms and the laptop “boxes” built into the tables are bulky, often getting in the way when the laptops are not being used.

Perhaps this new trend is the wave of the future, but for now adding laptops to the classrooms is a somewhat problematic, if snazzy, way to reduce our need for using large amounts of paper and to make classes more interactive.

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