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New Technology in the Classroom

By William Tucker

As mass communication professor Mario Acerra prepared to administer one of the first quizzes of the fall semester, all of his students took out their cellphones.

The students were not texting, but were in fact taking the quiz using Tophat, a software application that literally puts a student’s coursework and materials in the palm of the hand.

When the quiz began, the first question appeared on the main monitor in the front of the classroom, as well as on the smartphone of every student registered for the course.

Students selected their answer, some answering right away, some taking a bit longer.

After about a minute of consideration, Acerra walked over to his computer and clicked a button, revealing the correct answer for the question, as well as the number of students who chose each possible answer.

Technology has transformed the way in which people not only learn, but teach as well.

Acerra, coordinator of the Media Production program at NCC, notes that while his field always relied on new technology, it has become so essential that the school now relies on it.

“All areas of the college are on a replacement cycle whereby new computers are purchased after some years of use,” Acerra said. “This ensures that up-to-date software will run and students can complete assignments.”

After administering the quiz, Acerra archived it, allowing students to view all of the questions and the correct answers whenever they like on their own cellphone.

“The goal of technology is to extend the capabilities and ways a student can achieve and ways a teacher can provide information and content,” Acerra said. “In that way it may better facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills to students. Having computers in a classroom or lab also allows the students to interact with and use technology in their chosen career path. Almost every job today involves interaction with technology, so it is vital that students have opportunities to use technologies that they will find in the workplace.”

After Acerra dismissed his class, many of the students hurried across the hall to the media lab. The door is automatically locked, so a student must press a button on the wall. A voice asks students to show their media pass, which they hold up to a camera the size of a quarter, on the wall next to the door.

Opening the door is media lab assistant Dracie Claus, who ushers students inside.

“Technological advances place greater demand on the computers, which is why they need to get upgraded every so often,” Claus said.

Claus darts around the lab, answering questions students might have regarding their assignments, and helping them format their external hard drives for class, or assigning tasks to student employees in the lab.

“It’s exciting, but keeping up with all the upgrades can be a challenge,” she said.

The media lab provides Media Production students with the equipment and technology needed to complete their various assignments.  

Since technology doesn’t sit still, the lab’s computers are due for an upgrade next summer.