The Ameritech Electronic University School Classroom in KSU's Moulton Hall will provide a unique educational research and learning environment, said Dale Cook, associate dean and Summit Professor for Learning Technology in the College of Education.
"This classroom is just so exciting," he said. "There isn't another classroom like this anywhere else in the country."
With an extraordinary array of equipment, the classroom is actually a research laboratory and workshop to explore ways to integrate computer technology into elementary education, he said.
Starting in February, a second-grade class from Walls Elementary in Kent and a seventh-grade class from Brown Middle School in Ravenna will attend the classroom. For 10 weeks, Dennis Kelly from Walls and Pat Mazzer from Brown will teach their respective classes in Moulton Hall half a day each.
The Ameritech Classroom is actually two rooms, a classroom and an observation room, Cook said. The classroom will contain more than 20 desktop and laptop computers capable of using CD-rom software and networking through electronic mail and the Internet. Alphasmart computers, which only have word-processing capability, will also be provided.
KSU is also supplying four field kits for students _ consisting of a camcorder, still digital camera, audio recorder and binoculars _ which will allow them to roam the campus, Cook said. Students can explore university facilities and interview faculty and staff as part of class projects, he said.
"They can record what they hear, load it onto the computer and download information and images from the Internet as part of their units," he said.
Behind a stretch of one-way glass on one wall of the classroom is the observation room.
Through four cameras mounted in domes suspended from the classroom's ceiling, observers will be able to view students' behavior, Cook said. Digital videocassette recorders will record video and audio from an entire day's activity so researchers can analyze it afterwards. Students' computer use will also be tracked.
A $250,000 gift from the Ameritech Foundation paid for much of the classroom, but KSU faculty, Kent schools administrators and members of the community collaborated on its design, Cook said. A design committee met weekly during the summer to plan the classroom's design.
The classroom will benefit all aspects of the education community, Cook said.
"Teachers will learn things they can take back to their schools and classrooms," he said. "(The College of Education) will benefit because we'll learn more about the impact technology can have on learning and integrate that into the training of new teachers, and faculty will benefit because they can do research in an environment like no other."
Educators from Walls and Brown said they were eager about the project's potential.
"This is my 31st year in education, and this has excited me more than anything I've seen in a long time," said Frank Seman, principal of Brown. "You're out of the realm of theory and actually field-testing this stuff. We're really excited about this because we couldn't do this without Kent State."
"Technology is going to change the face of teaching and learning," said Linda Walker, principal of Walls. "We aren't sure what's going to happen. We're just going to have be cognizant as this whole thing unfolds."
One of the challenges of the classroom is making an environment fit for young children at KSU, Kelly said.
"There's a day-to-day routine we have (at Walls) that university professors don't necessarily understand," he said.
Equipment and facilities such as bathrooms must accommodate small children, he said.
Another challenge will be controlling his students in a new environment, especially one with so many gadgets around, Kelly said.
"These guys are going to feel so special going over there," he said.
"It's going to be a challenge to get my kids to settle down because
they're going to be really excited."