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Updated 12:15 PM June 6, 2005




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High-tech tools help faculty, students 'click'

The happy cartoon eyes on Yi Guo's hand-held computer screen turned sad.

"I'm sick—OK, who gave it to me?" she asks, laughing.

The assistant professor in the U-M-Dearborn School of Management, along with two-dozen University faculty members, participated in the virus simulation, "Cooties! Virus Propagation on the Palm"—one of several high-tech presentations May 9, the opening day of the 8th Annual Enriching Scholarship Teaching & Technology Collaborative at the Duderstadt Center.

The U-M Teaching and Technology Collaborative sponsored the event.

The first day included a showcase of featured projects, a keynote address, and a question-answer session for faculty. The goal of the workshops was to show faculty how the latest technologies can boost teaching in a range of fields.

To open the "Cooties" virus simulation, Stephen Best, director of professional development and outreach in the School of Education, passed out hand-held computers to participants. All learned how to enter their names using a plastic stylus. "Move around and meet others in the group," Best said. As they followed his direction, infrared sensors on each hand-held recorded names of each group member.
Kim Bayer, team lead for classroom and instructional support in LSA, welcomes attendees to the 8th Annual Enriching Scholarship Conference sponsored by the Teaching and Technology Collaborative at the Duderstadt Center. (Photo by Paul Jaronski,U-M Photo Services)

But there was something else the sensors picked up. Most members who came in contact with hand-helds that had the numbers 6 and 16 written on the back contracted a programmed virus.

"This shows the variables in how diseases spread," Best explained. "Who made you sick? How long did it take to incubate?"

In a darkened video room, Jo Kurdziel, assistant research scientist in LSA Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, showed in another presentation how "clickers" that resemble TV remotes can be used to boost learning in large lecture settings of 200-600 students.

"You probably look out on the sea of faces and after 20 minutes, their attention spans start to wane a little bit," Kurdziel said. In her presentation "Interacting in Large Numbers: Using Audience Response Systems," she showed how students given clickers are more engaged. The clickers are used to transmit query answers to an audience response system device, which connects to a professor's laptop, typically placed on a lecture podium.

"You can also find out if they're getting a concept by using quick surveys," she said. To keep student attention in a huge lecture setting, an instructor using an audience response set-up can ask classroom participants to predict the outcome of demonstrations or pose other questions, to keep them focused on what's coming next in the lecture.

"If you engage your students not just before a test but during class, your students learn more," Kurdziel said. To further encourage focus on the podium during lectures, 5-10 percent of her course grade is based on clicker responses.

In the presentation "iPods, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Mobile Learning," Web and multimedia developer Trek Glowacki with the Dental School showed how students could benefit from technology that puts dental lectures on files that can be downloaded via the Internet, at site files or via e-mail, to students' iPods or other MP3-type players. "They can listen to a lecture if they're running," Glowacki explained.

He said a pilot program last semester revealed that 60 of 100 participating students used the service: "For a pilot that's huge."

Lars Schumann of the UM3D Lab said technology has reduced the cost to present visual images over fiber-optic phone lines. Those on hand for his presentation donned white cardboard 3D glasses like those handed out in movie theaters, to view the 3D image of an oversized, see-through human heart and lungs. He said some equipment that used to cost in the $1 million range now costs far less, and instructors teaching architecture, business and the Internet at U-M are beginning to use the technology.

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