CALIFORNIA – Imagine a college class where students can engage in a video conference with other students in Africa.
At the beginning of class, students would enter their names into a touch panel at their seats so the professor could identify them.
Each time a student asks a question, he or she would activate a push-to-talk microphone, and then a camera would zoom in on the student before returning to a full classroom view.
In fact, many of these technologies already exist in several “smart” classrooms at California University of Pennsylvania.
“In the current world we live in, everything is personalized, and technology allows us to personalize education,” said Dr. Stephen Whitehead, interim associate provost in the Office of Academic Affairs at Cal U.
Technology in the classroom will be the theme of a collaborative event organized by the university and Apple Inc., which will be held on campus June 20 and 21.
The free conference, “Fueling the Learning Experience,” will feature speeches from professors, faculty and one graduate student from Cal U.; the technology director and assistant superintendent at Elizabeth Forward School District; and two development executives and one senior systems engineer from Apple Inc.
Representatives from Apple recently came to the university to discuss the benefits of increasing the number of Apple devices in the classroom.
Yet Whitehead had a better idea. Instead of focusing on the device itself, he suggested holding a conference to discuss the university’s recent technological advances, as well as how technology can guide education in the future.
“We thought this would be a great way to showcase to the local community what is happening at Cal,” Whitehead said.
He hopes that a mix of indergarten through high school teachers and college professors will attend, in addition to information technology specialists at the university.
Breakout sessions will be separated into an IT and instructional design path, as well as an education path, so attendees can choose the topics most directly related to their field. Some topics of discussion include technology-fueled teaching and learning support; the use of iPads in the classroom; and FileMaker Pro as an application development base.
Dr. Thomas West, director of the graduate athletic training education program at Cal U., will be discussing iBooks, an application for the iPhone and iPad. He uses iBooks to compile information for his students, including interactive videos that show how to treat injuries, so students can follow along.
“It’s a really easy way to package a lot of different types of content, like text, video, audio and quizzes, all into one place, so the students don’t have to go hunting for things,” West said.
Dr. Marcia Hoover, a professor in the Department of Secondary Education, will be talking about those ubiquitous Quick Response Codes, which often appear on products and direct consumers to websites when the code is scanned by a mobile device.
While some educators worry that technology might replace tried-and-true teaching methods, Whitehead said devices like iPads and iBooks are supplementary materials. Furthermore, he said there is a proper time and place for technology in the classroom.
“What needs to be considered is that technology is another tool in the educator’s toolbox, and you use it when it’s appropriate,” he said. “Sometimes we get a little bit enamored with the technology, and we force it into a learning practice where it doesn’t fit.”
Technology can also be viewed by some as a distraction, which is why there must be a “middle ground” between modern and traditional teaching methods, according to Whitehead.
He hopes the conference will become an annual event to continue the ongoing conversation about technology’s role in education.
“We think this is where education is going,” he said, “and we have to be paying attention to it.”