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Remember when talking in class got you a one-way ticket to the principal’s office? Thanks to technology, the classroom experience has come a long way – and it’s time for the infrastructure to catch up. Since the summer of 2013, UNC-Chapel Hill ITS has been working to make class-time conversation the norm, with the help of digital technology and instructors across campus.

“We’re pulling out all the analog equipment,” says Gina Bradford, ITS manager of Classroom Supplies and Learning Space Design. “We’re putting things on the network that weren’t previously on the network, and we’re adding more options for the instructors to bring in mobile devices to the podium.”

These upgrades come as a response to changes in the way students want to learn and what they expect out of a university education. Carolina’s current and future student populations have grown up with technology, making them eager to use it for educational purposes, explains Bradford.

“[Students] have an expectation when they walk into a room: They don’t want to just sit in a room and be lectured at and have things written on a whiteboard or a chalkboard,” she says.

“The fact that the instructors have this technology at their fingertips helps the students – it makes it more interactive, and it makes the students collaborate more with the instructors and with each other.”

That’s exactly the case with Phillips 335, a newly upgraded science and math classroom. With round tables for students to congregate around and projection screens on all four walls, the classroom was redesigned to offer opportunities for interaction from all directions. Additionally, there are outlets and tools in the middle of each table to help students use their technology and work together on lab projects.

“The student response has been very positive,” says Father Michael Antonacci, a teaching assistant in the physics department. “They’ve had an opportunity to work in groups and to interact with one another in ways that you can’t do in a traditional classroom that’s only oriented in one direction.”

Without these technology upgrades, the students’ education could suffer. “In a room that’s less tech-savvy, there’s almost a disability because you probably only have a whiteboard or a chalkboard,” Antonacci says. “When you have 45 or more students, you can’t really work problems together or do anything at the board so that everybody can see. That’s a major disadvantage when teaching because if people can’t see what’s going on, they can’t learn, they can’t ask questions, they can’t interact.”

The classroom technology upgrades will continue through the summer of 2016, fostering further interaction and engagement at each step of the way. Thanks to this use of technology, ITS has made talking in class more feasible and more productive.

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