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Chalkboards for the 21st century

GREENVILLE, NC   (Oct. 2, 1996)   —   A click of the computer keyboard fills the movie screen with words and images from Elizabeth Rylan’s computer.
“Falling Water,” says the title on the screen. The presentation is about the home of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is part of a classroom presentation for Rylan’s interior design course at the East Carolina University School of Human Environmental Sciences.
“I have 44 students in my class and no one wants to miss,” she said.
This is how Rylan and a growing number of her colleagues teach. It’s high tech stuff using computers connected to projectors that turn small screens into theater-sized displays. It’s almost like live television without the studio and cameras and it puts old film strip and slide presentations to shame.
The instructors mix lectures with multi-media displays and some even developWorld Wide Web home pages that students can peruse for more information and review for exams. While these classroom presentations and web sites take extra hours of work, Rylan and many of her colleagues are embracing these new developments with welcoming attention. And the university is making every effort to encourage and assist them.
Building on its foundation of a $13-million fiber optic system to move digital signals on and off the campus quickly and efficiently, ECU earmarked another $300,000 in funding to help boost the faculty’s involvement with instructional technology.
The project focuses on the work of 12 faculty teams. Each two-member team is working to develop effective ways to apply the new technologies to their teaching.
“I think it is very important for us to do this because we want to educate our students more effectively,” said Richard Brown, vice chancellor for Business Affairs.
“Our success with this project will set the stage for the allocation of more resources to assist instructional technology in the future,” he said.
The 12 teams were selected from about 80 proposals submitted by faculty. Most of the proposals came from instructors who are already involved in using technology in their classrooms.
“All of the proposal were outstanding and we could have closed our eyes and picked the 12 projects,” said Ernest G. Marshburn, ECU’s manager of Academic Computing. He said the selected faculty got the equipment and software they needed for their projects. Much of the hardware consisted of screen projectors and portable notebook computers that can be easily carried in and out of classrooms.
In a meeting to discuss the status of their projects, the faculty teams brought their computers and projectors for show and tell.
A scientist demonstrated an instructional display with enlarged molecules revolving on a screen. An art professor has developed an interactive art system that lets students position objects on a picture screen while adding shadow and color.
The technology is equally useful for other academic areas including business and philosophy. Brian Mennecke, a business professor, puts extra information for his classes on his home page on the World Wide Web. George Bailey is on the Web, too, helping his student learn about the study of philosophy and the thoughts of great philosophers.
Rylan uses a program called PowerPoint to illustrate her lectures. She includes outlines, color slides and even segments of video documentaries that appear on the computer screen complete with sound and movement.
“A picture i