Tech-laden room hosts kids

Jessica Dreschel

Moulton Hall lab only one of its kind

Fifth-graders gain an opportunity to work with technology.

Credit: Beth Rankin

It’s impressive: Flat panels and laptops are as far as the eye can see.

It’s the SBC Ameritech Classroom in the basement of Moulton Hall. SBCAC is the only classroom of its kind in the United States. It has been operating since 1998. Yesterday marked the beginning of the new term.

Teachers with classes ranging from kindergarten to high school bring their classes to the tech-laden room for a six-week lesson. Throughout the term, students will use wireless laptops, digital audio recorders, scanners and video cameras in their lessons.

Fifth-graders arrived from Brimfield Elementary with their teacher Bonnie Harper. Her class will be learning about light and sound. They will meet every day from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The SBCAC will be home to another group of kids at 12:30 p.m. The fifth-graders from Brimfield who are taught by Debbie Twynham will learn a unit on language arts, said instructional specialist Pat Mazzer.

The SBCAC is a two-room facility. Class is conducted in one room while researchers observe in another.

The observation room has four stations. Each station has a small color television, headphones and a touch-screen that allows you to focus the camera on different places in the classroom, Mazzer said.

Students and parents know about the research. Kent State’s Research Center for Educational Technology gets permission from parents to use their children’s images, administrative specialist Frank Seman said.

RCET is the primary organization studying technology in the classroom. It has funded 62 research studies at other universities, RCET director Dale Cook said.

The kids looked up answers to questions about sound waves yesterday. Once found, answers were saved in a Word document, along with links to two Web sites the students found helpful, Seman said.

The kids may also be assigned to write e-mails to family members or friends. Teachers closely monitor students’ Internet activity. They are directed to Web sites that help them complete the day’s assignment.

The SBCAC has its own server located in the observation room. Students’ work is saved to this server, Mazzer said.

RCET began soon after the classroom opened. RCET studies the impact technology has on teaching and learning, Cook said.

Most of RCET’s research focuses on “ubiquitous computing environments,” Cook said.

The laptops, hand-held computers and digital cameras become a part of the classroom the way pen or paper, chalk or chalkboards do. Students don’t notice the gadgets; they just learn, Cook said. However, students also learn in a “traditional” manner while at SBCAC.

About halfway through the class, Harper broke out goggles, rubber bands and flexible rulers. The kids were learning how sound was made. The rubber bands were held tight and plucked. The tighter you hold the band, the higher the sound.

Students’ brush with technology is not necessarily over when the six-week term is up. RCET can provide a $5,000 grant to teachers if they want to purchase any equipment or software used in the classroom.

SBC Ameritech originally funded the SBCAC with a grant. The classroom is now funded through the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, the Ohio Board of Regents and Akron’s GAR foundation, Mazzer said.

Contact academic technology reporter Jessica Dreschel at [email protected].