November 16, 2011 — The University of Virginia Library will roll out a new mobile classroom Thursday that allows instructors to teach without being tied to a computer lab or classroom.
The "Teach Anywhere" open house will take place Nov. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Groups Lab on the third floor of Clemons Library. It's targeted toward faculty and staff, though anyone can attend, said Meridith Wolnick, information services and instruction librarian.
The Teach Anywhere "classroom in a box" is a package of 22 iPads and a Macbook Pro for syncing and management, housed within a high-end powered storage cart and a sturdy rolling travel case.
Initially, library instructors will use the kit to respond to faculty requests to teach research method seminars to students. The program could later expand so faculty could check the kit out to use as a mobile teaching tool, Wolnick said.
The need for the tool emerged as library computer lab space for teaching classes on how to use research tools such as Virgo declined, she said. At the same time, many professors – especially for large undergraduate classes – began to ban personal laptops from the classroom because of distraction issues, which made library presentations in the classroom difficult because students couldn't access online search tools.
"We were looking for a way to bring computing devices to the students, whether that's at Wilson Hall or here in the library, without asking that they be allowed to bring laptops to class," Wolnick said.
Test cases have shown that students enjoy using the iPads to navigate online research tools, and because the devices are mobile, a student could theoretically take one into the stacks while searching for a particular resource, Wolnick said. Instructors teaching research methods could take the mobile classroom to the students or use it inside the library.
The event will also feature the Mobile Computing Group, which is celebrating four years on Grounds, and will discuss and demonstrate recent apps, devices and hardware add-ons available for use by the University community. A representative from Apple Computer will also be on hand to demonstrate Apple's hand-held technologies and new operating system.
Refreshments will be served.