Case Study | Colorado School of Mines | Pearl Technology
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Colorado School of Mines

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Colorado School of Mines
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Colorado School of Mines
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Freshman Biology Lab
Our challenge was to convert a large lecture course into an active learning classroom experience that would resonate with engineering students and engage them fully with the course material. Collaboration and student dialogue needed to be fostered within small groups, yet allow whole class instruction enhanced by annotated computer images or videos. To achieve this, we required reliable technology that would support a dynamic curriculum with activities ranging from mini-lectures and demonstrations to group explorations facilitated by internet access, all while meeting the needs of a traditional biology lab, including data acquisition, use of compound microscopes, gel electrophoresis equipment and thermal cyclers.

We designed a system that can scale and transmit a variety of audio and video sources from a centralized instructor location to sufficient workstations to accommodate 63 students. Controled by a DGX8 and seven DxLink output cards transmitting via CAT6e cable to seven pods, each of the seven pods has three workstations that radiate out from a central hub. The signal from the instructor station is received at the hub and split by an AMX DXlink receiver and HDMI DA. The original signal (VGA, HDMI, DocCam, sound) is converted, scaled and transmitted, then split and delivered to 71 workstation monitors. At each workstation, computers allow internet access, connectivity to a data acquisition system and real-time data analysis. Dual monitors stacked vertically give students a view of their local computer as well as the signal from the instructor podium. Group discussions occur frequently at whiteboards and 65" interactive TV monitors mounted around the room perimeter; digital capture and internet access facilitate student interactions as they solve problems, create concept maps, plan experiments and interpret experimental data. These tools support the constructivist approach of a studio classroom. In this setting, technology facilitates student interactions and explorations and moves conversations past rote repetition of textbook material to evaluation and synthesis of ideas. It supports discussion of how science generates new information and the interface between biology and engineering. This technology has helped our campus move forward with the implementation of innovative pedagogy and creative new learning spaces.

"When incoming freshmen walk into the new Studio Biology classroom, their eyes open wide and they say “Wow! This for us?!!” They are clearly excited to use this newly renovated space. The fast pace and range of activities keeps students actively engaged. Students rarely have time to lose interest or let their attention stray from the task of learning about biology."

– Corey Parham, Classroom Technology Engineer

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