New Technology Test Kitchen

Late last week I posted a quick tweet indicating that we were putting the finishing touches on our new technology test kitchen and promised a blog post to go into more details.  So here it is.

Why a Technology Test Kitchen?

Before I get into what it is, I think there would be value in talking a bit about why it is.  We’ve envisioned this small space as somewhere faculty and students can come to try out various technology.  Much of it is either in or destined to be in our classrooms, so this gives everyone a chance to try things out in a low stakes environment with support close by.  We’re also using it as a small seminar space for various edtech sessions (migrating to our new learning platform, using video conferencing in the classroom, etc.).  I’m hoping that every six months or so that we shift some of the things in the space to reflect new technology we think might help the learning environment.

What’s in a Name?

So why technology test kitchen?  I wish I could say the name came to me in a stroke of genius, but the reality is that I’m borrowing the name from the folks at the Online Learning Consortium.  At one of their conferences last year they had a space on the show floor where people could come try out different mixes of technology and teaching.  Various OLC members had prepared “recipes” to show at various times, or you could pick up a pre-printed recipe and try it on your own.  Both the name and the idea stuck in my head, and thus was born the Technology Test Kitchen.  Where our faculty center is a place faculty can go to learn about and discuss new ways of teaching, the technology test kitchen will be a place they can take these new pedagogical approaches and add appropriate technology to the mix.

What’s in the Space Today

Remembering that we’re planning to cycle things in and out, here’s more detail about what we have in the space today:

3D Printer

3D Printer

This beast is the MakerBot Replicator Z18 (it’s sitting on a storage cart).  It will print objects up to around 18 inches tall and about 11 inches square. We’ve had a number of faculty ask about 3D printing, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to see what they would do with it.

Video Conferencing Setup

IMG_4006

We use Zoom for our desktop video conferencing, and they have an addon called Zoom Rooms that turns a set of consumer equipment into a full fledged video conference setup.  We have a 65 inch Samsung display on the wall connected via HDMI to a Mac Mini running the Zoom Rooms app.  We have a Logitech ConferenceCam 3000e that supplies a really great video and audio experience for small to mid-sized rooms (for larger rooms, you’re really going to want a good AV consultant to figure out the sound).  There’s an iPad mini to control the Zoom Room setup (including the pan/tilt on the camera), and an AppleTV so people show their laptop or mobile screen on the display (we’re standardizing on this for all our classrooms).

Interactive Projection Wall

IMG_4001

On the long wall we’ve got an Epson BrightLink 585Wi short throw projector focused on a wall with IdeaPaint whiteboard paint.  In this room the projector is giving us a 98 inch 16:9 image.  It can actually go larger, but you need a higher ceiling to do anything bigger.  This particular model comes with special pens for interacting with the information displayed, although we’re not quite sure how that will work with the AppleTV we’ve attached to the projector.  We’re looking forward to figuring that out.

Rolling Tables/Chairs

As you can see in the picture above, we also have a couple of tables and a half dozen chairs.  the tables separate if needed and the top can be tilted vertically for storage.  The tables also have clamp on power that can be pulled off if we want a really large, flat space on which to work.  The chairs stack or nest as needed too, so we can convert the space pretty easily from conference room to “audience” seating.

Staff

Originally this space was going to be in an old classroom up near the top of campus (the campus is on a hillside).  At the last minute the provost decided she needed that room for another classroom, so we were left without space.  Our instructional support folks (one with one more coming) are right outside my office in a space that had four desks, so we decided to get rid of two of the desks and convert half that space to our test kitchen.  We think this will actually work out better, as now the instructional support staff is right there in the room.  Not only does that make drop-ins much easier, it means the staff can take time to learn the technology in the room without having to be across campus from their desks.

About the Network Configuration

As we’re rolling the AppleTVs out in the classrooms, we are creating a separate classroom wireless network for each building.  A special thanks to Raechelle Clemmons at St. Norbert’s College who shared their experience doing something similar.  We’ve opted to hard wire the AppleTVs and Mac mini, and our network folks set things up so that those connections are on the same VLAN as the wireless network for the building.  With that all you have to do from your mobile device is connect to the building’s classroom network and pick out the Airplay device from the list (for our Windows folks we got licenses for Airparrot).  It was apparently a royal pain to get setup with the latest generation of Cisco wireless controllers, but now that it’s running it works pretty well.

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