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Technological help lets students concentrate on learning

A Classroom 2000 student can use the Web site to gain access to a past lecture, notes and other information  
CNN's Brain Cabell looks at an innovative way to equip classrooms to improve participation
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 8, 1999
Web posted at: 8:14 p.m. EDT (0014 GMT)

From Correspondent Brian Cabell

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Technological innovations make it possible for some students at the Georgia Institute of Technology to take very few notes in the classroom.

If later they need to review what was taught, they can log on to their computers to watch, hear or read the lecture.

Georgia Tech professor Gregory Abowd's latest class in Human-Computer Interaction can be found online by his students.

They can catch the entire lecture -- complete with the professor's notes, references to Web pages and the students' questions and the teacher's answers -- immediately after the class.

Abowd and graduate student Jason Brotherton started the program three years ago in hopes of making students feel less like stenographers in class.

"Many times, students are compelled to copy down all the details of what happens in a lecture and sometimes what happens is they fail to have the chance to pay attention to what's going on in class," said Abowd.

Fourteen other Georgia Tech courses have now adopted the technology known as "Classroom 2000," and three other colleges have started programs as well.

The minimum cost for the technology -- for an electronic white board and audio -- runs about $15,000.

Throw in a video camera, more microphones, a couple of projectors, network connections at the students' desks and some other extras and the cost could reach $200,000.

Some may suspect this technology might encourage skipping classes, but that is not necessarily the case.

"For some people who feel they can do that, that's great for them, but I'm not one of those people," said student Sarah Craighill.

Abowd says the absenteeism rate in his classes is no higher than other classes at Georgia Tech.

The Web pages open with a survey of why the user wants to open the class file -- to review a lecture they attended, view a lecture they did not attend, get help for an assignment, study for a test or just because they are curious.

Classroom 2000 also allows students to pinpoint and review just the portions of class that gave them difficulty. It also notes how many times the professor called up a particular slide in class, which might tip off students to the weight of that information.

Student Marcus Ahonen, who admits skipping a class now and again, appreciates the benefits of Classroom 2000, but he prefers the real thing.

"There's nothing like actually being there," said Ahonen. "But it is close. It is getting closer."

And that's the point of the program: enabling the students to listen and learn -- maybe on their own computers, on their own time -- while not taxing their handwriting skills.

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Georgia Institute of Technology
Classroom 2000
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