Tools of the trade

Technology fellows take advantage of opportunities to integrate new technology into teaching

By Susan Curphey

Faculty Notes reports on the Faculty Technology Fellowship Program as it nears the end of its introductory year and the experiences of 2010 Tech Fellows, Dan Palmer, Professor of Computer Science, and Patti Weiss, Visiting Instructor in the Department of Accountancy.

The Technology Fellowship recognizes faculty who have developed technological skills and provides opportunities for selected fellows to train and encourage their colleagues to incorporate technologies into their teaching. The fellowship also capitalizes on the Center for Digital Media as an avenue to bring faculty members together to share their expertise.

Dan Palmer (right) with former student Jason Shifflet

“Our hope is to offer an inviting place and conditions where faculty members feel comfortable asking colleagues – who certainly knows where they’re coming from – for help integrating technologies in a meaningful way,” says Mark Waner, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Project Director of the Woodrow Wilson Ohio Teaching Fellowship.

Waner initiated the fellowship while he was Director of the Center for Faculty Development. History Professor Anne Kugler succeeded Waner and now holds that position.

Integrating technologies into the classroom in a meaningful way is just what Palmer had in mind when he learned about the new fellowship last year. He already had become a resident expert in the virtual world, Second Life, and seen its benefits with First Year Seminar (FYS).

“It seemed like the perfect fit – with the confluence of the Faculty Technology Fellowship, my expertise in Second Life, and the new Center for Digital Media,” he says. “There’s tremendous opportunity for Second Life in education. The two mesh nicely. Second Life is a complete virtual world with many different facets. But like other tools of technology, it’s a means to an end – to better interact with students and convey information.”

A wide range of organizations have a 3-D presence in Second Life, which was created in 2003 and is now home to millions of residents. It provides students a physical sense of subject matter because they can visit places virtually on computer sites, which offer images and context. For example, in Palmer’s FYS class, he directs students to the Palestinian Holocaust Museum site on Second Life where they can see pictures, read stories, and possibly talk online to those who have lost family members in the Middle East conflict.

“Obviously, this is a great way to discuss social justice issues,” he says. “I find it very resourceful. That’s the kind of thing I want to make available to my colleagues.”

A helping hand
In his fellowship, Palmer has worked to support other faculty by:

• Assisting fellow FYS instructors with applications of Second Life.
• Conducting basic and advanced workshops, “Second Life in the Classroom,” to all interested faculty and helping individuals create their own avatar (representative icon).
• Collaborating with Luigi Ferri, Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian Studies, to incorporate Second Life into his introductory and upper-level courses.

“When I worked with Luigi, it was ideal,” Palmer says. “We talked colleague to colleague. He was interested in Second Life but didn’t have enough experience to implement it. I could guide him through various applications of the program much faster than had he been working on his own. “I encourage my colleagues to take advantage of the learning opportunities the fellowship offers,” he adds. “Our students are more technologically savvy. We have to keep up to maintain relevance, but technology is advancing so quickly, it’s nearly impossible to stay current without help.”

Like Palmer, technology fellow Patti Weiss, CPA, shared her knowledge with faculty and accounting students in numerous ways. Her areas of focus included:

• Guiding co-workers to implement Blackboard and various publishers’ course management systems.
• Supplementing her classroom instruction with the Classroom Communication System, known as clickers.
• Integrating XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language), now required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, into her accounting information systems course to help students sort through and analyze financial reporting. She also created videos to help train other accounting faculty.
• Developing an online version of the course, Fundamentals of Accounting, for the MBA program.

“When students go out into the real world, they’ll find it’s technology based” says Weiss, who worked as a manager in the risk management department for Forest City Enterprises for several years. “Students need to be comfortable using and adapting to new technology to compete with others. In education, we need to embrace current technologies. We owe it to our students.”

Clicking with students
Weiss finds the use of the hand-held clickers helpful to her when teaching and popular with students. The tracking devices are used in order for students to answer multiple- choice questions simultaneously in class with responses displayed instantly. The clickers allow the instructor to gauge comprehension of the material and tailor the class discussion accordingly.

“If the majority of students know the answer to a question, we can go on; if not, I stop,” Weiss says. “It’s like a secret ballot. Everyone can respond without fear of ridicule. The students love it, and it keeps them engaged.”

Weiss uses other technologies for an online accounting course. With the software program, Camtasia, she’s able to record her lectures, store them on the Bluestream Media Server, and link them to Blackboard. She uses CengageNow to enable students to complete their homework assignments and tests online.

Weiss has collaborated mostly with colleagues in the Department of Accountancy and Boler School of Business but welcomes inquiries from other faculty.

“I love to share the information I’ve learned or developed,” she says. “I would be thrilled to help anybody incorporate these programs into their classrooms.”

The goals for the Technology Fellowship in 2011 are to continue to provide selected faculty with greater opportunities to integrate new technology into their teaching and the forums for them to share their expertise with other faculty.

Palmer and Weiss have modeled the role of fellows well. “Patti has contributed much, in terms of her own teaching strategies, as well as educating numerous people in the business school on the usefulness of Blackboard,” Kugler says.

Palmer’s expertise has allowed faculty members to learn about the applications of Second Life continually.

“Second Life is a deep enough technology that it requires returning to it to discover its new potentials,” Kugler says. “Dan, and now others, can share the latest developments, allowing faculty to go above and beyond what could be done in the classroom before now.”

In 2011, the Faculty Technology Fellowship application deadline will coincide with the summer teaching and research fellowships, which are due Feb. 7. Applications are available at www.jcu.edu/avp/fd/facdev/forms.htm. The fellowship will be for the summer and fall semesters.


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