Providing Representations in Multiple Modalities
Mathematica software enables students to see a graphical representation of any function. By changing equations or using different values for variables, students develop a deeper understanding of mathematics by viewing changes in the graphical representations.
A key understanding in pharmacy education is that the action of drugs depends on the “fit” between particular molecules in the body and the molecular structure of drugs, in a kind of “lock and key” relationship.
However, students often have difficulty visualizing molecules as three-dimensional objects. A pharmacy professor uses molecular modeling software to create self-paced assignments which require students to manipulate molecules, developing visualizing ability and understanding of drug-receptor relationships. (Contact: Dr. Marc Harrold)
Drilling Students on Basic Concepts to Reach Mastery
Software tutorials exist for many modern languages, enabling students to learn basic grammar through self-paced learning, exercises, and tests with feedback about their performance.
HyperMap provides students with practice in interpreting geological maps. The software presents a series of regional maps with dominantly planar contacts, then asks students a series of interpretive questions on three-dimensional geology and geologic evolution of the region, providing immediate feedback on right and wrong answers. (Contact: Intellimation 1-800-368-6868)
Facilitating Collaborative Activity among Students
Classrooms of networked computers using software such as Daedalus enable students to spend class time doing group pre-writing exercises, electronically discussing controversial questions, and peer reviewing one another’s writing.
A computer conference is established among students enrolled in strategic management courses in Korea, Egypt, Finland, and the United States.
Students discuss topics specified by the instructors, such as advertising and the environment. They also complete a team project such as finding a solution to a real-world environmental problem, with each team including students from each country.
Seeing Interconnections among Concepts
Victorian Web presents text and images of Victorian England. Students can explore how the social context, economics, religion, philosophy, visual arts, and literature of the period might be interrelated.
Inspiration enables students to brainstorm and explore relationships among concepts through both visual diagramming and outlining. Students can work individually or in small groups to develop “maps” of related concepts they have studied or to organize ideas prior to writing. The technology makes possible moving seamlessly between verbal and visual modes (left and right brain?) and instant revision.
Learning to Use the Tools of Scholarship
A vast repository of computer-based research data is available from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research for fields such as health care, organizational behavior, census, economic behavior and attitudes, and legislative bodies.
Students can perform secondary analyses on these data, thereby learning how to frame research questions, analyze data, and interpret results.
Perseus is an encyclopedic database of Greek archaeology, history and ancient texts with Greek and English translations and morphology. This database includes site plans, coins, sculpture, and poetry. Perseus allows students to ask questions and seek answers from authentic primary source materials.
Simulating Laboratory Work
(Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine) is a simulated human being with all anatomical structures from skin to bone. Students can explore various facets of human anatomy by simulated dissection, learning how structures relate to one another.
In analytic chemistry, SpectraDeck displays actual infrared and mass spectra as if created by an instrument. Students can query the system to determine the cause of a peak or investigate different types of compounds.
Instrument simulation permits the student to gain experience with otherwise unavailable analytic techniques.
Factors Influencing Faculty Use of Instructional Technology
Although shortage of equipment, facilities, and institutional support may play a role in inhibiting use of technology, Geoghegan (1994) argues that the most important reason for limited use is in the human realm. He puts forth a model of innovation and change which indicates an approximately normal distribution when number of new adopters are plotted against time. Along this continuum, he identifies five categories of adopter: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
There can be a “chasm” between early adopters and the early majority, such that the innovation is never adopted by the mainstream.
In the case of faculty and use of instructional technology, Geoghegan contrasts early adopters, who are risk takers, more willing to experiment, generally self-sufficient, and interested in the technology itself with early majority faculty who are more concerned about the teaching/learning problem being addressed than the technology used to address it, view ease of use as critical, and want proven applications with low risk of failure. Thus, university support groups should include staff with good pedagogical understanding and basic knowledge of a wide range of academic and professional disciplines.
A survey carried out at Western Michigan University in 1993 (Spotts ; Bowman, 1993) lends credibility to Geoghegan’s ideas.
Factors identified by more than half of the respondents as important in influencing the use of instructional technology were: availability of equipment, promise of improved student learning, funds to purchase materials, compatibility with subject matter, advantages over traditional methods, increased student interest, ease of use, information on materials in their discipline, compatibility with existing course materials, university training in technology use, time to learn the technology and comfort level with technology.
Why Use Instructional Technology?
Students can be actively engaged in learning, leading to greater time on task and greater depth of knowledge
Student learning can emphasize continuous improvement of a piece of work, a concept sometimes called “D.I.A.T.” or Doing It Again Thoughtfully (Steven Ehrmann, final report of Project Flashlight)
Students can work more collaboratively with one another
Students can be given more practice with feedback
Students can examine their existing conceptions and update or modify
Learning materials can be provided to match the learning style of the learner
Self-paced learning may be possible, with study and practice until the student reaches his/her “personal best”
Classroom dialogue can extend beyond the time and space constraints of class time
Students can learn by working on complex, open-ended, realistic (or real-world) tasks
Faculty can restructure their role, using individual and peer-group work or technology for some purposes, thereby freeing time to make their unique contribution to student learning
Perhaps most importantly, faculty find rethinking their teaching an energizing and regenerative experience!