Steamboat Springs A new "smart" classroom at the local Colorado Mountain College is earning praise from both professors and students.
Equipped with Internet access that can be projected on a large screen, a DVD player, a CD player, and a documentation camera to view 3-D images, the classroom was opened last fall.
Professor George Bagwell, who teaches anthropology and psychology, said the classroom has aided his teaching significantly. In the "media-rich environment" learning opportunities for larger classes are enhanced.
"Bringing the Internet and other resources to the classroom is a powerful improvement," Bagwell said.
Applications such as Power Point, as well as instructional Web sites, give teachers new tools to reach students and the displays allow everyone to clearly see the subject matter.
But some students have noticed that not all the professors have been brought up to speed with the new technology.
"One downfall is if the instructor isn't trained correctly, then it becomes really time consuming when time is wasted on dealing with the technology," said second-year CMC student Dan Kucher.
Bagwell said a two-day training seminar is available for instructors at the CMC central administrative office in Glenwood Springs.
A full-time media technician also is available locally for those instructors needing immediate help, Bagwell said.
While there have been some setbacks, Kucher said that, overall, the new technology is a definite improvement.
"I had one teacher who had her whole lesson plan on Power Point," Kucher said. "It's also really good for student and teacher presentations."
Bagwell said the key feature of the new classroom is the T-1, high-speed connection that allows him to quickly move about on the Internet.
Receiving the syllabus, discussing it and then receiving assignments is typical for students at many colleges, but the "smart" classroom makes learning easier and more fun, said Barbara Miles, president of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. She said Bagwell's classes used to be conventional, but not anymore.
"This year, he projected the syllabus on the screen," Miles said. "We're not always waiting for him to do all this writing on a chalkboard. It's just right there at the touch of a finger."
Aspen residents John and Carrie Morgridge sponsored the grant that made the more than $26,000 smart classroom a reality for students and teachers.
The computer labs at the college have Internet hookups, but the smart classroom is the largest lecture hall at CMC-Alpine Campus that can access the Internet and also contains large projection screens.
"Anything that can be put on a computer screen can be put on the overhead projector," Bagwell said.
Alpine campus leaders hope to outfit more smart classrooms in upcoming years, however, because the technology costs thousands of dollars, it will be difficult, Bagwell said.
Smart classrooms exist only in four cities in the CMC system: Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Timberline and Vail.
"We hope the college will have enough resources in the future to get more smart classrooms, but we can only do so much with the budget we have," Bagwell said.