With the recent acquisition of a grant from Hewlett-Packard for several tablet personal computers, shared with the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences, and the installation of “SMARTBoards” and document cameras in various classrooms on the Hilltop Campus, the Teaching Center is making great strides in improving teaching and learning at the University.
“We are always looking for new ways to help faculty get their messages across more effectively, and at the same time help students more easily process that information,” said Regina Frey, Ph.D., senior lecturer in chemistry in Arts & Sciences and director of the Teaching Center.
To that end, Frey, with Dewey Holten, Ph.D., professor of chemistry; Bill Burho, Ph.D., professor of chemistry; and Bill Spees, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry undergraduate lab supervisor, recently applied for and received an educational initiative grant from HP for 21 wireless tablet PCs and docking stations for each, along with a digital camera, portable projector and printer.
The joint grant between the Teaching Center and the Depart-ment of Chemistry will allow upper-level students in solid-state chemistry and the physical chemistry lab to make real-time modifications to experiments and predictions, allowing them to modify experiments as they would in the “real world.”
It will also improve collaboration between professor and student, Frey said.
“In our upper-level classes we are teaching chemistry, but we also want to teach them techniques and skills that chemists use out in the real world,” she said. “This new technology will allow students to interact with computer modeling programs while they are in class.
“It will really open up what students are able to learn in the classroom. The students have been asking for a number of years to be able to access these programs during class time.”
In the physical chemistry lab, the tablet PCs will be used as electronic lab notebooks. Students will be able to put sketches, graphs and drawings on the course Web site, download the files when they get to class and use the tablet PCs during lab to take notes and add to their files.
“The nice thing about that is not only will they be able to make changes to experiments on the fly, but since they are uploading their files to the Web site it also allows the instructor to view those files while the students are still able to work, unlike a traditional paper notebook which would have to be turned in,” Frey said.
In addition to tablet PCs, the Teaching Center has installed seven SMARTBoards and several document cameras in classrooms around the Hilltop Campus.
The first SMARTBoard was installed in 2001. The SMART-Board is a large interactive white-board that is connected to a classroom computer with SMART software.
The software allows the professor to interact with the touch-sensitive whiteboard surface using his or her hand as a mouse and the presentation screen as a computer monitor.
Touching the presentation screen allows the professor to open Web pages or personal files, control any software application installed on the computer, write notes in digital ink and save it all.
DJ Kaiser, full-time instructor in English language programs, loves using the SMARTBoard.
“I do a lot of prep work before class, and I can put that up on the board to show students,” he said. “I use it for PowerPoint presentations and to show PDF files.
“I can show the students sentences and easily and instantly make grammatical corrections the whole class can see. I think it’s really enhanced how I teach and it makes my teaching much more professional.”
A document camera, of which the University now has several, is a high-quality digital camera that can project books, photos, transparencies, slides and 3-D objects onto the screen in a technology classroom.
The “doc cam” allows the instructor to zoom in and focus on small fonts or details on objects. The University has ceiling-mounted and tabletop doc cams.
“We are installing several more doc cams this summer,” Frey said.
“All the classrooms in the new Social Science and Law building will have doc cams.
“Eventually we will take away the overhead projectors. The doc cams are much more versatile presentation tools.”
Faculty members interested in getting a hands-on look at any of these new technological advances can call the Teaching Center at 935-6810.
The center has a tablet PC for faculty to borrow and test.
SMARTBoard tutorials and training also are available.