UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Collaborative efforts between six Penn State instructors from two campuses and two colleges worked in teams with Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) over the past two years as part of the 2022-24 TLT Faculty Fellows program. Their goal was to enrich the student engagement experience through technology. This included addressing themes such as affordability and inclusion, physi-digital space and radical creativity. Attributes such as these foster equitable opportunities, prepare students for dynamic workplaces and cultivate essential skills for the future.
Faculty Fellows are selected through an application process and collaborate with TLT to explore and enhance innovative opportunities in their teaching and research. They have the chance to disseminate their innovations widely within Penn State and the broader higher education community. Faculty Fellows strive to revamp courses by utilizing technology-driven teaching methods tailored to support University, campus or college objectives.
As the current cohort is wrapping up their projects, the following are lessons learned from their work:
Jackie Bortiatynski – Capturing Classroom Engagement Data for Instructor Reflection (CCEDIR)
Bortiatynski, teaching professor in the Eberly College of Science, focused her fellowship on utilizing the TLT team’s expertise to develop an application to support instructor reflection. The result of this endeavor is the Capturing Classroom Engagement Data for Instructor Reflection (CCEDIR) app. The project involved creating a comprehensive application that captures observation data, includes training materials, provides resources for faculty to establish data collection goals and devises a protocol for presenting the data in a manner conducive to faculty reflection.
The team is collecting preliminary observation data, collaborating with observers and faculty within the college to refine the app. Their aim is to enhance the observer experience while offering faculty a valuable snapshot of student engagement in their classrooms.
An image displays the CCEDIR application interface for a trained observer focusing on student interaction. In this case, the user identifies discussion as the activity taking place. The interface includes spaces for follow-up questions and general comments.
Anna Divinsky, Cookie Redding and Zena Tredinnick-Kirby – Exploring 3-D Virtual Spaces: Engaging Student Communities Through Feedback and Exhibitions
Divinsky, Redding and Tredinnick-Kirby focused on transitioning from ArtSteps to Spatial.io in Art 1, 10 and 20. This transformed the courses by fostering a community-oriented environment where students interact and learn from each other. This shift allowed for diverse expression and deeper exploration, connecting students with the material and each other more profoundly. The courses fostered the following:
- In Art 1, the change sparked a shift in engagement with art and museums, encouraging diverse expression and collaboration through discussion boards. The immersive environment of Spatial.io cultivated a sense of unity among online learners, significantly enhancing the overall learning experience.
- Art 10 saw the addition of sticky notes in Spatial.io for anonymous, constructive peer feedback, improving the quality of students' work and showcasing their understanding of art criticism and covered topics. Being able to see each other’s work and provide each other with suggestions has strengthened the class community.
- Art 20 classes initially used ArtSteps for presenting final drawings online. Switching to Spatial.io enabled collaborative spaces, facilitating asynchronous feedback and engaging student discussions about their artwork.
The three faculty members agreed that “the transition from ArtSteps to Spatial.io greatly impacted our teaching methodologies, creating immersive online classrooms. This collaboration propelled us to the forefront of contemporary educational practices, leaving a lasting impact collectively and individually.”
Gregory R. Pierce – Using Smart Board Collaboration Tools to Revolutionize Student Learning in the Large-Format Classroom
When confronting the challenge of engaging more than 500 students in Thomas 100, one of the largest classrooms at University Park, Pierce, associate teaching professor of finance, sought a solution through his fellowship project. His aim was to reach and interact with every student, even those in the farthest seats. The answer came in the form of the Samsung Flip smart board, a digital flipchart whiteboard that seamlessly integrated the physical and digital features of Thomas 100.
The Samsung Flip board enabled Pierce to seamlessly integrate teaching materials with interactive elements. Its implementation was a game changer, notably in his Finance 301 class where previously passive students in the back rows actively participated. This new method of instruction transformed the educational experience in one of Penn State's most challenging teaching environments.
Pierce's project, supported by a dedicated team of instructional designers and IT experts, marks a significant advancement in utilizing technology for educational innovation. It demonstrates the potential of adaptive teaching strategies in large-scale university classrooms, setting a new standard for academic engagement at Penn State.
Jeanne Marie Rose – Creating Accessible Texts With Adaptive Technologies (CATWAT)
Rose, associate professor of English at Penn State Berks, is using her fellowship to develop the CATWAT Project: Creating Accessible Texts With Adaptive Technologies. Rose’s project involves teaching writing with and for accessibility tools: developing texts for screen-readers, composing with voice-to-text software and crafting visuals that enhance comprehension.
The team created a series of Canvas Modules, designed to support writing courses across the curriculum. Each module focuses on a core area of accessibility: headings and styles, voice-to-text tools and graphic organizers. The modules will provide instructors with the best practices for implementing accessibility tools, sample assignments that use the tools and supplemental resources for students and instructors.
In modeling the use of inclusive practices to produce accessible products, CATWAT strives to make access both a core value and a collective responsibility for writing courses. It encourages student writers to consider their texts’ accessibility as a professional, ethical and communal responsibility.