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Instructing the instructor: professor writes guidebooks on use of high-tech teaching equipment

October 28, 2003


Technology is worse than useless if you don't know what to do with it. Similarly, without the appropriate instruction on their equipment, "smart classrooms" come to be defined as "rooms that makes you feel dumb," Dr. Thomas Pallen says with a laugh.

Looking dumb in front of students is never a good thing, adds Pallen, a professor of theatre. But that was the situation he faced when he became one of the first instructors to be assigned a smart classroom in the Sundquist Science Complex.
October 28, 2003


Technology is worse than useless if you don't know what to do with it. Similarly, without the appropriate instruction on their equipment, "smart classrooms" come to be defined as "rooms that makes you feel dumb," Dr. Thomas Pallen says with a laugh.

Looking dumb in front of students is never a good thing, adds Pallen, a professor of theatre. But that was the situation he faced when he became one of the first instructors to be assigned a smart classroom in the Sundquist Science Complex.

Not that no training was available. "I went to a couple of orientation sessions," he says. "Then I got in the room and realized how much I didn't know."

Pallen says he spent a lot of time e-mailing questions to members of the Technology Committee that first semester. Because he was "technically inclined," he soon was comfortable with the projector, special podium, VCR, software and wireless touch control pad. But he observed with sympathy as faculty struggled through their first attempts to incorporate the new technologies into their teaching repertoire.

"Finally, I went to the chair of the biology department, Dave Snyder, and said 'What would you think if I wrote a guide for this equipment?' He said, "Go ahead. I can't pay you. But go ahead!"

Why not just use the guidebooks that came with the equipment? one could ask. "I looked at them," Pallen says. "But they're extremely technical. Do you know how many people can't even set the clock on their VCR? I thought, 'Maybe I can find a way to simplify all this, boil it down to a few simple instructions.' That's what I tried to do."

The guidebook passed it first reviewer, Dr. Snyder, with ease. "He was very happy with it," Pallen says.

Snyder got the booklet printed through the media center and distributed copies to faculty he knew could use it. He also put copies in the rooms.

Response to the guidebook has been positive. "I've had a number of people to call and say it helped," Pallen says. "That's always nice to hear."

He went on to write a guide for using smart classrooms across the campus to supplement the guide to smart classrooms in Sundquist. Both are now online. "The second has never been printed on paper, which I'm really happy about. I'm all for saving paper. And that makes it accessible to everyone."

Both guidebooks can be accessed through the University's technology page, at www.apsu.edu/atc/Smartclassroom.PDF.html and www.apsu.edu/Smart_Classroom_general_bkt
—Debbie Denton