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Guest Blogger: Frank Kolavo on Classroom Evolution
February 24, 2015 by Zoom

CCI_2013_NavOver the past several years, we have witnessed an evolution in the classroom. Some would call it a revolution. The traditional instructor-led lecture is slowly giving way to a more active model. Students are being asked to learn in a more collaborative environment. This small group collaborative interaction motivates students to be more engaged.

As these teaching methods evolve, so do the demands on the technology and the physical learning environment. Electronic teaching tools, that were once only in the hands of the faculty, are now distributed throughout the classroom.

Computer Comforts Collaborative Table set-up as a ZoomPresence workstation. The college installed a Mac-mini in the electronics bay (below table). The iPad is mounted to the tabletop and is secure in a locking case. The tablet is used as a controller.

Computer Comforts Collaborative Table set-up as a ZoomPresence workstation. The college installed a Mac-mini in the electronics bay (below table). The iPad is mounted to the tabletop and is secure in a locking case. The tablet is used as a controller.

About five years ago, Computer Comforts began creating furniture solutions designed for this collaborative approach. Group tables in a variety of shapes (round, oval, and bullet) and sizes are now our fastest growing products. In addition, since students are using laptops and mobile devices during their collaboration, we have incorporated tabletop power and USB charging into the designs.

Incorporated into many of these team work tables are large LCD displays, intended for small group presentations and screen sharing. There are many good hardware solutions for screen sharing (switches) that have been used in traditional corporate conference rooms (Extron, Crestron, AMX, etc) for many years. The challenge with this “conference room” approach is the high cost of this hardware and the need for flexibility. The corporate conference room is often a controlled environment with company-provided laptops. The classroom is like the Wild West with a large variety of computers and mobile devices.

Many colleges are now discovering the benefits of taking their collaboration needs to the cloud. Zoom is proving to be a leader in this space. The key to success is simplicity. The process needs to be intuitive. A student must be able to sit down and quickly log into their group collaboration from any device. Everyone needs to be on the same page (literally) with ease. Since I’m just the furniture guy, I think California State University San Marcos has provided a great example of how to accomplish this using Zoom. Chuck Allen, CSUSM’s Manager of eMedia and Learning Spaces, described the following advantages:

  • No cables, connectors, or adaptors. This is huge. As you know, even if you provide all of the multitude of possible adapters, you can’t guarantee that they won’t get lost or forgotten. Our faculty is 90% Mac users and, while I love Macs, they changes connectors with pretty much every product version.
  • No back-end hardware. A physical system would require routing HD-base-T to all desks, adapters of various kinds, a switcher in a closet, and some kind of controlling touch panel. It would be tens of thousands of dollars easily. Our system just leverages the network, and we don’t have to spend time programming a controller.
  • Leverages the same product we want faculty and students to use for web conferencing anyway (Zoom!). Once they learn it in one context, they can use it in others.
  • No incremental cost. Since we have a site license for all faculty, staff, and students, we can do this kind of thing as much as we like with no additional expense. It’s scalable.
  • System can record if desired.
  • Incremental improvements as Zoom gets updated. With a hardware-based system, once it’s installed, it is what it is. It just depreciates.
Frank Kolavo, Computer Comforts

Frank Kolavo, Computer Comforts

About our guest blogger:

Frank Kolavo is the President and founder of Computer Comforts, Inc.  His company has been manufacturing innovative computer furniture since 1987. Learn more about their Active Learning Solutions.

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