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News for the Santa Monica College Community
  September 1, 2010

“Mind Blowing” Classroom of the Future Opens at SMC

Imagine a classroom that feels something like a CNN studio in which three walls are filled with multiple images and high-definition video clips, students are texting responses to questions which can be projected and even analyzed immediately, and iPads and other devices have replaced pens, notebooks and even laptops.

Welcome to SMC’s $250,000 Digital Learning Studio, a “classroom of the future” in the Letters & Science Building that opened Monday, the first day of the fall semester.

Using not only iPads, but also SMART interactive whiteboards and Response clickers, high-definition video, and mobile furniture, a group of SMC professors is embarking on a pilot project designed to engage students – particularly basic skills students – in ways not seen in traditional classrooms.

Funded by a federal Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions Program grant, the new digital studio is modeled after “The Hyperstruction Studio” at the University of California at Riverside.

“It’s mind blowing. We’re using a fast, visual and exciting means of teaching that seeks to duplicate the way that students communicate today,” said Regina Jennings, project manager for the grant.

Ten classes have been scheduled in the 32-seat studio, including basic skills math, intermediate algebra, basic skills English and several communication courses.

The technology, along with the furniture on wheels that allows students to cluster as groups in different configurations, delivers not only content in an interactive way but also stimulates faculty experimentation and creativity.

“The Digital Learning Studio allows the instructors to interact in a fluid way, but also allows students to interact with the lesson plans in individual and collaborative ways,” said Al DeSalles, manager of media and reprographic services, who has spearheaded the project with Jennings.

DeSalles said that professors in the classroom have each been given an iPad. In addition, eight iPads have been purchased for students – one for every four. He said the college deliberately purchased only eight so that each group of four students would share one iPad to foster collaborative learning.

Jennings said the goals of the Digital Learning Studio pilot project are to help basic skills students, produce higher levels of student retention rates, and improve the transfer rate for students who need the most academic support.

She said that the purpose of the U.S. Department of Education grant being used for the studio is to strengthen the college, which has been designated an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander serving institution because its enrollment of that population is 15 percent and the federal guideline is at least 10 percent.


A group of SMC employees watches a demonstration of equipment in the new Digital Learning Studio.

Al DeSalles and Regina Jennings

Al DeSalles and Regina Jennings were the main driving forces in getting the Digital Learning Studio created.

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