March 31, 2003

EduCATE conference highlights IT & teaching

By Michael Terrazas

About 160 people, including some 120 faculty members, turned out to learn how the latest technological bells and whistles can enhance the University’s teaching and research mission, as the second EduCATE—Educational Conference on Academic Technology at Emory—conference was held March 25–26.

EduCATE provides a forum for information technology-minded faculty and staff to both learn from experts and share their own experiences of incorporating IT into their classrooms and research labs. Over its two days, the event featured lectures, panel discussions and hands-on workshops showcasing the latest in educational technology.

“We clearly as an institution have passed the point where [these technologies] are being used just by early adopters,” said Don Harris, CIO and vice provost for information technology. As an example, Harris cited use of the software package Blackboard, which facilitates putting course content and class discussion into a web-based format; nearly 800 Emory courses now use Blackboard, Harris said.

But that’s just the beginning. As Emory College interim Dean Bobby Paul said in his opening remarks March 25, technology has become entrenched in all manner of undergraduate instruction, from the more than 100 “smart” classrooms scattered throughout University buildings to facilities like the Emory College Language Center in Woodruff Library, to an increasing reliance on remote delivery of library materials, to the demand for network connections for every student in every residence hall, and so on.

“We learned from last year that people really wanted this community of teachers using technology to happen,” said Alan Cattier, director of the academic technologies group of the Information Technology Division (ITD). “Emory faculty who use technology have always been kind of isolated, and there’s never been a forum for them to come together.”

But come together they did, not only to talk but to see—and play with—new technologies in the mini-showcase set up in the entrance to Cox Hall ballroom, where the main conference events were held. On display were demonstrations of Blackboard, Apple’s iMovie software, LearnLink, PowerPoint and a large-screen Smartboard station, on which users could direct web browsers with their fingers or even write on the board with special pens.

Twelve Emory faculty delivered presentations highlighting their own experiences in IT-enhanced instruction, from the Goizueta Business School’s Rich Makadok’s work with the school’s new Modular Executive MBA program to Tom Long’s integration of iMovie and DVD technology into his teaching in the Candler School of Theology.

Conference participants also heard a luncheon panel discussion that featured Pat Marstellar, director of the Center for Science Education, talking about how web research enhances instruction using problem-based learning (PBL). Marstellar was joined by professors from Emory, Georgia Perimeter College and Clark Atlanta University who also merged PBL with the vast research resources available online.

In his opening address, “Finding Our Depth,” Harris gave a “Top 10” list of technological activities and plans for Emory, including the things Emory does well already—Blackboard support, streaming audio and video, videoconferencing—as well as the Univer-sity’s goals, such as more multi-institutional collaboration and increased attention to the national Internet2 project.

“The whole idea of EduCATE is to put the spotlight on faculty to help us think about how better to support them,” Harris said, “but it also encourages all of us to look to the future.”