Instructional Technology Adaptation Proposal
The Chalk-less classroom: Use of computer resources to improve traditional
lectures in mathematics courses
Funding for this proposal will be used in the teaching of two courses
in Fall 1999 in the media-equipped classroom, room 120 in the Physics
Mth 103X: Honors Intermediate calculus
Mth 131: Elementary differential equations
The use of touch-sensitive displays and digital writing tablets to augment
computer resources in media equipped classrooms will lead
to dramatic improvements in classroom lectures. Multi-media equipment with
digital writing input will allow teachers to interactively present lessons
while facing the class and will enhance and accelerate old style chalk
and talk lectures. In additions to classroom presentations,
will automate production of digitized class notes for web access by students.
Multi-media equipment and modern information technology has made some dramatic
improvements possible in the level of quality of classroom presentations.
Detailed structures can be clearly depicted with high quality images, and
complex dynamics can be illustrated through computer animation. Yet, at
times, the same multi-media technology can become obtrusive and disrupt
the flow of a lecture, ultimately impairing the learning process. This
proposal describes how computer resources can be made into more natural,
integral components of classroom lectures through the addition of input
devices for digital writing.
The Mathematics department currently has one media-equipped
classroom; this is room 120 in the Physics building.
This classroom has a computer projection system, VCR, and web multi-casting
capabilities. I have used many of these capabilities in the course of teaching
two classes in this room in 1998-1999:
Some of the instructional technology resources I employed for these classes
In particular, through the use of my visualization programs I was able
to present three-dimensional views of complicated curves and surfaces in
my Mth 103 course that would otherwise be too difficult to accurately draw
on a chalkboard. This proposal is based on my experience using the multi-media
resources of this classroom and from my interactions with other faculty
members also using those facilities.
Mth 103: Intermediate Calculus (fall 1998)
Mth 160: Numerical Analysis (spring 1999)
The multi-media equipment allowed for valuable additions to my courses.
However, there are also some drawbacks and shortcomings to current
computer-based multi-media presentations:
Points like these are often raised as reasons why people avoid trying to
"modernize" courses. This proposal is directed to eliminate these problems
and to make media-equipped classrooms a natural technological evolution
of traditional chalk board lectures.
Switching between chalk board and computer projection screen presentations
involves an awkward and noticeable delay.
Injection of fancy computer graphics as a "special treat" in a lecture
can be distracting and might diminish student interest in the rest of the
Computer presentations often involve extensive preparations and may not
be easily changeable in response to audience interactions.
Static, unchangeable ("canned") lectures do not engage the students. Often,
learning a process for solving a particular problem involves following
the method step by step; these skills are more easily presented in a dynamic
rather than a static setting.
Possible mistakes typing by the presenter can lead to awkward errors,
discouraging "on the fly" in class demonstrations and student interaction.
I propose to augment the control console of the media-equipped classroom
with a digital writing tablet or touch sensitive display that can digitize
the motion of a pen. The lecturer will sit at a table in the front of the
room, facing the class while writing the lecture notes on a clipboard-sized
device, with the results being projected onto a screen in the front of
the room. The goals of the use of this new setup are:
To simulate for the students the experience of sitting across a table
from the lecturer: seeing him work through the steps of solving a problem,
and being able to ask him a broad range of questions.
To provide for the lecturer a mechanism for visual presentation of lecture
material that is natural to use, efficient, and is flexible enough to not
affect or limit the form of the content of the lecture.
To eliminate or reduce the distractive nature of "special computer slide
shows" by making the computer a standard everyday part of classes.
To eliminate the effective need for a chalkboard by providing a simple
user interface to allow the computer to display anything that the instructor
can write or draw.
To increase student participation in lectures by having the lecturer always
facing the audience. This is in contrast to traditional blackboard "chalk
and talk" lectures, where much of the instructor's time is spent at the
board facing away from the students.
To provide an automatic way for recording lecture notes in electronic form,
so they can be posted to the web for later student reference.
Integration with existing facilities
This project will yield an enhancement of the mathematics department's
media-equipped classroom. I have scheduled use of this room for three meetings
each week for each of my two classes (Mth 103X and Mth 131) for Fall 1999.
In terms of technical assistance and computer support for the multi-media
and computer systems in room 120, I have been given continuing
support from the mathematics department's two systems
administrators, Yunliang Yu and Andrew Schretter.
While the immediate effects of this proposal will be in my two fall courses,
the broader impacts of this project would have transferable improvements
for all of the media-equipped classrooms on campus.
Initially, I will test-run this new system in the two classes, with
20-30 students each, that I will teach in the room 120 in fall 1999. The
primary cost for this proposal is the purchase of the input digitizing
devices. After consultation with Yu and Schretter, it became clear that
the most feasible technology to accomplish the outlined goals would be
the use of two input devices
These products are based on well-established technologies and are highly
compatible as input devices (acting much like sophisticated
computer mice or "PalmPlilot" personal digital assistants) for the
current computer equipment existing in room 120. Some basic software for
recording and storing the digitized writing in convenient formats will
be developed. The establishment of the details of the nature of
the computer hardware and software support is expected to evolve slightly
in response experience gained in the process of teaching the fall classes.
During the term, the immediate results of the project will include a daily
web-based set of lecture notes available to the students.
At the end of
the term I will present an information session to describe the effectiveness
of the equipment in an attempt to convince other faculty members to go
"chalk-less." While this proposal is based in the mathematics department,
the broader impact of this information technology would be easily transferable
to lectures in most other departments in science, engineering or art that
make use of media-equipped classrooms.
Based on current quotes that we have obtained from the web pages of
the touch-screen display and electronic white board vendors (
Mass Multimedia and
Microtouch), we expect
the touch screen monitor to cost $2000, and the electronic whiteboard
to be less than $1000. Additionally, there will be some costs involved for
the labor and materials related to the installation of the equipment in the
classroom (estimated $500-$1000). The mathematics department is contributing
the technical support of the two systems admininstrators (Yu and Schretter).
Finally we are also requesting some money for student support -- an
undergraduate math or computer science student will be employed to help
develop and maintain the software and associated web pages. Total budget $4500.
The assessment of the success of this proposal will be based on two
The final internal assessment of the project will be done at a department-wide
level, including input from the associate chairman, William Pardon, and
other faculty members using the media equipped classroom, including
Andrea Bertozzi and William Allard.
- First, has the level of classroom communication with the
students been qualitatively and quantitatively improved through the use of
this technology? This will be evaluated from the level of student interaction,
the level of student test scores, and benefits gained in presentation of course
- Second, the level of user (teacher) satisfaction with the reliability,
durability, speed, resolution, and ease of use of the hardware and software
This proposal has been endorsed by the mathematics department (Chairman
John Harer). The department is providing with full access to the media-equipped
classroom facilities and support from our two full-time systems administrators.
This proposal is also in line with the department's goals in
improving teaching of undergraduate and graduate courses and furthering the
uses of information technologies.