How can a college or university best assist faculty in rethinking courses and curricula in order to unleash technology’s truly revolutionary potential to enhance learning? This article will discuss four key strategies that have contributed to a growing campus culture that recognizes the potential of technological tools to enable fundamental pedagogical changes. Specific examples of each strategy are provided, as well as key success factors.

In recent years, virtually every subject matter discipline has demonstrated the potential of information technology to improve teaching and learning. Simultaneously, most faculty have grown accustomed to using word processing programs, e-mail, and the World Wide Web, and a broader range of user-friendly software is now available. The National Survey of Children in 1998

According to Desktop Computing and Information Technology in Higher Education, the percentage of college classes that use technology is increasing, with 44.4 percent using e-mail and 36 percent using presentation handouts. 1

These fairly common uses of technology in higher education classrooms, however, fail to capitalize on technology’s true power to make real-world situations available, aid visualization, facilitate collaborative activity among students, support information analysis and synthesis, simulate complex environments, and provide continuous feedback.

2 These “deeper” uses of technology necessitate rethinking the teaching and learning process and imagining new instructional approaches that may aid students in meeting course objectives.

According to educational research, new knowledge emerges from the process of connecting new ideas to what we already know.

already know and exploring the interrelationships between ideas; new knowledge is created by the learner rather than transmitted. Furthermore, learners construct knowledge as they attempt to make sense of their experiences and compare their own understanding to that of others, particularly teachers or more advanced peers. 3 Technology can improve learning by encouraging active processing and application of new ideas and by providing opportunities for students to discuss ideas with their peers outside of class.

One barrier to integrating technology into our courses in ways that maximize the impact on student learning is the tendency to view technology as a means of improving our current instructional approaches rather than starting from scratch.

“from the ground up.” Instead, we must return to our fundamental student learning goals for a specific course and brainstorm ways to help students achieve these goals, keeping in mind that active participation and dialogue about ideas are powerful learning catalysts. Because their primary interest is in teaching and learning rather than technology, most faculty members find this type of thinking energizing. “How can a college or university best support this process of rethinking courses and curricula in order to unleash the truly revolutionary potential of technology to enhance learning?” asks the question.

Certainly, adequate technology and support for its use are required for success. No single faculty member, department, or campus will be able to fully realize educational technology’s potential.

Without a strong information technology infrastructure, it is impossible to improve teaching and learning. Faculty access to hardware and software for the development and use of educational applications is critical, as is student access to PCs and the Internet on and off campus, multimedia-capable classrooms with Internet access, training, and technical support. These elements, however, are insufficient to bring about the desired revolution in teaching and learning.

Jane Marcus of Stanford University’s Information Technology Systems and Services provides a very useful conceptualization of the factors influencing individual technology adoption. Adoption, according to Marcus12s model, is a function of available resources, the perceived value of the innovation, and communication with other adopters. Her dissertation research provides empirical evidence to support the model, demonstrating the importance of social/contextual variables.

as resources for promoting technology adoption4

Subsequent research at also emphasized the significance of these factors. On that campus, faculty members were polled to identify factors that might influence the use of new instructional technologies. The need to be certain that technology would improve student learning was identified as the most important factor. Compatibility with the subject matter, advantages over traditional instruction, increased student interest, information on materials in the discipline, compatibility with existing course materials, and support from higher administration, chairpersons, and deans were also important social/contextual factors. Faculty were also asked to rate the importance of various technological incentives. Unsurprisingly, free time, student and clerical assistance, and stipends were important motivators. However, faculty members emphasized the significance of knowing

that their efforts would be recognized by the university community and contribute to promotion and tenure.

Four Key Strategies for Using Technology to Help Faculty Rethink Pedagogy

This type of learning and technology adoption research can inform the design of campus programs to assist faculty in rethinking pedagogy and utilizing technology in ways that have a significant impact on student learning. Duquesne University has been working on a comprehensive, campus-wide program to achieve this goal for the past nine years. The sections that follow describe four key strategies of the Duquesne program and the principles that underpin them, as well as examples of how the strategies have been implemented at Duquesne.

Encourage faculty to learn about their colleagues’ successful use of educational technology.

and by colleagues in their field all over the world.

Providing opportunities for faculty to learn about successful educational technology applications on their own campus improves communication with adopters (a social variable identified by Marcus as important in promoting adoption of technology). Faculty can talk about how technology affects student learning and motivation, how much work is required to develop and implement applications, and how much value is perceived. Faculty are frequently capable of making the conceptual leap required to see how a colleague12s use of technology might apply in their own discipline (for example, a historian might easily imagine how a philosopher colleague12s use of computer conferencing might be adapted). Clearly, there are disciplinary differences that make it difficult to see how specific uses work.

Technology could be transferred (for example, a chemist might question whether the philosopher colleague12s use of computer conferencing would be beneficial in learning physical chemistry). As a result, it is extremely beneficial to provide opportunities for faculty to learn about technology use by colleagues in their discipline at other institutions (for example, the chemist might easily be persuaded that a symbolic and numerical software program such as Mathcad would enhance learning in physical chemistry).

Over the last nine years, Duquesne12s computing center and faculty development center have collaborated to provide a plethora of opportunities for faculty to learn about how colleagues at Duquesne and elsewhere have used technology to improve student learning:

Technology fairs are used to teach. Five or six professors

Each fair invites people who have used technology successfully to present. The goal is to have presenters from various disciplines, a diverse range of educational applications, and projects of varying levels of sophistication. The format is similar to a poster session, with each presenter demonstrating his or her work at a workstation. Attending faculty members are free to speak with each presenter for as long as they want. Questions frequently arise regarding the amount of time required to develop an application, the impact on student learning and motivation, and the level of skill required.

Lunch Bytes. Individual faculty members who have used technology effectively in ways ranging from visualization of earthquakes in geology to student projects requiring use are frequently featured in these brown bag lunch sessions.

Import/export rate databases in global economics to virtual cooperative learning groups and electronic portfolios in occupational therapy. Each of these sessions draws a diverse group of faculty, many of whom can see how the ideas presented can be applied in their own discipline.

Teleconferences in real time. These satellite downlink programs obtained from vendors provide Duquesne faculty with access to cutting-edge educational technology applications. Participants discuss possible applications of ideas presented during the program within the Duquesne University environment immediately following such a downlink. Staff from the computing center and the faculty development center are available to help with this discussion.

Workshops on teaching. The faculty development center regularly offers workshops on a wide range of topics such as critical thinking, cooperative learning, and problem-based learning. Whenever possible, the The content of these workshops includes suggestions for how technology can be used to achieve the desired instructional goal. Structured, threaded discussion, for example, can stimulate critical thinking; cooperative learning groups meeting via computer conferencing can transcend the time and space constraints imposed by the traditional face-to-face classroom; and information gleaned from online resources and dialogue among class members can aid in problem solving. In addition to these workshops on general pedagogical topics that include technology-enhanced pedagogy ideas, there are occasional workshops that explicitly focus on technology-enhanced pedagogy. The workshop “Teaching Online Using Computer Conferencing Software,” offered in the fall of 1996 by the first faculty member at Duquesne to teach a completely online course, was an example of this. She discussed her use of in this workshop.

Discussion, case studies, and small group work were used to demonstrate that students had met the course objectives.

Encourage individual faculty and departments to consider their students’ learning objectives and how technology can help them achieve these objectives.

As previously stated, the most common applications of technology, such as e-mail and presentation software, are “add-ons” to current pedagogy and do not capitalize on technology’s true power to revolutionize the teaching/learning process. In contrast, encouraging faculty to identify their basic course goals frees them to think more creatively. What do they hope students will be able to do at the conclusion of the course? What are the “bottlenecks” (critical concepts that must be understood)? Many students fail to master) a specific course? What kinds of experiences and assignments will assist students in meeting course objectives? These types of questions serve as the foundation for thinking about alternative, technology-based approaches to facilitating student achievement of course goals, such as drill-and-practice tutorials for basic skills, computer conferencing to develop critical thinking, or multimedia to enhance visualization of important concepts. Similarly, an academic department might consider its overall goals for program graduates and how technology could be integrated into courses to ensure that students achieve those goals. Students studying journalism, for example, may need to learn how to conduct online research, evaluate the credibility of sources, and create Web pages. What courses will these skills be developed in, and how will they be developed?

Will these abilities be validated?

Duquesne University encourages individual faculty, as well as schools and departments, to rethink courses and potential uses of technology from the ground up. When schools and departments pursue such ideas, significant curricular reform is possible. Here are a few examples of how Duquesne has encouraged pedagogical rethinking.

Technology Integration Throughout the Curriculum. Duquesne’s School of Music made a commitment to integrate the K-12 National Standards for Arts Education into the School of Music curriculum and to extend those standards to the collegiate level. According to the guidelines that accompany the standards, “the curriculum should use current technology to individualize and expand music learning… Technology, on the other hand, should not be used for its own sake.

not for its own sake, but to achieve the goals of music education.” 6 As a result, the School of Music has examined its courses, noting the goals and content of each course, as well as the technologies that could be used to improve learning outcomes. A theory course, for example, does not necessitate the use of technology in and of itself, but student learning may be enhanced by the use of a synthesizer module, music notation software, and computer-assisted instruction to develop ear-training skills. Strategic use of technology throughout the school provided a focal point for relevant faculty development opportunities, leading to the development of a required freshman course, “Computers for Musicians,” to familiarize students with the technology they would use in later courses.

Course on Online Teaching and Learning. During

“Do you teach in an online environment?” Another assignment listed numerous instructional strategies that could be used in an online environment (for example, small group discussion, collaborative learning, problem-based learning, case studies, simulation, and project-based learning) and asked participants to identify ways they could use technology to implement these strategies in one of their courses. A separate “metacognition” conference provided a virtual classroom space for participants to reflect on their own learning experiences. They may have observed how difficult it is to synthesize the comments of the 16 other participants, or they may have speculated on why the degree of social interaction increased or decreased depending on the topic and assignment. 8

Summer Institute on Technology-Assisted Instruction. For the last four years Duquesne University has a summer institute for faculty. Participation is competitive, with applications describing a project that the faculty member would like to pursue, using technology to improve some aspect of student learning in one of his or her courses. Faculty who complete the five-day institute receive a $1,000 stipend and agree to demonstrate their work both within their own school and in a university-wide venue. On the first day of the institute, there is an instructional design session as well as an overview of available technologies. A high percentage of faculty change their instructional strategy, technology choice, or both as a result of these sessions. What matters is that faculty arrive at the institute having identified their research interests. institute instructors can then assist faculty in clarifying the best means of achieving that goal.


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