’Exemplary Use of Technology’ winners announced

4:01 p.m., July 3, 2007--Winners of the “Exemplary Use of Technology in Teaching” contest explained their award-winning projects as the kick-off event for the Summer Faculty Institute, held June 18-22. The annual contest seeks to identify and reward faculty members who successfully incorporate technology into their teaching to enhance students' learning experience.

Entries were judged by their learning goals and how the particular technology used helped faculty members achieve their objectives. Gabriele Bauer, teaching consultant in the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, Chrystalla Mouza, assistant professor in the School of Education, and Janet de Vry, manager in IT-User Services, served as judges.

Three contest winners each received $500 to use for professional development or to enhance their teaching with technology; one honorable mention winner received $100.

Dorrie Deluca, assistant professor, accounting and management information systems

For Deluca's “Database Design and Implementation” project, she restructured the introductory database course for Management Information Systems majors and minors.

“Only 10-20 percent of the students have any programming or business experience,” Deluca said. This lack of experience makes the subject matter more difficult for students to comprehend, she said.

In parallel with classroom activities and assignments, students developed their own company, database and web site, which brought to life the application of technical database concepts in a business environment. The web pages were created so students could select, insert, update and delete records from a relational database. The teamwork approach helped student develop effective oral and written communication and improved multicultural and international awareness.

“The project was broken into 10 pieces, each with its own requirements,” Deluca said. The first assignment was to write a test database on paper. Students then used Microsoft's SQL Server to implement the database structure. The integration of the software provided a comprehensive vehicle to simulate a real world experience.

All software that the students used could be accessed remotely. “At the end of the project, each team made a mock presentation to the CIO of their company for a funding request--including wearing appropriate business attire for their presentations,” Deluca said.

“This new approach enabled learning not otherwise possible,” Deluca said. “It allowed us not only to understand the technology aspect but to understand how to apply it in the real world.”

The redesign of the course integrated software used in the database project and provided a comprehensive vehicle to simulate prototyping and presentation of the application of database concepts to the startup of a 24/7 consulting business using an Internet-based technology to electronically design, record and report on the work activities that consultants may provide for clients in an actual business setting.

“A few students said that the project and the experience of the presentation helped them prepare for interviews for summer internships,” she said.

Mark Serva, assistant professor, accounting and management information systems

“Wikipedia is a guilty pleasure. It helps you understand things even though it's not definitive,” Serva said. “Just like the journal review process, Wikipedia wants you to change information.”

“We don't typically learn from the journal review process,” Serva said. “But I believe that we can. I wanted to create a similar collaborative process to leverage in my own teaching.” He decided to create a wiki project for his “Information Technology Applications in Management” project to teach students issues in information technology management.

“Wikipedia does self-police itself--a core concept is that whatever you write is openly available to change,” Serva said. In the journal review process, the same concept is used: co-authors and other reviewers have the ability to change content. “The tie-in is that the wiki gives students the opportunity to work together on a project together.”

Serva also wanted students to understand how technology can be used to facilitate team collaboration across time and distance constraints and to evaluate if wikis are an effective tool for improving student collaboration and learning.

“Ultimately, the result is to reach the synthesis and integration level in Bloom's taxonomy,” Serva said.

He assigned teams of four students to debate topics. For each debate topic, one team had to assemble a pro-position paper; a second team had to assemble an anti-position paper. Finally, both teams had to work collaboratively to produce a balanced executive summary.

“Wiki users have an inherent right to make changes and must develop mutual respect and trust, which moves them to the point of creating a cohesive document,” Serva said.

The executive summary papers served as the actual text for the class. The information contained in the summary papers was the material the students reviewed for exams. No traditional textbook was used. “I wanted this to be a living textbook,” Serva said.

For the final phase, another professor gave the students feedback on both the positive and negative sides. This feedback became the basis of the final exam.

Jingyi Yu, assistant professor of computer and information sciences

Can learning be fun? Does fun help motivate students? The answers to these questions were Yu's goal with his “Computer Graphics” project. “Making small changes can make big differences,” Yu said.

One of these small, new technologies is Wii, a fifth-generation home video game console. But it's not the console that interested Yu, it was its remote or wiimote. “The wiimote becomes your hand,” Yu said.

Together with an infrared light, Yu used the wiimote as a mouse, laser pointer and to manipulate digital visualizations to introduce students to innovative and fun uses of an existing technology. “Students are fascinated by new technologies. They become motivated to teach themselves.”

Both the wiimote and infrared light can be purchased locally for approximately $50. “And most importantly, you don't need to wait in line for hours to get the game console,” Yu said.

Yu used these two pieces of inexpensive technology to interact and engage students in class activities and projects, which motivated them to want to learn more. Yu invited participants to visit 208 Smith Hall to see demonstrations of this technology as well as other technologies he and his students have designed.

Nancy Edwards, instructor in individual and family studies (honorable mention winner)

“I wanted to find a way to make the unseen seen,” Edwards said. “The digital portfolio project allowed me to actively engage student teachers in the assessment process--a process that is often invisible to the pre-service teacher,” she said.

For her “Technology and Assistive Technology in Early Childhood Education” project, a very simple technology--digital photography--was used to help students in a preschool practicum learn how to assess a young child's development. The use of this technology provided students with a new "lens," causing a shift in their ability to think like an assessor, she said.

“Gathering and documenting evidence of learning is essential for accurate assessment,” Edwards said.

To assess the development of young children, professionals gather information about children from several forms of evidence, organize and then interpret the evidence. Edwards wanted to find a technology to collect the data without interfering with the flow of the classroom. A digital camera seemed to be a good choice.

Students developed a list of criteria to decide what kinds of pictures to take before the project began.

“One unexpected outcome was that the pictures captured a lot of things that we didn't realize would be captured: motor skills, developmental skills, hand dominance, collaboration, social interactions and negotiation skills. A picture can be worth a thousand words,” Edwards said.

Besides static photos, the students used the cameras to videotape the young children in real-time situations. The videos helped them to reflect more deeply on the progress of the child, she said.

The students enrolled in the practicum developed a deeper understanding of the assessment process, the use of a technology to assess data accurately and efficiently and how to organize digital images using computer programs to document growth and progress, Edwards said. At the end of the project, the students produce a CD with the photos of the children. A copy of this CD is given to the parents of the child.

“Most of the parents are very grateful to have this developmental history of their child. They think of it as a gift,” Edwards said. “Most importantly, though, the use of digital imagery promoted the ability of the student teachers to think like an assessor."