The Department of Physics has constructed three “smart” classrooms from space in Smith Lab, the original Physics building at The Ohio State University.  Renovation on the PALET1 and PALET2 spaces were completed by the end of calendar year 2012; PALET3 was brought into production with the start of Autumn Semester, in August, 2013.

“So, what’s a PALET?”  The PALET acronym stands for “Physics Activity Labs Enhanced with Technology”.  PALET classrooms are 80-seat spaces, with heavy audiovisual systems to support flexible teaching of Physics service courses.  The audiovisual systems are not “bleeding” edge; on the contrary, we have used mainstream components (projectors, screens, webcams, and SMARTboards) but configured them for maximum flexibility.  Specifically, the control programming utilized lets instructors stream content to the projector screens at will – up to 5 different sources can be directed to the 5 different screens.  Lighting in the room has been segmented to support the use of media.  While lecture capture was not included in our original design of these spaces, we have allowed for later integration of such features.

“Why did you build these rooms?”  Honestly, the main drivers for launching this project had to do with (a) semester conversion in Autumn, 2012; and (b) accommodating increased enrollments in our undergraduate program (a great problem to have – but we couldn’t expand classrooms into additional spaces).  In addition, we did not wish to lose the hands-on aspects of our undergraduate service course teaching.  Lab experiments are essential so these spaces were carefully designed to allow us to set up our usual experiment equipment on the table without interference.  (And you’d be surprised at the underlying infrastructure required to keep a full list of physics experiments running – power provision, lighting design, and table design were critical to this project’s requirements.)

“What does that do to your pedagogy/teaching methods?”  Now that we have the spaces in production, and that can better accommodate scheduling issues, we would like to use the rooms to deal with the downsides of the classic lecture-recitation-lab format that’s found in so much of hard-science instruction.  Hopefully, we can shift our service courses into a mode more like “studio” instruction (see the SCALE-UP project, created by Dr. Robert Beichner, or the TEAL project, instituted at MIT).

More details, information and pictures to follow.


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