Technology (Innovations for Education)
Show and Tell in the Digital Age
- By Karen Spring
- March 1st, 2015
PHOTO COURTESY OF COLORADO ST. UNIVERSITY/MORGAN LIBRARY
Presentation software and hardware technologies allow instructors to make lectures and classroom discussions more engaging and interactive while sharing important content with their students. Educators, when properly equipped with the right tools, can easily present multimedia files, handwritten slides, Internet information and scientific data. But integrating presentation technology doesn’t just come down to benefitting the students in the classroom. Distance learners also gain valuable knowledge when presentation technologies are deployed.
Document cameras are the modern equivalent to what overhead projectors were in classrooms years ago. These cameras allow for the display of sheets, documents, textbook pages or models in full color and have the capability to zoom in on text or small details. Focus buttons and LED lighting ensure that information is clearly visible to all. Instructors use these cameras with projectors to show students how to solve math equations or to view small specimens in scientific lessons. A microscope connected to a document camera offers convenience for viewing slides.
“Instructors have found document cameras to be beneficial in a number of ways,” said Jason Meyer, senior product manager, projectors at Epson America, Inc. “Teachers can use a document camera to record their classroom presentations and then upload those lectures to YouTube or another media for later use. Students who have missed a lecture aren’t left in the dark, so to speak, because they can still watch a lesson even if it is at a later time.”
Polycom offers a portfolio of video, content-sharing and audio technologies for various industries including the higher education market. Elaine Shuck, director, education solutions and market development, U.S. public sector/president-elect USDLA at Polycom says, “Video is enabling students with a desired career path to connect directly to those who’ve already established themselves as experts. Students at Florida International University’s culinary school are able to connect directly via video to collaborate with other students as well as instructors from various global locations.”
Helpful for All Participants
Video and other technologies offer more options and better accessibility to presentations for both instructors and students alike. A professor who is wheelchair-bound, for example, can conveniently and comfortably teach a class from a sitting position when using a document camera. Vision-impaired students find it helpful to have notes and lecture information clearly projected from document cameras to interactive whiteboards. Those with hearing impairments have better classroom experiences when video or audio technologies are used since communication is clearer even when a person is speaking in a normal tone. Combining the use of a document camera with Skype enables distance learners to see the lesson just as they would if they were sitting in the classroom.
Video conferencing products are available that allow for the streaming of webcasts, captures lecturers’ presentations, and delivers content to a user’s mobile device. With this technology in use, students can access information from any location. Shuck says that the technology extends the classroom beyond the traditional four walls of a building. She expains, “These offerings are used to connect individuals and students no matter where the location. This allows them to not miss a word of the lecture while connecting from anywhere using any device.”
Colleges Weigh In
At Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, select classrooms are equipped with document cameras, Blu-ray-enabled SMART Board interactive whiteboards, and SMART Podiums. Faculty members are encouraged to bring their own mobile devices. The interactive whiteboards work well in any size learning space, from a classroom with just a few students to a large lecture hall. SMART Podiums allow instructors to display a document, website, multimedia file or written notes upon a screen.
Carol Kondrach, Rider’s associate vice president for Information Technologies, has noted that the real value is demonstrated by how Rider faculty integrate these technologies into their teaching and learning and how they use them to further refine their course delivery and student engagement. Kondrach says, “Classrooms used for art instruction have high-definition projection so that examples of fine art can be shown more accurately to students. Science classrooms have the ability to adapt a document camera to a microscope so the whole class can observe an event taking place in real time together. Music classes have high-fidelity audio systems for better sonic accuracy.”
Geoff Keston is an instructor of technical communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. To educate his students, one of the tools he uses is an Internet-connected computer with a desktop that can be projected on a screen and sound that is played over speakers. Ease of use in any technology in the classroom is important, he said, because the purpose of being in front of students is, after all, to educate them, not to be fiddling around with equipment in an attempt to get it to work.
Keston says, “My course focuses on researching published academic articles and on writing. Today, teaching research methods means teaching about online tools. In-class computer displays let me show students how to navigate online research databases and use web-based tools like RefWorks. Technology is also very helpful for teaching students about writing and editing. For instance, I often display a document and then make various changes to it as a way to demonstrate concepts like how to compose a clear sentence or how to edit text to make it more concise.”
Quality Content Counts
Although technology can surely enhance the classroom environment, the information conveyed to learners is still the most significant aspect of the lesson. Sophisticated technology is of no value if the educator isn’t knowledgeable or isn’t well prepared. Keston says, “I don’t think students expect flashy presentations. What they want most is to understand the material and to be active members of the class. Technology’s value is how it helps instructors and students to reach these goals together.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of College Planning & Management.
Karen Spring has been a technical writer for more than 10 years. She began her career working as a marketing specialist for two computer distributors and as a senior editor for an IT publishing and consulting firm. Ms. Spring contributes to a weekly newsletter that highlights network and Internet security topics.