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NEWS | March 22, 2019

All on board with IAAFA’s classroom of the future

By Mary Nell Sanchez 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy instructors, or cadre, are throwing out the white boards, trashing dry erase markers and tossing the multiple computer screens aside.


The academy at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, has revamped 15 classrooms with new technology to enhance students’ education experience, which they began using in January 2019 as part of a six-month test.


Not only are they piloting it for the Air Force, but IAAFA is also the first one in the Department of Defense to have this technology, said Staff Sgt. Monserat Bravo Ponce, IAAFA NCO in charge of the commander’s action group.


The classrooms were installed with 12-foot wide huddle boards that utilize the software on web-enabled devices. Tablets with the software are provided to the IAAFA students for their course.


Class materials are displayed on the board and can be interacted with and modified through touch, Bluetooth active sensor pens and patterned paper.


In addition, guest instructors from partner nations can plugged in from their respective countries during class.


“It used to be a board on the wall; now it’s a board all over the world,” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Balderas, IAAFA aerospace propulsion & software technical instructor.


The new tool is a combination of multiple screens, which can feature a variety of set-ups. Students are able to share their work with the class on the huddle boards in real time, giving instructors the opportunity to follow their work and better address academic problems.


“If a student does a math problem and gets it wrong, I can play it back and I can see where they made the mistake and point it out to them,” Balderas said.


For users with less-than-perfect writing skills, the huddle board is able to fix their scribbles with a couple of clicks, converting it to readable text.


“Once I hit that little ‘turn it into text’ [button]; it changes into computer text,” said retired Master Sgt. Mateo Gonzalez, IAAFA aircraft maintenance officer course instructor.


As students and instructors become more immersed with the technology, they are discovering additional tasks it can perform.


“The sky’s the limit and we’re exploring how far we can take it,” Balderas added.


And while the learning experience continues to evolve, students say they are all in for the ride.


“It’s good to interact with students from other countries in real time and hear different opinions, not only in the classroom, but from around the world,” said Colombian Navy Lt. Mario Rodriguez, IAAFA student. “We interact with other military students, hear their experiences and see how they solve their problems.”


IAAFA is planning to continue to integrate new technology into their education program. The new software will continue to evolve with time, giving IAAFA an edge with the teaching experience, creating a connected environment, as well as bringing countries together, Gonzalez said.     


“Technology is the key to success,” said Capt. Angelica Cubillos-Fonseca, IAAFA CAG director.