Using Technology to Enhance Teaching and Learning

Using Technology to Enhance Teaching and Learning (2001-2002)

Participants:

  • Meridith Chesson, Anthropology
  • Margot O’Brien, Accountancy
  • Chris Clark, Kaneb Center
  • Tom Slaughter, History
  • Kathleen Gibney, Psychology
  • Kajal Mukhopadhyay, Economics
  • Alex Himonas, Mathematics
  • Richard Taylor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

The program assists faculty in exploring the myriad possibilities for integrating technology by enabling them to participate in a series of special activities and to pursue individual projects related to integrating technology.

Participants will determine the selection of topics for seminars and workshops for the activities.  The seminars and workshops will introduce the participants to the myriad possibilities for integrating technology into their teaching:  the strengths and weaknesses of each technology, how to determine the appropriate use of technology, and methods for assessing the impact of technology on learning outcomes.

As the year unfolds, participants should propose, design, and implement teaching projects aimed at using technology to improve student learning. Palloff and Pratt (1999) contend that the following are "keys to success" for teaching electronically (pp. 160-163):

  • Honesty.  In order for participants to connect with each other, there must be a sense of safety and trust.  Participants must feel comfortable that the others in the group are who they say they are and that they will post messages that provide open, honest feedback.
  • Responsiveness.  An online learning community simply cannot exist unless members respond to each other and the instructor responds quickly to the other participants. Unlike the face-to-face educational environment, learning in the online classroom occurs only when the participants interact with each other and with the instructor.Additionally, the importance of collaboration in achieving learning outcomes hinges on the group's ability to work with and respond to each other.
  • Relevance.  The beauty of distance learning is its ability to bring life in the outside world into the classroom.  In order for students to get their hands around the topic they are studying, it must have some relevance for them.  Relating the subject matter to their life experiences and being encouraged to seek out and share real-life examples to illustrate it only enhances the learning outcome.
  • Respect.  In order to coalesce as a learning community, members need to feel as though they are being respected as people.  This begins with an initial welcome to the group and continues through the respectful receipt of their posts and the giving of constructive and expansive feedback on the material they present.  Students need to feel as if they are equal participants in the learning process.
  • Openness.  In an atmosphere of openness, students can feel free to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution.  In an open, online classroom, students should not be afraid that their grade will be affected by the nature of their opinions.
  • Empowerment.  A sense of empowerment is both a crucial element and a desired outcome of participation in an online learning community.  In a learner-centered environment, the learner is truly the expert when it comes to his or her own learning. Consequently, participants in the online learning community take on new roles and responsibilities in the learning process and should be encouraged to pursue knowledge wherever that path takes them.In the construction of a transformative learning environment, the participants gain a new view of themselves and a new sense of confidence in their ability to interact with knowledge.

As students engage in the self-reflective process that is a part of transformative learning, it is important for the instructor to remind them that the medium they are working in allows this process to occur.  In so doing, the instructor opens a new area of inquiry:  What are we learning about learning by using technology? (p. 135).

Reference: Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.