Saturday, September 06, 2014

It seems I let even more time go by! Went to the state fair and saw BNL, the semester started, celebrated labor day weekend -- it now we are having the hottest spell of the summer!

This Fall, I am teaching my usual toleration class, foundations, and a new class for me, a graduate class about higher education history. It is slightly blended: four web conferences throughout the semester, where we will again do my “developing prompts and questions” for an online discussion journal.
At the first class,.there were 12 students, and I think any more than 15-16 (or maybe 17-18 MAX) would be too many for the classroom I scored in the new much-hyped business building. The room has four rows of small tabled and chairs, and no instructor desk, console, podium or chair! It’s very structured, and while the seats and tables are not bolted down as in the stadium-style large LC classrooms, the chairs are not on casters, the tables are close together and will be a hassle to move around.

I didn't have any trouble with the room tech, which was a major relief, as I didn’t attend the training. My fault if anything had gone seriously awry, so luckily nothing did. After seeing the technology cabinet in the room, I found it easy to figure out, so training would not have been worthwhile for that purpose, but it would have been useful to have seen the physical room set up in advance so I would have had time to recover from my irritation over the poor design.

The absence of any furniture for the instructor is ridiculous. I wound up dragging a chair around to face the students and sitting so I could work the mouse and keyboard. I didn't bother with the monitor (there are way too many gadgets to tote. The tables and chairs are set up so the closet is in the back corner of the room). But no monitor means having to use two projection screens and I found that didn't completely take care of the problem of needing to turn around to look at the screen, since from that distance, I couldn't see whether the mouse was on what I wanted to click, and also it didn't mean I was able to look at their faces -- when sitting down, the screen is so high above their heads! So next week, I may have to resort to the monitor.

The tables and chairs in rows are awkward. We didn't move them, but in most future classes, at least during the second half, I don't see another option. We received a Registrar’s email about not changing classroom set up, and I’m not sure if this applies or not. Regardless, I am going to risk it.

Finally, I wanted to show Collaborate  to them last night (we will use it on 9/11), so I brought my camera. But the PC is so far away and behind the students -- for me to be on cam and capture audio I'd have to stand back there. There's nowhere to place the camera except in the cabinet, so I'd have to face the cabinet rather than the students (who I guess would have to turn their chairs and watch my back) or the camera would be capturing my back. (They'd have to turn their chairs, regardless). When I am in front, the classroom image is of the back of students' heads.

I do see the new building as a big improvement over the old business building, where the classrooms are worn out and dirty and the consoles are old and broken., but frankly, for a room with no windows, I don't see an advantage over the classrooms in the humanities building or the small lecture centers. And both have adequate tech that only requires a log on, not a card swipe and balancing a keyboard on my head. The small LCs has nice high ergonomic chairs on casters at the console, and the humanities classrooms have student desks that can be easily moved around. All so much closer to my office, also! It was been warm and (mostly) dry, so the walk is pleasant (if far), but December is going to be a different story. There are several just-as-nice tech rooms with windows in nearby buildings and many others not as close, if I felt like walking far) that are also better, IMO.

I am not sure it's worth the hassle of requesting a move so I'll make it work (I still could change my mind though), but I am definitely going to request humanities for next semester. The new BB is a nice building, but the classrooms could use a little re-design.

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