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Physics Reading Room May House TEAL Program

By Naveen Sunkavally


Administrators and members of the Physics Department met yesterday afternoon to discuss the feasibility of the Physics Reading Room as an alternate location for TEAL, the controversial freshman physics program originally proposed to be housed in the fifth floor reading room of the Student Center.

“I think it was a good meeting, but there are still issues that need to be worked out,” said Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine.

Marc A. Kastner, head of the Physics Department, said that the department was very open to the idea of housing Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) in the Physics Reading Room under the condition that another location is found to house the Physics Reading Room.

“We would agree that [the Physics Reading Room] is a really good space for TEAL, [but] that space is really critical for the department in a number of ways. It’s important for graduate students and faculty; it’s the only meeting place for we have for the department,” Kastner said.

Undergraduate Association President Peter A. Shulman ’01, who along with other members of the UA raised the Physics Reading Room as a possibility, described the new location as more ideal than the fifth floor Student Center reading room. The Physics Reading Room is closer to physics faculty and where students go to class, offers a better physical layout, and doesn’t have elevator problems, Shulman said.

“[The Physics Department] has quality of life issues for graduate students. We have quality of life issues for undergraduates. ... There are a lot less physics graduate students than undergraduates,” Shulman said.

Time pressure to find location

The Institute is facing time pressure to find a location for TEAL as fast as possible so that construction may begin and the room is ready for fall 2001, when the program is scheduled to begin. The decision has to be made by the end of this week, Shulman said.

Space Administrator John P. Dunbar of the Facilities Department and Dean of Science Robert J. Silbey, who were present at the meeting yesterday, are currently working to find a new location for the Physics Reading Room within the buildings allotted for the School of Science.

TEAL is funded by the d’Arbeloff Initiative, the MIT/Microsoft I-Campus Alliance, and the National Science Foundation, among other sources.

The purpose of the program is to more personally engage students in the process of learning introductory physics. According to the TEAL proposal, students will share laptops in groups of three, with nine students at each of about dozen round tables in one classroom. A professor will be present for instruction, as well as for guidance in performance of lab experiments.