Using the Intelligent Classroom

Important URLs

First things first

If you wish to use the desktop computer or record your lectures in the Intelligent Classroom, you will first need to obtain a computer account and setup the appropriate database entries. Please contact Siu Chi Chan if you do not have the username and password needed to enter the instructor admin page.

For any urgent inquires related to the classroom, you may page Siu Chi at 302-3884.

Software available

The following software is available for your use on the classroom computer. Please contact Siu Chi Chan if you need another package installed for your teaching:

Before the class

During the class, you can either write your notes on a blank (digital) page, or you can annotate overtop of imported slides such as those from a PowerPoint presentation you have prepared earlier. If you wish to use imported slides, these instructions are important. Otherwise, you can skip to the next section.

Preparing your lecture slides

  1. The Intelligent Classroom will take care of converting your PowerPoint presentation for you when you create your lecture. However, PowerPoint has problems dealing with slides containing only one image (with or without text). During the conversion, you might lose any text contained on these slides. To avoid this problem, whenever you place a single graphic on a slide, you should select the graphic by clicking it, then use the Draw menu, select Order and Send to Back. Note that these steps are not necessary for slides containing none, or more than one image.
  2. Make sure that you leave a reasonable border (in particular at the right margin) on each slide, as the conversion tends to chop a little around the edges to make them fit on the screen.
  3. An additional warning with our conversion process is that each slide should have both a title area and a body area, even if left blank. Otherwise, the converter may crash and remain unusable until restarted by Siu Chi. Note that you can always insert blank slides on-the-fly in class, using the Insert button at the lower left of the screen.
  4. Any animations embedded in your PowerPoint will be lost by the converter, which simply generates a static image for each full slide. If you wish to preserve a "sequential disclosure" of text (one line appears at a time), you should generate individual slides for each separate display that you want to appear.
  5. Any hyperlinks in the PowerPoint will not be active after the conversion. However, you can always open a web browser to the desired page.
  6. If you want to use another application as the source of your slide images, make sure you save each slide as Slide<#>.GIF, starting with Slide1.GIF and without any gaps in sequence. These slides must be in GIF 87a format, not GIF 89a, as the latter cannot be read by the system. Once you have saved each of these images, make sure they are copied to an ftp-accessible machine, as you will need to specify an ftp server when you create your lecture in the next step.

Transferring your lecture to the server

  1. Mac users: Note that for Netscape 4.7x, you will need to download the Apple JVM in order to run the applet properly. This limitation has been corrected under Netscape 6.x and Mozilla.
  2. Open a web browser to the ZenPad page and select your course name from the pull-down Class menu. Enter a Title for your lecture and use the pull-down menus to select the appropriate Month/Day/Year of your class. Then type in your User ID and Password in the fields provided.
  3. If you are using a PowerPoint file for background slides, select the Upload PowerPoint checkbox and then press Create Lecture. A new window will appear, in which you can select the PowerPoint file and have the Intelligent Classroom convert it for you automatically.
  4. Press the Start Conversion button to initiate the conversion process. Note for Mac users: A problem with Java support may result in your not seeing any feedback concerning the slide conversion progress until all the slides have been transferred to the server -- this could take several minutes, so be patient.
  5. If you are using GIF images prepared by another application for your background slides, select the FTP slides checkbox and then press Create Lecture. An ftp dialog will appear in which you should fill in the information requested. You will then be able to navigate to the directory containing your slides and upload these to the server.
  6. After uploading your slides, if you wish to view the "converted results" to verify that they are acceptable, you will have to reload the ZenPad screen, select your newly created lecture, and click the "View Lecture" button.
  7. Note that if you need to update your slides before class, just repeat the procedure above. The system will use the most recent files that you uploaded for the specified lecture date.

In the Classroom

  1. Note that only instructors wearing one of the loaned wireless microphones are able to record their audio. Please contact Siu Chi if you would like to obtain one for lecture recording uses. Since the microphones only pick up sound from a very close range, they will not record student questions, so an important teaching tip (not only for the purpose of recording but also to benefit those students in the back of the room) is to repeat back any questions that you are asked before you begin to answer. Remember to turn on your microphone before class (with both switches set to the "on" position).
  2. Log on to the classroom computer with the userid and password you were provided. A few seconds later, a web browser dialog will appear, and bring up the ZenPad page, prompting you to enter your eClass userid and password to start your lecture.
    MC13 users: You will also see a SoftBoard Initializing window, indicating that the digital whiteboard is being started.
    When you are ready, click the Begin Lecture button to launch the ZenPad. After a short time (depending on how many slides, if any, you previously uploaded to the classroom), a blank screen with a pen palette will appear or, if you have uploaded background slides, you will see the first one displayed. At this point, if you have requested to have your lectures recorded, electronic capture of the presentation will begin automatically.
    You should see a message at the top left of your window that indicates your lecture name, followed by the text, "Recording." If you see some other diagnostic, such as "Recorder error" or "Recorder busy," (and you're expecting it to record), please contact Siu Chi by email or pager (302-3884).
    You can now begin writing or annotating your slides. By default, the main screen just behind the podium will display the current slide and the second projector will display the previous slide on the second screen. However, when you first begin your lecture, the second screen will either display the last slide from the previous class or the first slide from your class.
    Use the thick down and up arrows to advance to the next slide or return to the previous. Tap on the insert button to create a new, blank slide. The grid-like button is used to bring up a miniature view of all your slides, allowing for random access to any slide in your lecture.
  3. Important warning: If communication with the eClass server is interrupted by a transient network problem, you will see error messages appear every time you try to generate an inkstroke. If this happens, the best thing to do is simply restart the web browser, and return to the ZenPad page. Sign back into your class as if you were just starting your class, then zip ahead through the slides you've already covered (or use the slide overview button to jump directly to the last slide) and continue from where you were interrupted. Depending on where in the network the problem occurred, the audiovisual recording may actually continue right through, uninterrupted; otherwise, it should then restart automatically, generating a new video file. However, we can easily merge the two files together, but you should notify us of the problem so that we can do so.
  4. digital tablet: To use the digital tablet, simply pick up the pen and use it as a mouse. You can erase unwanted inkstrokes on the ZenPad whiteboard by holding down the side button of the pen and dragging the tip through the inkstroke. Note: If some inkstrokes persistently won't erase, try minimizing and then maximizing the ZenPad window as this to refresh the screen properly.

Classroom Technology

  1. projectors, screens, lights, shades and volume: The button panel or touch screen located on the podium contains a number of buttons related to these functions.
    The projectors require a certain cooling down period. If you turn off the projector, it will remain unresponsive during its cool-down process. If you wish to turn the projector on again, please wait until it has finished its cool-down.
    MC13 users: Due to hardware limitations, it is possible for the system to become confused as to the projector state, and refuse to display the digital tablet output on the projector. If this occurs, the best solution is, while standing on a table, to press the "computer source" button on the projector until the correct source is selected.
  2. document camera: Simply turn on the power switch located on the left hand side of the device and place your document (or other object) on the surface. The "tele" and "wide" buttons allow you to control the zoom while the "upper" and "base" buttons control the lighting (use "base" for transparencies).
    MC13 users: The document camera output will be displayed automatically when the power is turned on. To revert to the previous display (e.g. computer or VCR output) you must turn off the document camera.
    MC304 users: When a document (or other object) is noticed, it will be projected automatically on the main screen. Taking the object away will cause the projector to revert to the previous display (e.g. computer or VCR output) after approximately five seconds. Note that the document camera cannot detect a document unless it contains some regions of contrast -- in other words, a solid blue piece of paper won't work. If the camera is not recognizing your document (or object), the lens may be zoomed in too much, in which case you might try using the "wide" control to zoom out.
  3. VCR: insert a tape into the VCR and press the play button.
    MC13 users: You should first turn on the projector manually and select the "video" mode from the projector menu. While the software can recognize an active VCR and select the appropriate configuration automatically, it is faster to do so manually. To switch back to the computer display select "computer" from the projector menu.
    MC304 users: The video will be displayed automatically.
  4. laptops: To use a laptop computer, simply connect the HD15 video cable from the front of the podium to your computer, and activate the external video output (consult your computer manufacturer or ICC if you don't know how to do this).
    MC13 users: You must first turn on the projector manually and select the "computer" mode from the projector menu.
    MC304 users: Press the "laptop" button on the button panel corresponding the screen on which you wish the laptop display to be projected.
  5. 35 mm slides:
    MC13 users: The slide projector (located at the back of the room) must be turned on manually. A wired remote control unit is located at the front of the podium.
  6. When you are finished teaching, close the ZenPad window and log off the computer. Your lecture slides will be converted automatically into a set of web pages accessible by students.

MC13 Idiosyncrasies

  1. window shades: Please note that the shades are frequently broken! To raise or lower the screens or shades, press and hold the corresponding button; the motors will stop when you release the button.
  2. electronic whiteboard: To use the whiteboard for the projection of digital ink, pick up the marker, which is sitting in the "invisible pen" slot and remove the cap. The two projector displays will swap automatically, so that the whiteboard displays the current slide and the main screen displays the previous slide. Return the pen to its holder to return to using the digital tablet. Either the small eraser (back tip of the invisible pen) or the large eraser (round disc) can be used to erase unwanted inkstrokes.
    If you pick up the marker and put it back too quickly, the projectors might not display the correct data (e.g., they may both end up displaying the previous slide). In this case, simply pick up the marker again, wait a few seconds, and then return it to its holder.
    Picking up the marker without being logged on to the desktop computer will cause an annoying "beeping" alarm to sound until the pen is returned to its holder. This is done to discourage users from accidentally walking off with the marker at the end of class.