Dr. Bahram Roughani, a professor of physics and head of the Kettering University physics department, is working to incorporate active learning methodologies into the physics curriculum.
"We want to create the tools to empower faculty members to use educational best practices," he said.Â To accomplish this he has been re-structuring existing labs and building a new lab to facilitate active learning. The new lab is aptly named the Physics Active Learning (PAL) Studio.
(See photos and read more on the interaction and collaboration going on in Kettering University's PAL Studio at http://www.kettering.edu/news/expanding-dimensions-learning-time-and-space.)
While still under development, the features of the PAL Studio include a smart projector capable of projections of real-time graphics or video content onto everyday surfaces and an infrared pen to maximize use of the smart projector.
Using a specific wireless connection for virtualization, all the applications software for the PAL Studio are on one server that is connected to the computers in the classroom. The classroom computers use software on the server without having the software installed on the computers themselves, something like an "internal cloud."
"Eventually, students will be able to log into the server from anywhere â" work, home or a coffee shop â" using a wireless connection," Roughani said.
In addition to the PAL Studio, another physics lab, the Electricity and Magnetism Lab, commonly known as the Phys 2 Lab, was re-configured to facilitate active learning. "The original physics labs on campus were designed around the equipment with workstations facing the wall," he said.
He re-designed the Phys 2 Lab by taking fixtures away from the wall and putting four work stations in the shape of an X and locating the power sources and equipment near the center of the X. This configuration requires students to work in groups of three rather than two and fosters more interaction and collaboration.
"They were simple changes that made a big difference," he said. "The environment you create sends a message. When you're designing a classroom you are designing a learning environment."
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