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Computer In The Classroom Essay, Research Paper

Computers and Electronics in the Classroom

Computers and electrical equipment in a modern educational room are essential for a well-rounded workspace. The need for computers is obvious. They allow students to do research far deeper and faster than ever before. They allow students to type reports, and check electronic-messages. They also assist in performing an infinite array of other tutorial programs, and diagnostics. Though their technology is impressive, some major problems occur when you put even a single computer into a room. How are we going to show the images from the computer to those who will learn from it? How are we going to be able to hear what is produced from our programs, and how will we prevent the computers from overbearing our voices? If there is more than one computer, how shall we network them? Possibly the last and most important question is how we make it available and easy for everyone who wants to use it?

Traditionally, each student sitting at a computer would have a 14″ or 15″ conventional monitor sitting on the desk, taking up a good 50% of the workspace. These monitors are usually greater than a .3 dot pitch or worse and some with only a 33 mHz refresh rate. According to Van Horn, a professor at Augsburg, in his essay titled Electronic classrooms: design and use, this is absolutely unacceptable for multiple reasons. Looking at a computer screen with a low resolution or refresh rate is stressful on the eyes. When students are constantly straining their eyes, according to his studies, creativity is reduced, errors increase due to a hasty finish, and enthusiasm is lost. Ideally, the student would be able to just have their images “pop” into the air in front of them. Its resolution would be infinite and liquefied, and its refresh rate would make you think it wasn’t running on frames. While we do not possess the technology right now to create such marvelous screens, we are not so far away. Right now we have projectors and high definition TV’s capable of displaying any computer screen in the room onto the wall at almost any size we can make. With monitors being at least .28 dot pitch, in a well-lit room, and a refresh rate in the 66 mHz range, the effects of poor monitors are negligible. The student is then allowed to work without strain if used not excessively. The room must also be designed so that a professor or student may show his work to the entire class. This is achieved by having a high-resolution projector mounted from the ceiling, or placed in the back of the room. It should be connected to a “matrix switcher.” At Bucknell in addition to the University of North Florida, we use the same AMX brand, podium mounted touch screen to operate the switcher. This allows anyone, with very little computer skill, to be able to display any computer screen, video, overhead camera, or laser disk. Using the projector creates another problem though, this was addressed in How to See Clearly, lighting. For the image to be seen clearly, it must be dark. For students to see their own work it must be light, for people to fully listen to the professor standing near the projection, he must be lit up. The easiest described solution to this was incandescent lighting everywhere, with at least one low powered spot light for the speaker and all fixtures with dimmers.

Acoustics are becoming more and more of a concern among computer users. As teleconferencing and voice tutorials become more readily available, students will have a greater need for the ability to produce sound through their computer. One option is to have a set of amplified or non-amplified speakers (since the decimal level is not that important) for every computer. This option was criticized for three main reasons in an article from the International Journal of Instructional Media. One, the cost is impractical. To purchase a set of speakers for approximately $40 for every computer is horribly expensive. Two, the defect rate would exceed that of any other component of the computer system. Most often speakers are blown out by accidental, but with students who do not own the equipment, it tends to happen more often than would be anticipated. Any attempt for a quiet workspace has been tampered with severely. Even with no signal going to the speakers, when the volume is turned up, there is a constant fuzz or static created from every speaker. Then, when the speakers are actually playing intended files, the noise is through the roof. Enough noise distraction is created by the computer itself. For each full size computer, there are usually one or two internal fans that also create a constant static. Unfortunately, the best way to avoid this is to run less powerful machines, because the more powerful the machine, the more heat it produces, which means more fans. A good solution to that problem is to have “dumb” workstations. This will not solve the problem completely. Sound deadening floorboards, panels, and ceilings are needed, with extra consideration applied to the often overlooked heating and air conditioning ducts that seem to pipe the sound everywhere it is not supposed to go. The second of three ways to produce sound from the computer is headsets. Headsets are very practical in a room that is being monitored by an office personal. That way, headsets can be handed to those who need them, and returned afterwards. They have low distraction qualities; good sound output, and are inexpensive. Their downfall is the inability for groups to listen to the same sound, and theft. Last but not least, the room can have a centralized speaker system. This would be a high-powered surround sound system capable of using the input of any computer from the classroom. The benefits here lie in the ability for high quality sound produced for an entire classroom to listen to comfortably, but its downfall is that only one input can be used at a time. No article suggested that any one of these were the right, rather a combination would most likely provide the right mix for the educational classroom we are trying to design.

For everyone to be able to share this room and all of its functions, the room must be networked. This allows them access to each other’s computers, resources, and troubleshooting aids. Suggested was a typical 100 base T network using Ethernet cable. Without a network, you have no Internet connection, no shared printers, and no shared drives. Using a network allows you to use previously mentioned “dumb” workstations. Not only do they reduce sound disruption, but they also make the computers easier to use. Since every time they are booted up they gain all of their information from a server, which is locked up, there is no problem of not having the desired software installed. People cannot damage the settings of the computer, and the cost is dramatically less expensive. In addition, they take up less physical space.

In conclusion, computers may be the answer to many problems, but they also cause many problems themselves. Before placing a network of computers into a room, imaging, lighting, acoustics, and the actual layout of the network must be considered with great thought. No answer is concrete, because each user will desire something different of the computer system.

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