rAVe Founder Gary Kayye opened up the 2018 UBTech Conference to a full house of about 800 in the Mirage Resort in Las Vegas yesterday. UBTech is an annual technology conference aimed at higher education leaders. Gary’s message was all about the journey that led him to design what he hopes is the perfect collaborative classroom at the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism. Kayye is an assistant professor at UNC and has taught a New Media Technologies and Branding course there as an adjunct since 2009.
“Over the past nine years, it became obvious to me that, at least in my students’ case, they didn’t like learning in a traditional classroom where the desks became barriers to collaboration,” Kayye explained in his keynote. He was referring to his previous classroom, where the desks are not only permanently attached to the floor, but there’s LAO no room to move the chairs so the students can work in clusters on group projects — opting to either leave the class and work in hallways or sit on the floor. “My students grew up doing homework while laying on their bedroom floors or on their beds, while listening to music and FaceTime-ing with their friends.”
Even though most kids don’t do homework sitting behind desks in their rooms any longer, as Kayye pointed out, most schools still force students to sit at desks in nearly every class. So in the new classroom at UNC — dubbed the Reese News Lab — everything is on wheels: the desks, the chairs, the whiteboards — even the lectern.
But the redesign of the classroom didn’t stop at the furniture. Kayye explained in the keynote that every piece of technology for the classroom was picked by him and the school’s resident AV-guru Gary Kirk specifically to focus on collaboration in three specific ways. “In the redesign, we had to think about every possible scenario in which the room would be used. For example, most of the time, when a professor is out of town, they have to cancel class — we didn’t want that to every have to be the case. But, just Skype-ing into the classroom to teach wasn’t the solution — we wanted the distance-teaching scenario to be identical to the live-teaching scenario. But we didn’t stop there. We also wanted a student who couldn’t make it to class, maybe because they are sick, to have the same experience as if they were sitting in class.”
So, Kayye enlisted the help of Extron for its streaming expertise, Nureva for its Microphone Mist technology and Altia Systems for its 5K Panacast cameras. “This trifecta of companies provided the perfect distance-learning scenario as we bring the streaming to where the students already are — Facebook LIVE — and then archive it using Extron’s Entwine solution — and with the 5K cameras, not only can I take attendance because I can see who everyone sitting in the classroom is, but I can also interact with them as if I am standing at the from of the room.”
Kayye’s keynote ran over the allotted 40 minute time slot, but not a single member of the audience left. In fact, there was a line of attendees in front of the stage, when he finished to ask him questions and garner advice. He ended it with a big surprise for his audience: “I want you to help us make this classroom even better so we’ve decided that later this summer, we will publish the As-Built Drawings of how the room was designed and integrated — including every single wire, cable and connector.” That drew applause and excitement in the hall.
UBTech continues today and tomorrow at the Mirage and is open to all who serve the higher-ed tech community. You can learn more here.