college of education | fall 2005
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Erickson Hall has truly entered the digital age. Gone is the computer lab on the first floor that had been the Technology Exploration Center and in its place is a state-of-the-art teaching and conference facility.
The renovation, which was begun late in the spring and completed in September, involved the gutting of the 5,000-square-foot technology center and remaking the space for the needs of students and faculty in the 21st Century.
“The facilities are cutting-edge,” Dean Carole Ames said. “What we’ve created is a technology-rich environment where there are no computers. That’s because the space is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in using technology.
“Given the nature of the new facilities, people in this building are going to be able to interact in lots of different ways. Research and teaching are all about collaboration and working together, and that is exactly what the first-floor renovations are designed to foster.”
The facilities were designed based on the fact that Erickson Hall is now a completely wireless environment and that all incoming MSU students must have laptop computers. Those realities allowed for designers to open up the space to great opportunities to plug in, log on, and interact without having to having resort to an old-style computer lab with lots of computers and wiring.
The redesigned space actually begins in the
Erickson Hall lobby, where informal space has been created for student
interaction. It includes new furnishings that accommodate laptops and
post-and-beam dividers. The dividers also include power outlets and Ethernet
The lobby then gives way to the semi-formal sections of the building. This part of the facility houses a demonstration lab, equipped with more than a dozen computers. This is the only part of the center that actually houses computers. It will be used to teach faculty and staff how to use new software programs or hardware. It will also be a focal point for the college’s Office of Teaching with Technology.
In the open space outside of the lab there is a space designed for small gatherings. It features the first of five Polyvision digital whiteboards in the facility. The whiteboards have all the major controls on a remote control so users can “walk and talk” while using them from anywhere in the room. By hooking up a laptop, the board will display what is on the screen. The whiteboard is also touch sensitive so a professor can maneuver through a presentation by simply touching the electronic whiteboard. The whiteboards also allow for integrating video, animation, graphics, text and audio.
The formal sections of the facility include two classrooms and two conference rooms. The conference rooms have been created along the cornerstones of the space. The larger conference room in the southwest corner features a whiteboard, video conferencing, and a table that pulls away from the center and flares into a V shape. This allows for people sitting at the table to view the screen and the person doing a presentation. During a video conference, it allows the two cameras installed in the room to capture everyone clearly.
The second conference room is smaller and more intimate. It also includes a whiteboard and the other technologies, but also features plush lounge-type chairs to accommodate longer conferences or meetings.
At the heart of the formal space is 2,200 square feet of classroom space. The space is divided into two classrooms by what is known as a “skyfold” door, which can be raised into a pocket built into the ceiling. It is the only such folding wall at MSU, Mulvaney said, and was used to maximize floor space.
The classroom features two whiteboards and 10 custom tables designed to accommodate student interaction and group work. The tables are set up around large flat-screen monitors that are affixed to extension arms. Students can connect their laptops to screens and work collaboratively and have the freedom to move the screen. All of the monitors in the room, including the whiteboard, are networked so that any group can display their work on all the screens.
The two rooms can accommodate hundreds of students, and they are equipped with audio and DVD equipment, as well as two large drop-down project screens.
“When we got to the design phase, I knew we were going to have something great,” Mulvaney said. “I knew then that the space was going to be something special, and I’ve just been ecstatic to be part of the project and see how it’s turned out.
“While I can’t say what the future will bring, I think the layout of the space is very sustainable and whatever the uses might be for the future this type of space will remain viable for at least 20 years.”
The redesign is the first phase of a broader effort to improve and expand Erickson Hall, which was built in the 1950s. Under construction is a café near the entrance to the kiva on the first floor, as well as two more rooms that will house graduate students and provide more meeting space. And in the spring, the university will break ground on an addition to the second floor of Erickson that will add thousands of feet of floor space for research.
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