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Mass communication building upgrades

The space-strapped School of Mass Communications will implement a uniquely structured, dual-use classroom that will serve as both a computer lab and a traditional classroom when classes resume in January.

“It’s a unique configuration,” said Lynn Rejniak, director of Instructional Services at Education Outreach, which, along with the School of Mass Communications, planned the structure of the new classroom.

Using rooms as both computer labs and classrooms is nothing new for the school. The problem in the past, however, was that the computer took up most of the desk’s space and hindered a student’s view of the instructor.

To solve that problem, the school found a special desk design called “Flip It,” enabling a monitor up to 17 inches to fold into the table, leaving a flat space to do deskwork when the computer is not being used.

“It’s going to be a better kind of dual-use lab for us,” said Jay Friedlander, director of the School of Mass Communications.

The school acquired new iMac G5s for the room. These computers have no box or tower – everything is packed into their 17-inch-wide, 2-inch-deep monitors. They are speedy – two gigahertz – and come with a 400-gigabyte hard drive.

The computer pops up when the keyboard is pulled from under the desk and goes back under the table when the keyboard is pushed in.

“When we need it as a lecture hall, the iMacs will be buried in the desk, which keeps people from surfing the net and doing other things they shouldn’t be during class,” Friedlander said. “When there’s a computer class, they’re brought up and out.”

Room 1046 – which was previously used for distance learning – will hold about 50 students for a lecture class and about 20 for a computer lab class. Friedlander said the room will be used for at least 10 classes, and he hopes it will alleviate some of the overcrowding.

“We are very tight,” he said. “We are out of faculty office space and computer lab space.”Friedlander said the new lab will cost about $100,000, half of which goes toward the 23 new computers. Educational Outreach, a USF-based organization that helps the University develop programs, paid for most of the lab, Friedlander said.

Also, the computers in two labs used for photography and design, some of which date back to 1994, will be replaced in the summer of 2006.