Peter Lorenzi remembers when a blackboard and dusty nub of chalk where the only tools a teacher needed. Those days are quickly fading.
When the dean of Loyola College's graduate school of business steps into his classroom these days, he can brush a small touch-screen panel with his finger and dim the lights, jolt the videocassette recorder to life, call up a Web page on a giant projection screen or cut to a television show.
When Lorenzi lectures, he no longer has to turn around to read from the blackboard. Instead he has a state-of-the-art, 21-inch flat-screen TV at his feet and cues his "monologue" with a wireless mouse.
"You feel like Jay Leno," he says.
Welcome to the classroom of the future, one of several at Loyola's new high-tech, $12-million Graduate Center in TTC Timonium. The center - which officially opens on Thursday - will be used by graduate students in business, engineering, speech and language pathology and physician's assistant studies.
"This was the first building that we designed around technology from the blueprints up," says Bill Glover, a multimedia and classroom technology consultant at Loyola who helped design the new building. "Students and employers today are expecting that. They are coming in and looking for a wired campus."
How wired is it? Eighty miles of cable snake through the building's walls, shuffling voice, data and video transmissions to classrooms and offices. Students and faculty can plug laptop computers into the Internet at their seats. Even the building's maintenance closets contain computer network jacks.
"Just about every place but the bathroom is connected," says Glover. "The way things are going, you never know where it may be useful."
The building also contains the largest interactive distance learning classroom in the Northeast. Part of a network operated by Bell Atlantic, it has banks of cameras, microphones and television monitors that allow professors to engage in real-time debates with students located at more than 120 sites across the state.
But Lorenzi cautions that technology brings challenges as well as opportunities for teachers. One is that students' expectations are higher.
"It can be an awful lot of 'show me, show me, show me,' " he said. "It's like: Are the students expecting me to produce a hologram on their desk or something?"
"But none of it guarantees an interactive experience," he added. "You can bore them just as much."
Technology also elevates the age-old battle for students' attention. In a wired classroom, students can now engage in digital-age doodling, pass electronic notes or surf the Web while their instructor drones.
Teachers have their own defensive weapons. The Graduate Center's computer lab, for example, uses a technology called SmartClass. With the push of a button, the instructor can instantly display the content's of a student's computer screen to the entire class. The feature is meant to show off someone's work - but it can also be embarrassing. An ominous button on the teacher's console labeled "blank" instantly wipes away anything students may have on their screens.
Cameras embedded in classroom ceilings allow instructors to pan and zoom in on students or objects that they want to display to the entire class. But they also raise the specter of Big Brother looking over students' shoulders.
Despite the high-tech upgrade, most classrooms in the graduate center still contain blackboards. "There is something more tangible about paper and ink and chalk," says Glover. "We don't want the technology to overshadow the faculty."
Pub Date: 10/19/98