The term “google jockey” is sometimes used to describe a student or audience participant who is given official license by the instructor to surf the web while a presentation is in session. There is more than one way to use a google jockey, but often a google jockey serves as a moderator for back-channel discussions among other students, and the jockey’s screen is displayed for all to see right alongside the presenter’s slides.
Instructors sometimes turn to this technique in an attempt to use the students’ personal devices to further class discussion, rather than fighting a losing battle against Facebook and espn.com. Of course this requires that there be more than one screen in a classroom, and that the control system offer some mechanism by which a student’s device can be easily connected.
Our traditional classrooms still feature a single projector and a single screen, but one of our goals in the Learning Spaces group is to give faculty the option of displaying multiple sources of information to the class at the same time. A few years ago we started to move screens off-center, thus allowing faculty the option of using both the projection screen and a blackboard at the same time. Some rooms, like Jordan 101 & 105, were built with the capability of showing multiple sources on multiple screens. A couple years ago we added a small MIT-style ‘TEAL’ classroom in the basement of DeBartolo. This summer we upgraded the classroom AV control systems in DeBartolo 101, 102, 155, and 141, and while we were doing that we equipped each room with three projectors and three screens.
Faculty can still use a single source on a single screen if they prefer, but they now have more options. A single screen, accompanied by a traditional PowerPoint presentation tends to lock the presenter into a very linear approach. Multiple displays allow faculty more choices about how they teach. One screen can remain relatively static and display to the students the overall context of the problem they are discussing such as a problem statement, or a map of a geographic region, or simply the agenda for the day. A second or third screen can display more dynamic content such as a computer simulation, a calculus problem in process of being solved, or a guest speaker via a Skype session. The specific examples are not that important. The additional flexibility that faculty have to design improved learning activities is really the key factor.
Part of the reason we can do this is that we are able to control our amortized annual costs for projectors. We partner with NEC for almost all of our projectors, and over the past 7 years we have moved from a 3-year warranty to a 4-year warranty, and now this year we can register our projectors for a 5-year warranty. When we combine that longer life-cycle with lower costs per unit we are able to add devices to existing rooms without increasing the overall annual MUR need (for projectors).
One of the principles that guides our thinking when we design learning spaces is to promote Active Learning. We do not want to create spaces that are hostile to other modes of instruction, such as lecturing, but we do seek to design learning spaces that allow faculty to choose from a wider variety of instructional approaches. If you would like to see some of the rooms mentioned please contact me or any of the other Learning Spaces staff to arrange a demonstration.