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This article was originally published in the Fall 2000 issue of the CFT’s newsletter, Teaching Forum.

By Ellen M. Granberg

Students at the Owen School’s Strategy in the New Economy seminar enter a classroom that looks like any other, except that a projection system and video screen have been installed. Their professor announces that today they will be joined by a guest lecturer, a senior VP from a Fortune 500 corporation. What makes this guest lecture unique is that the students are sitting in a Nashville classroom but the guest lecturer is speaking from his home office in Estonia, via video technology.

This is an example of one of the creative ways faculty members at Vanderbilt are using technology to enhance their students’ learning. In the scene described above, Owen Professor David Owens, along with Professor Bart Victor, use video conferencing to bring an international guest speaker to their organization studies seminar. Across the University, faculty are using technology to help students master subjects from elementary and secondary school instruction to bioengineering to structural equation modeling. They are developing their own skills while making students comfortable with the technology that will help them be successful after leaving Vanderbilt. As they introduce more and more technology into the classroom, faculty are finding it raises the quality of class discussion and involves students much more deeply in their own education.

For this issue of the Teaching Forum, we spoke to four Vanderbilt faculty members, each of whom is using technology to enhance their students’ learning.

Owen Management Professor David Owens uses videoconference links to bring in guest speakers and incorporates video and audio technology into most of his lectures.

Psychology Professor Andy Tomarken teaches methods and statistics courses in a computer lab, allowing him to integrate traditional lecture with demonstration projects using the methods he is teaching.

Peabody Professor Margaret Smithey guides her students in the preparation of multi-media classroom presentations including clips from the Internet, video, audio, and news archive footage. She has opened an e-conference for interns from her courses who want to stay in touch with their fellow students and professors, and she maintains a library of digitized video clips, taken from live and simulated classroom settings.

Department of Biomedical Engineering Chair Tom Harris directs a new NSF-funded center focused on developing technology-based bioengineering teaching materials and curriculum. He is collaborating with several partners, including Peabody Professor John Bransford.

What Technology Brings to the Classroom What these faculty members have in common, and what they share with many others across the campus, is a commitment to exploring the opportunities technology offers for improving the quality of classroom instruction.

Professor Margaret Smithey describes how technology allows her to capitalize on unexpected turns in class discussion. “Yesterday afternoon my students had specific questions about classroom management, so at that point I said ‘let’s look at these scenarios that I have on a CD.’ The CD brought to life their questions. I think seeing actual classroom scenarios related to their questions makes learning come alive for my students better than if I gave my opinion or told a story.”

Professor Tomarken, who teaches advanced statistics and methods classes, says incorporating computers into class discussion can also make extremely difficult courses much easier for students to grasp.

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