Takeaways from the 2013 Villanova University Technology Expo

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villanova_tech_expoYesterday educators and technology innovators from around the region gathered at Villanova University to investigate new educational technologies, listen to inspirational keynote speakers, and connect with peers in the field.

Read on for some of the top takeaways from the conference that faculty and staff at La Salle may be able to apply to their educational work.

Michael Soupios and his colleague from Seton Hall, presented on their 2012 Lenovo tablet/Windows 8 Pilot in their session called the “Next Generation of Mobile Computing Arrives at Seton Hall University.” After equipping a pilot group of students with Lenovo Slate tablets running Windows 8, their pre- and post- pilot survey data revealed some interesting findings. While the audience initially assumed tablets could be suitable laptop replacements, the students eventually found that they needed too many tablet accessories like external keyboards in order to be as productive on the Slate devices as on their laptop computers. However, the feedback on transitioning to Windows 8 was more positive than Seton Hall’s Digital Media Services division expected. Most students found that the Windows 8 operating system was not a major disruption to their work flow.

In “Mobilology: Welcome to the Higher Ed Classroom in the Post-PC Era,” Chris Penny and Jordan Schugar from West Chester University discussed leveraging the power of students’ mobile devices to enhance learning in the classroom. Instead of asking students to put their devices away, they recommend using the devices to increase interaction, collaboration, and content creation. They assert that welcoming mobile devices in class connects students and instructors. For example, enabling a back channel during class allows students use their devices to ask questions in real-time. The instructor can address questions as they occur, address questions at the end of the session, or respond to questions after class is over. Penny and Schugar also discussed how mobile technology allows not only for increased access to information, but also the ability to easily create information. Apps, such as Penultimate, allow students to capture and then easily share notes or other information to increase engagement and encourage collaboration. Students can easily capture and share video, or create presentations that can be displayed and commented on in a variety of contexts.

In a session called “Connecting with Your Social Community Through Effective Event Communication Strategies,” David Lavigna of Active Data, Inc. provided valuable insights on how to use social media and other web-based technologies to better engage audiences. The presenter cited research that showed that perspective students perceived schools that effectively use social media as more influential than those who do not. He went on to suggest that effective use of social media included centralizing all of the various updates and event calendars from across university programs into one centralized database. A central, curated data system allows for information to be more easily re-purposed and shared across many different communication channels. Other effective uses of communication technologies include integrating social sharing buttons, web-based mapping services, and iCal events into updates so attendees can easily invite others, schedule time, and locate events. However, there was a caveat to all of Mr. Lavigna’s advice; he indicated that staff and faculty interested in managing truly effective social media communication should anticipate spending an average of two work hours a day on a single campaign.

In another session titled “Creating the Multi-Player Classroom”, Andy Petroski a professor at Harrisburg University asked attendees to consider the application of video game principles to classroom instruction. Adapting the game-play characteristics of the popular massive multi-player online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW), Petroski argued that many of the same skills needed for gaming are also necessary for success in the classroom and in the workplace. For example, WoW players need to be organized planners, team players, strategic managers of resources, and efficient communicators. To demonstrate these skills in Petroski’s course on learning technologies, students must earn experience points (XPs) as they complete assignments, projects, and group work in the class. Foregoing traditional assessment and grading systems, Petroski starts every student at zero points, and their final grade depends on how many challenges they take on. Students are required to do at least one of every assignment type from across different course topics, but otherwise, the learning is very much self-directed. Students have the option to cover a breadth of course content or delve deeply into projects and topics that appeal to their interest and learning styles. As students encounter more difficult subject matter and assignments, they increase their point levels which are then translated into a letter grade. To learn more about his system, check out Andy Petrosky’s wiki at apetroski.wikispaces.com.

Representing La Salle University, Raymond Kirsch from the Mathematics and Computer Science department and Jessica Morris from the Instructional Design team presented “Using a Flipped Classroom Approach to Build Real World Competencies.” The session discussed Raymond’s “flipped” approach to his Nursing Informatics course. This course for freshmen Nursing majors is designed to expose students to core topics in technology as they relate to healthcare, such as computer literacy, transitioning to electronic health records along with the associated legal and ethical issues, and information literacy. Raymond flipped this class by asking students to watch recorded lectures and complete homework based on those lectures prior to coming to class. Students spent class time working in groups to synthesize their individual homework assignments and to work collaboratively on mind maps, presentations, and other creative projects. What made this flipped classroom approach so successful was Raymond’s structured approach to each unit. This structure helped the students to more quickly adjust to this new format of learning and freed Raymond from the front of the classroom so that he could spend more time interacting with his students and giving them valuable real-time feedback. When surveyed, students responded positively about their experiences in this flipped class and stated that they gained increased confidence in their ability to learn new technologies in the future because of the course.

Finally, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue delivered an entertaining keynote speech titled “Disruptive Tech: What’s New, What’s Coming, and How It Will Change Everything.” His talk touched on gadgets and technologies ranging from comedic tweets to annoying voice mail recordings to ocarina-inspired iPhone apps to T-Pain’s use of autotune in viral YouTube videos. At the end of this quick, media-rich presentation, Pogue concluded that the pace of technological advancement has accelerated so fast that generational gaps are inevitable. As a result, educators must stop debating the pros and cons of incorporated new technology into the classroom; rather they must be flexible and adapt to the starkly different communication styles and learning habits of today’s students. So what’s next for technology according to Mr. Pogue? Check out the Wikipedia entry on augmented reality for a glimpse into the very near future.

If you’d like assistance in any area related to educational technology, please contact the instructional design team at IDteam@lasalle.edu.

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