Mike Osterman ’96, middleware analyst in Whitman College Technology Services, knows project gridlock in front of a computer when he sees it. “I have seen groups of students huddled around a single monitor, which is inefficient,” he said.
The solution, Osterman believes, is “SmartSpaces,” which the WCTS team has installed in three locations at Whitman: a formal study space in Olin Hall, a residence study space in Douglas Hall and an informal study space in the Hall of Science.
“With SmartSpaces, everyone can be active and doing things,” Osterman said.
SmartSpaces use an innovative technology called “TeamSpot,” which allows a group of users to work collaboratively using a large-screen display as an interactive digital work surface. Users can wirelessly connect their laptops to this shared computer. After downloading and installing client software, students can work simultaneously on files or separately and join files later.
“It’s really neat technology,” said Amy Soderquist ’10, a student lab manager in Olin Hall who uses SmartSpaces in meetings. “It’s much easier than zoning in on individual computers. It’s a great place to go for a group paper.”
Soderquist praised the cross-platform compatibility that allows PC and Mac users to combine forces.
Whitman partnered with Vassar and Davidson colleges to test the advanced technology. “TeamSpot” has proved effective at large commuter colleges but has yet to be measured at small residential colleges.
“Other schools will be looking to see the results at Whitman,” said Keiko Pitter, chief technology officer. Of 62 liberal arts schools in the Consortium for Liberal Arts Colleges, none had installed “TeamSpot” before Pitter took up the challenge.
She credits WCTS’s Emerging Technology group with many classroom innovations, including CLEo (Collaboration and Learning Environment [online]) and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol).
“Too often (Information Technology) staff time is completely consumed by routine daily activities,” she said. “Creating staff positions to focus on new ideas is really paying off.”