The Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtable (TLTR) congratulates the winners of Technology for Innovative Learning & Teaching Pilot Project Grants for 2020. Projects have been or will be implemented in Summer or Fall 2020 or Spring 2021. In response to the conditions of teaching during the Pandemic, this year’s grants include projects that support online teaching and learning or socially-distanced teaching and learning. Projects especially explore ways to use digital tools as an alternative experiential learning experience, such as the Visible Body courseware used to study anatomy seen at the right, or virtual reality simulations. Others explore the use of video to support teaching improvement, software for modeling complex dynamical systems, and methods for adapting online textbooks to local contexts, which will provide lessons for instructors making use of free digital textbooks and other open educational resources (OERs). This announcement combines the results of two CFPs, one in Spring 2020 and one in Fall 2020. The winning projects for 2020 are:
New Ventures in Professional Development: Teacher Circles
Steven Fletcher, Associate Professor, Teaching, Learning, and Culture
With the move to online teaching at the end of spring last year, teachers from K-12 to University environments have suddenly found themselves facing a whole new reality. For many teachers new to online teaching, the Fall 2020 semester did not meet expectations. Whether related to technology, time management, adapting F2F content for online delivery, assessment worries, or other outside factors, the challenges have been tough. Along with the teachers, those of us working in teacher education have also had to pivot from in-person internship placements for our pre-service teachers to hastily developed virtual placements with classroom teachers too flustered typically to be much of a role model. Luckily, there is a solution to both faculty and new teacher challenges. One company has developed digital libraries of exemplary lessons along with a cloud-based platform for uploading and commenting on the instructional successes and challenges of colleagues. Edthena is this company and this pilot aims to use the Edthena suite of tools for use in both an innovative faculty peer observation community of practice (POCOP) and in EDUC 4334, as a library of best practice teaching examples that will allow student teachers to see exemplary teaching as part of their required internship requirement for the state of Texas.
VR in the Classroom – Online Teaching and Learning Strategies with Digital Immersion
Steven Fletcher, Associate Professor, Teaching, Learning, and Culture
The technology advances and use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) devices, apps, and activities has exploded recently in the field of education. The advent of inexpensive VR viewers and the development of virtual experiences allows learners to immerse themselves in new cultures and explore natural and human made treasures worldwide. In our current remote learning environment, VR/AR enriched teaching promises greater engagement and learning. To best prepare K-16 instructors for this rapid shift to VR/AR technology use in the classroom setting, universities are well situated to provide training and practice for both pre-service teachers and university faculty alike. The goal of this pilot therefore is to provide the appropriate tools and training for professional development activities at both the undergraduate and faculty level. Tangible outcomes from this work will include dissemination, demonstration, and practice by participants of VR/AR tools through both: a. A two-hour faculty workshop focusing on VR/AR strategies to improve remote instruction and b. A set of VR/AR-enhanced K-12 lesson plans from EDUC 2332 students demonstrating their prowess at using these tools. K-12 lesson plans will be made available online through the Teaching, Learning, and Culture website for anyone to use. This work is significant because it provides new skills and knowledge for our faculty and aspiring teachers at a critical time when student motivation and engagement is very low. The modeled VR/AR experiences will be immersive, adaptable, cheap, and simple to teach and use, aiding in long-term sustainability of this pilot.
Using STELLA to Model the Earth’s Climate
Gary A. Morris, Professor, Environmental Science and Physics
By using STELLA, a proprietary software tool that has been around for around 30 years, students construct a functioning model of the Earth’s climate to predict the surface temperature of the Earth under three scenarios: 1. no atmosphere, 2. a simple, one-layer atmosphere under current conditions, and 3. a simple, one-layer atmosphere with doubled CO2. Living with changing climate and mitigating climate change are high priorities for inhabitants of the world into which our students will graduate. This tool allows the non-science major to gain an understanding of the behavior of complex dynamical systems (not just the Earth’s climate) through an intuitive graphical interface. By understanding the connections and constraints on the various elements in the system, students will successfully build reasonable models of the Earth’s climate, gaining insights into the impacts of various inputs on long-term outcomes. Thankfully, the software will automatically build all of the underlying mathematical equations that govern these complex systems, allowing the students to focus on the science and curiously explore the behavior of their models under various scenarios.
Improving Anatomy and Physiology studies using 3-D Models and Augmented Reality
LaKisha Barrett, Visiting Assistant Professor/Adjunct Biology, Biological Sciences
Textbook-based anatomical studies of the human body present students with fixed 2-D views. The assimilation of dynamic 3-D structure-function relationships is hard to grasp, even with the use of plastic models and animal dissections for reference. The student is expected to integrate these layers (textbook images, plastic models, and animal dissections) and visualize the intricacies of the human body at the organismal, organ-systems, tissue, and cellular levels. Herein, we solicit funds to transform the course delivery of anatomy and physiology by introducing 3-D visualization of the human body. Visual Body Courseware (VBCW), an award-winning, web-based learning platform, will be used to improve student learning with 24/7 accessibility to life-like 3-D dynamic models, virtual dissections and simulations, and the ability to experience augmented reality of their body. VBCW will aid in the assimilation of anatomical knowledge and critical analysis of disease conditions. More importantly, this TLTR grant will allow us to pilot this new technology at no additional cost to students while we measure impacts on student performance and success.
An Accessible Textbook Students Want to Access
Emma Woelk, Assistant Professor of German, Languages, Literatures and Cultures
My project would introduce and customize the freely available online textbook Der, Die, Das (dddgerman.org) for use in our introductory German classrooms. This would not only help bring down the cost barrier, but also give the students a more personalized online experience and bring a foreign language closer to home. The textbook was developed at Princeton and their team has agreed to support the upkeep of a customized St. Edward’s version for the next five years. In the short run, adopting this textbook would make remote instruction much easier; Der, Die, Das has the advantage of providing all materials on a single platform. Though this resource also offers customization more easily than traditional books/software, it does not have some of the convenient features of costlier programs that could be of benefit in the longer term. For the time being, our highest financial need would be the fees required to pay Princeton to customize the site for us. After we begin using the textbook and students return to campus, I would like to hire advanced German students on our campus to help create custom materials and work with an instructional designer to build out tools that would supplement what is freely available, such as Canvas assignments and peer-editing tools. In subsequent years, the creation of updated materials would provide experiential learning opportunities for advanced students. I would be happy to share my experience working with and customizing a freely available educational resource and using students as content designers with interested colleagues.