About a month ago I was able to help implement some collaboration technology that will be a big help to Moot teams, and study groups at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. The technology consists of the following:
- A plasma display (ideally 42" or larger).
- A video switch for students to plug their laptops into.
- A table that allows 2 to 4 students to face the display
What typically happens is that a group of 2 to 4 students will plug their laptops into the video switch. As the group works on their project they can in turn display what is on their laptop screen on the Plasma screen so that the whole group can look at it and comment on what the person is working on (Here are our instructions for students on how to use the equipment).
The feedback from students has been positive, although some have mentioned that they would prefer to have the equipment in a group study room so that they could keep their discussion private.
What we have done is basically a "poor cousin’s" version of what MIT and Stanford are doing. Instead of a video switch, they use a dedicated PC with server software loaded on it. This software allows the networked laptops to share the Plasma screen between all the computers at the same time. The laptop screens are not shared, but as the users move their laptop cursor to the top of their laptop screen, the cursor magically appears on the Plasma screen… and all 4 laptop uses can interact on the plasma screen at the same time if they want.
The software that enables this collaboration is called TeamSpot. There is a server component that runs on a dedicated PC which is connected to the plasma screen. Each laptop needs to have TeamSpot client software installed to work properly (or at all).