FlexTech brings innovation to classroom

Photo by Taylor Miles | The Duquesne Duke. 442 Fisher Hall, a FlexTech classroom, features collaborative work stations.
Photo by Taylor Miles | The Duquesne Duke. 442 Fisher Hall, a FlexTech classroom, features collaborative work stations.
Photo by Taylor Miles | The Duquesne Duke. 442 Fisher Hall, a FlexTech classroom, features collaborative work stations.

By Jen Cardone | The Duquesne Duke

Pods, whiteboard desks and other forms of state-of-the-art technology are what greet students and professors who walk into the newly redesigned 442 Fisher Hall.

Duquesne’s Media Services and Distribution Center, which oversees technology in the classroom, upgraded the room in Fisher as one of 29 projects it completed this summer. The new classroom is called a FlexTech room.

Media services manager Lauren Turin worked with a team to model the Fisher classroom off of a sister project that went live in 308 Rockwell Hall last semester.

“We learned a lot from the pros and cons of that design,” Turin said.

There are seven group stations, or “pods,” surrounded by six colorful, movable chairs where students can work collaboratively with one computer. At each station, up to four groups’ computer screens can be displayed, so the entire class can easily work as a unit by simply pressing a “ClickShare” button. The stations also feature USB connectors and four charging stations for students to juice up their laptops during class.

The hexagonal-shaped tables serve as white boards that the students can write on with dry erase markers and use to generate ideas. Additionally, the pods can have up to two personal laptops connected to the main computer at the station, which can also be shared throughout the classroom.

The room’s main purpose is to use modern technology in collaborative groups.

At the back of the room, there is an additional station with a white board for small conference groups to collaborate.

“Campuses are going to an online format, so we wanted to come up with something exciting to provide for what [Provost for Administration Jeffrey Miller] calls ‘irreplaceable experiences,’” Turin said.

Miller said the experiences are irreplaceable because it is becoming increasingly important to provide value in a face-to-face classroom setting.

“FlexTech classrooms provide instructors the flexibility and technology to think differently about the teaching and learning process in a face-to-face course,” Miller said.

The Classroom Committee funded the room from the classroom upgrade budget, which is typically used toward technology improvements. The committee chose 442 Fisher in January, with plans to have it fully functional by the fall semester.

“If the students like it, then it was worth every penny we put into it,” Turin said.

Students from Professor Jeffrey Jackson’s discrete math class had positive things to say about the new classroom.

“It’s helpful to be able to see stuff here [at the pod], so you’re not really far away from the front board,” sophomore computer science and philosophy major Dan Watson said. “Also, the tables are really cool because you can write on them.”

Currently, 10 classes take place in the room with nine from the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts. According to Turin, they include math, computer science, English, modern languages, ESL and graduate psychology.

Timothy Austin, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the FlexTech classrooms “make you think creatively about possibilities.”

“I walked into that room and thought, ‘gee, I’m sad I’m not a teacher anymore because I could do so many creative things in here,’” Austin said.

There will be an open house Friday where professors can learn how to use the technology to its greatest potential.