Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 16, 2006
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Technology at Temple in the palm of students’ hands

This semester, 40 business students received handheld computers to use both in and out of the classroom. The PDA pilot program is one of many ways Temple students are using new technology to take their work offline and anywhere they go.

Temple University, a top “connected campus” in the country for the second year in a row, according to the Princeton Review, is on the cutting-edge of implementing new technology into the classroom and across the campus.

Increasingly, professors are finding high-tech — and cool-to-use — ways to put classroom technology directly into students’ hands, so they can take their work offline and anywhere they go.

Business students are integrating handheld computers into their class work and lives.

Music students are listening to comments on their projects online and to MP3 files for class on their iPods. And across campus, students are using interactive response pads and powerful class-capture software.

Handheld computers

This semester, Management Information Systems 120: “Data Communication Networking” launched a Mobile Interactive Student (MIS) pilot program. Forty students in two sections of MIS instructor Mart Doyle’s class received handheld computers to use both in and out of the classroom.

“When our students graduate, we want to be confident that we have exposed them to everything available in technology and make sure that they are comfortable with it,” Doyle said.

These handheld computers, which run the Windows Mobile 2005 operating system, enable students to download all of the materials they’ll use in the classroom, including the course textbook, slides, syllabus and study guides. And because the units are Internet-ready, students are able to check their e-mail and other important information from any spot that has a wireless connection.

And thanks to a donation from Dell, students received the units, which normally cost around $400 each, for free.

“Before having it, I used to write notes and appointments randomly in a spiral notebook that I was using to take notes in class,” said Eric Horne, a sophomore MIS major. “Now I can put assignments in for class. I like to be organized, and the PDA helps me to be even more organized than before.”

Response pads

Imagine a device that can improve class attendance, promote classroom interaction and make learning fun. Enter electronic response pads.

In courses ranging from business to medicine, podiatry to science and technology, students are interacting with their professors and each other via pads that look much like TV remotes.
With them, students can “instantaneously register their votes to a question, much as they would if they were on a game show,” explained Samuel J. Hodge Jr., professor and chairman of legal studies at The Fox School of Business, who has been using the response pads since last fall.

The pads can also be used to take attendance and administer tests and quizzes, and because they are fully integrated with Microsoft Office, professors they can integrate them into their PowerPoint lectures.

According to Eileen Aitken, director of instructional technology and training, as well as a professor in the College of Science and Technology’s computer information science department, the cost of the response pads ranges between $15 and $55, depending on whether the pad was purchased new or used. Aitken said the bookstore has a buyback program for the response pads similar to the buyback program for books. Students can turn in their response pads and receive 50 percent of the purchase price if they don’t need to use them for other courses.
At the Medical School, students in their first two years receive the response pads for free.

Students in professor Tom Marino’s “Anatomy and Cell Biology” class at the School of Medicine have been using them since January.

“I use them so that the students actively participate in the learning process rather than sitting passively and observing the lecture,” Marino said. “They become active participants.”

Blackboard: ‘Can you hear me now?’

Blackboard was introduced at Temple in 1999, delivering online access to course material, grades and more.

This semester, Temple launched the application of Horizon Wimba products, which enable faculty to make voice recordings, import the recordings to Blackboard, and distribute them to students’ digital dropboxes. Currently in the testing phase, Wimba acts as a more interactive substitute to e-mail, and a voice direct component enables online verbal conferences and chat room features.

Wimba, in use by faculty members from the OnLine Learning Program to the speech communications department in the College of Health Professions, is just catching up to Boyer College of Music and Dance professor Steven Kreinberg, who was taking advantage of voice recording capabilities and MP3 files even before Wimba was integrated. In his “Technology for Education in Music” course, he uses MP3 technology to record his commentary on student projects and send audio evaluations to students’ digital dropbox via Blackboard. To supplement class material, he also posts MP3 files in which he discusses topics pertaining to class, which the students can conveniently download from Blackboard to their iPods.

According to Kreinberg, advances in technology such as this are useful — but are ultimately only supplemental to the teaching and the learning process.

“Technology will never make a good teacher out of a bad one, but it does offer incredibly exciting tools to engage students,” Kreinberg said.

Wimba is available to faculty in the OnLine Learning Program and to any faculty who request it by calling the Instructional Support Center at 215-204-8529.

Capturing class content for replay

For many students, being able to record a lecture and replay it is an enormous help in learning and studying.

Apreso Classroom content capture systems, introduced as a Business School pilot in fall 2004, allow faculty who use specially equipped “smart” rooms to record audio, plus anything displayed on the classroom computer, and post these class captures on the Internet for later replay. The captures are posted on Apreso and Blackboard.

Now used by more than 50 sections of classes in The Fox School, the College of Liberal Arts, the schools of Medicine and Podiatric Medicine, and at Temple University Center City, Apreso has captured more than 200,000 minutes of classroom time throughout the University since June 2004, according to David Feeney, director of digital education at Fox.

And like Blackboard, Apreso just got more useful: A new podcasting feature means students no longer need to be connected to the Internet to hear their recorded lectures. According to Feeney, “Students can listen to lectures on a plane, train, bus, cab, at their home — anyplace they can have a podcasting device, such as an MP3 player.”

Ongoing testing and collaboration between faculty and Computer Services make many of these types of innovations in teaching possible at Temple.

“One of our major priorities is to provide faculty technology options that ultimately enhance learning for students,” Timothy O’Rourke, vice president of computer and information services, wrote recently in the Faculty Herald.

“Temple has earned the reputation for providing first-class technology resources,” O’Rourke said. “To continue this, we must be willing to, at times, be out on the ‘bleeding edge,’ and we must remain committed to evaluating the numerous and ever-changing technology products.”

- By Rebecca Carroll, with Erin Cusack