Teaching Tip: Transformative Learning Experiences through Technology

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The PLC (Professional Learning Community) will be providing the teaching tip of the week throughout the academic year in support of their goal of interdisciplinary collegiality.

In so many of our conversations about reaching students, we as educators turn to technology as an obvious medium to connect our learners and educate them in an engaging way. We employ the latest social media outlet or app to draw students in and lend relevance to the content we are trying to impart to them. In many cases this method is successful, but it also runs the risk of becoming gimmicky or even overwhelming to a student who is not as tech savvy as his or her peers. Yes, many college aged students enjoy using technology; it is an integral part of their daily lives. But just because an instructor uses a new tech tool in their course doesn’t necessarily mean that the students’ learning outcomes have been enhanced or even achieved.

What makes the use of technology an effective teaching tool is, in part, that it enhances a student’s ability to better understand a subject or material through active manipulation. What if instead of only reading Anne Frank’s diary that explains with words how small and cramped her attic hideaway was, you were able additionally to upload the floor plan into a virtual reality headset such as an Oculus Rift so that students could “walk” around and experience that same square footage? Or what if you were able to 3D-print ancient artifacts for students to actually touch and hold, or use that printer to create to-scale models of ancient Greek monuments? Rather than theoretical explanations of how electricity works, what if we gave students the freedom to experiment and create their own circuits by using conductive threads and fabrics?

When universities, schools, libraries and other open learning environments are able to provide these types of technology tools, students’ creativity can be unleashed. They are able to learn by interacting with 3D representations (virtual or tangible), sometimes even without realizing they are learning. By relating subject material through alternative media educators can provide students with fresh avenues toward learning and growth. Our goal as educators is to thoughtfully connect our learners to technology, and then grant them the freedom to be transformed by it.

~Katie Musick Peery, kapeery@uta.edu, First Year Student Success Librarian, FabLab Interim Co-Manager

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