Classroom 2000 is an experiment to determine the impact of ubiquitous computing technology in education through instrumented classrooms [2, 6, 1, 4]. In a classroom setting, there are many streams of information presented to students that are supplemented by discussions and visual demonstrations. The teacher typically writes on some public display, such as a whiteboard or overhead projector, to present the day's lesson. It is now common to present supplemental information in class via the World Wide Web. Additional dynamic teaching aids such as videos, physical demonstrations or computer-based simulations can also be used. Taken in combination, all of these information streams provide for a very information-intensive experience that is easily beyond a student's capabilities to record accurately, especially if the student is trying to pay attention and understand the lesson at the same time! Unfortunately, once the class has ended, the record from the lecture experience is usually a small reflection of what actually happened. One potential advantage of electronic media used in the classroom is the ability to preserve the record of class activity. In the Classroom 2000 project, we are exploring ways in which the preservation of class activity enhances the teaching and learning experience.
The instrumented classroom, shown in Figure 1 makes it easy to capture what is going on during a normal lecture. In essence, the room is able to take notes on behalf of the student and the entire lecture experience is turned into a multimedia authoring session. Figure 2 shows a sample of the kind of notes that are provided automatically to the students within minutes of the conclusion of class. This particular class was an introductory software engineering course. Web pages and presented slides are all available and presented in a timeline. The timeline and lecturer annotations on slides can be used to index into an audio or video recording of the lecture itself.
Figure 1: The Classroom 2000 prototype environment in use. The instructor uses an upright electronic whiteboard system (Zen*) to present a lecture. The middle screen provides an extended whiteboard facility. The leftmost display shows output from an instrumented Web browser.
Figure 2: A screenshot of the notes made available to students after class. Clicking on written annotations launches an embedded video window at the appropriate place in the lecture. Web pages visited during class are annotated along a timeline on the left and can be accessed after class.
A necessary pre-condition for the evaluation of Classroom 2000 is that it be perceived by a large user population as providing a reliable service over an extended period of time, minimally a 10 week quarter. The project began in July 1995 and the first quarter-long classroom experiment was in January 1996. Within one year, a purpose-built classroom was opened and has been operational for the past 18 months, supporting over 40 graduate and undergraduate classes in the College of Computing, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mathematics. By the end of 1998, variations of the initial prototype classroom environment will have been installed in 5 locations on Georgia Tech's campus and at single locations at three other universities in Georgia. This project has satisfied the difficult criteria for ubiquitous computing set out in Section 1, largely due to engineering successes. This level of success simply would not have been possible without engineering a software system to automate much of the preparation, live recording and post-production of class notes. The software system supporting Classroom 2000 is called Zen*, and we will discuss what features of Zen* lead to the current success of the project and which features need further research.