A group of approximately 250 educators gathered at the Ross School of Business on Monday to learn and talk about how technology can be used in education to develop new ways of providing a more dynamic learning experience for students.
The keynote event was hosted by the University’s Teaching and Technology Collaborative, which holds events and offers consultations to teach faculty members how to utilize technology in their teaching and research.
The first portion of the event showcased recent winners of the seventh annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize in an interactive poster fair held in the Davidson Winter Garden. The prize recognizes University faculty projects that demonstrate exciting, modern approaches to engaging students in learning, and was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the University Library. Attendees were encouraged to speak with the winners and learn more about their research and findings.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, James Hilton, dean of libraries and vice provost for digital education and innovation, said projects like these are a great way for students to connect with the course material outside the classroom.
“These winning projects challenge students to actively apply what they’ve learned to real situations that can be much messier than those described in textbooks,” Hilton said. “In the process, students learn to collaborate and think critically, often across disciplinary boundaries.”
Alongside the TIP presenters were additional projects by teams who received CRLT Investigating Student Learning grants as well as technology projects conducted by Teaching and Technology Collaborative members.
Jill Halpern is a mathematics lecturer and a TIP winner. Her project focused on teaching the principles of calculus through tangible, observable occurrences. She said she often takes her students to the Museum of Natural History and the Nichols Arboretum to demonstrate how processes such as half-life and sequences in series can occur in nature.
“I want to get my students asking, ‘Why?’,” Halpern said. “Out of the classroom they can really see the world, so that means when they come back to a traditional classroom, there’s a lot more, ‘What is this used for? Where does this come from?’ then there might otherwise because they’ve been primed to ask those questions.”
Musicology Prof. Mark Clauge said the innovative efforts of these teams are changing the way students learn new material.
“This kind of experimentation is something that is really vital for the classroom,” said Clauge. “When students are in a classroom where the faculty are experimenting with new ideas, new approaches and new philosophies of learning, they start to become more conscious of their own learning.”
He also said experimenting with new teaching techniques is beneficial to the teaching community.
“These kinds of experiments and these kinds of projects expand the imagination for me as a teacher also to sort of understand the different dynamics that students face and start to see things from a student’s perspective,” Clauge said.
After an hour of mingling with presenters, the crowds moved into the Blau Auditorium, where the five TIP winners were officially recognized before a panel of University educators took the stage to discuss how the University can drive innovation through experimentation with new digital landscapes.
Specifically, the panel focused on Unizin, a consortium of 10 universities including the University of Michigan. The consortium aims to develop and share new, beneficial digital technologies for teachers and students, support content systems that empower faculty and provide analytic services.
One such technology is Canvas, a learning management system that the University plans to implement over the next couple of years to replace CTools.
Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau professor of physics and director of the LSA Honors Program, spoke about the importance of Unizin’s efforts to create a community of educators intent on developing higher levels of learning and the tools needed to do so.
“Everybody who is using these new tools should be thinking about how to, in a scholarly way, figure out what’s happening and, in the same scholarly way, share that information with the rest of the community so that when we make these decisions they won’t just be rolling over us, we’ll actually be making them in an informed way,” McKay said.
Stacy Morrone, associate vice president of learning technologies at Indiana University, said Unizin is working to make sense of and join together emerging tools and data.
“Unizin seems to be the convergence of so many things that we should be thinking about around content, the learning management system and what all this data means for the success of our students,” Morrone said.
Angelo Pitillo, director of the University’s English Language Institute, also attended the panel and said the event was a great opportunity to learn about the latest research being pursued in higher education.
“We’re at a really important time with the development of technology for teaching and learning,” Pitillo said. “I think it’s really important to know where we’re at and where we’re going.”