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Walker Teaching Resource Center tenth anniversary

wtrc3Ten years ago, if a professor wanted to demonstrate an internet site in a classroom at UTC, the process was daunting. The first step was to call networking to see if there was a port in the classroom. If there was no port, the class had to be relocated. Next, networking had to be called in to activate the port. Then the hunt was on to find and schedule a video projection system. Four were available to the entire University. It was also possible to borrow a system from a professor who had used grant funds to make that purchase. The final step was to find or borrow a laptap or load up your desktop computer, cables, etc. and set up in the ten minutes available before class began. As you can imagine, not many educators were up to the challenge.

Today, a professor can load a presentation onto Onenet, an online community accessible to faculty and students with a University id and password, download the file, or use a cd or jump drive, boot it up and begin teaching. All ports in classrooms are active by default. Some teaching environments are wireless, making the process even easier.

Karen Adsit

There have been other improvements in email accounts, faculty computer and software accessibility and much more. Over the last decade, faculty grew to appreciate the role technology could play in the classroom. Ten years ago this month Dr. Karen Adsit was hired and the Grayson H. Walker Teaching Resource Center was established to assist professors who seek to improve the way they teach. Adsit discovered educators were eager to respond to the challenge of integrating technology into the classroom.

“Traditionally, the entertainment, gaming and business industries are at the forefront of adopting new technologies, and education is often the last frontier,” Adsit said. “It is not only about funding; trying new technologies can be intimidating when professors feel pressure to educate their students and bring them to a certain level. Teaching is hard work.”

It was faculty voices that clamored for smart podiums, and many are available in classrooms across the campus. Nearly two-thirds of the faculty uses Blackboard to teach and communicate with students, and 20 online classes which include some individual and group study projects are being offered this semester. “That could never have happened in 1996,” Adsit said.

wtrc2Professors have attained three levels of integrating technology into UTC classrooms, according to Adsit. Some use it solely in an administrative way, by recording attendance, distributing the syllabus and handouts. Mid-level users incorporate PowerPoint presentations and the high end users allow students heavy interaction with technology.

“It is no longer a big deal to ask students to present a PowerPoint presentation. More and more professors are putting these tools in students’ hands,” Adsit said.

Sandy Watson, assistant professor in the Teacher Preparation Academy, was selected as a Faculty Fellow by the Walker Resource Center. As a Faculty Fellow, Watson receives special training in her pursuit to coordinate an email pen pal system, bringing her students in contact with virtual mentors across the country.

We understand where the University was ten years ago, and where it is today. Where will it be ten years from now? Adsit sites a few tantalizing clues.

wtrc1“We are moving toward a nation of interactive books, not just for young children anymore, but at the college level,” Adsit said. “There will be more immersion in 3D learning. And there is already a prototype of a computer in a pen which projects a virtual screen and keyboard. At $30,000, it is not terribly expensive even now. Data can be stored in a necklace, a keychain or a pen. But even with all this, I believe books will not go away.

February 15, 2006

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