A visit to the Foreign Language Resource Center (FLRC), one of the various departmental labs at Pomona
As we quest to innovate and use technology to enhance teaching and learning at Pomona College, sometimes this requires the use of spaces that exceed the abilities of our technology-enhanced classrooms so we can better work with and support students. One of Pomona’s hidden teaching and learning spaces I’ll be looking at is the Foreign Language Resource Center. The FLRC is one of the various departmental teaching labs on campus. While most of these teaching labs can also simply be described as a computer lab, they generally offer much more than such a basic description implies.
The Foreign Language Resource Center
The FLRC in Mason 101 is a multi-use space that also provides professional development workshops and research and instructional language technology support. It’s also a social space, where students and faculty can drop in at any time during open hours. Language faculty and intercollegiate faculty can reserve the computer section of the FLRC for classes and presentations, and the whole center can also be used for events and receptions (food and drinks are allowed).
The FLRC is the perfect space for smaller classes that would like to work on digital, multimedia, or online assignments. Faculty members who have felt inspired after attending a Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) or conference workshop can use the FLRC as a space to implement these new technologies or ideas into their classes. April Mayes, Associate Professor of History, for example, reserved the FLRC for her History 36 course to have her students work on creating Timeline JS projects documenting women’s and gender history in Latin America and the Caribbean. She also reserved it for her History 31 course, where they were creating a database and digital portfolios on uncataloged records held at the San Gabriel Mission.
Technology in the FLRC
Currently, the FLRC houses eight Mac Pros, shown in the photo above, as well as four iMacs, three Windows machines, three TVs with region-free Blu-ray players, one multi-region VHS player, two scanners (one being large format capable), two projectors (one of which is interactive), an Apple TV, and two printers (one black-and-white and one color that is capable of printing in 11×17-inch format). This portion of the FLRC also has been fitted with a 4K pan-tilt-zoom camera and microphones in the ceiling to allow for videoconferencing. The computer section of the FLRC seats 19.
While the computer portion of the FLRC looks like a fancy computer lab, the tables in it are on casters so that classes can easily move the computers around to accommodate small group work. The aims of the FLRC have always been to encourage collaborative work among students so that they can engage more closely with the target language. Keeping a computer lab relevant with the ever-advancing rate of cloud technologies and miniaturization of computers is challenging. This is especially true when many students and faculty alike own fairly powerful laptops, smartphones, and tablets, which can easily eclipse the capabilities of an aging computer. Luckily, with the FLRC being a managed lab, we’re able to keep abreast of coming trends and changing demands for the space to continue effectively supporting the needs of our faculty and students.
The FLRC’s Future
This coming summer the FLRC is due for a computer refresh. We’ll be switching to laptops that will be available for check out, which will replace the eight computers in the center of the FLRC. The reason for this switch is that the new laptops we’ll order can easily accomplish the usual tasks that were required of the old desktops. Furthermore, in their place, each desk will have one single large monitor to which students will be able to plug in (and charge) their laptops or iPads. This new configuration, which I’m looking forward to, will allow students to easily talk and work with others across from them instead of either needing to lean awkwardly or coordinate moving monitors so that they can see each other.
The new configuration of one larger monitor per desk will, I hope, allow for students to more effectively work together and give them more space on the desks for whatever devices they are using. In addition to being easier for students to work together, faculty using the FLRC will be able to see what each pair of students is working on when they are using the larger monitors. Furthermore, via the Apple TV and magic of AirPlay, students working on an Apple device can share their screens with the rest of the class, highlighting important information or showing off their work.
Stop by for a Tour!
Generally, the FLRC can be reserved by language faculty and intercollegiate faculty for classes and presentations, but we are open to entertaining reservations from other fields if an international or language argument can be made. The FLRC is the perfect space for smaller classes that would like to work on digital, multimedia, or online assignments. We look forward to seeing you and your classes in the FLRC!