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Campus Life + Science & Tech

Mastering Teaching with Technology

DL&I festival aims to aid educators looking for methods that work


When BU Today reported last spring that Amber Navarre had won BU’s annual Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Award for Innovation in Teaching with Technology, the College of Arts & Sciences senior lecturer in Chinese found herself fielding numerous requests from colleagues eager to integrate technology into their own classrooms. Navarre uses everyday technology, like YouTube and Google Docs, for the more rote parts of teaching, such as vocabulary and grammar, to free up valuable class time for interactive activities.

“Since the day it was announced on BU Today, I have been contacted by all kinds of colleagues for collaboration,” says Navarre. “It was overwhelming at first because there were so many within just a few days.”

On Tuesday, Navarre will deliver the keynote speech at BU’s Teaching with Technology Festival, being held at the George Sherman Union from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“Technology has transformed the way we teach,” says Chris Dellarocas, associate provost for Digital Learning & Innovation (DL&I), which is sponsoring the one-day event. “Students today are also expecting to be taught differently than we were. And so what we’re doing with this event is bringing a day that will inspire and energize our faculty with the new opportunities and possibilities that technology offers them.”

The festival is aimed at all BU educators—faculty, academic and support staff, postdocs, and graduate students—who want to transform both their teaching experience and student outcomes by embracing learning technologies.

“BU is a research university, and for most faculty, a lot of their time is consumed by research,” says Dellarocas, who is also the Richard C. Shipley Professor of Management at the Questrom School of Business. “They may not be aware of how teaching has been changed by technology or how much fun they can have if they embrace these new modalities. We hope that we can inspire and energize them to adopt those new modalities themselves.”

Besides Navarre’s keynote, presentations will include a talk on using online technologies in blended and on-campus courses and another on digital humanities for the classroom.

Lorre Wolf, director of Disability Services, will speak about how video captioning and other accessibility tools help to engage all students more deeply in learning. And from BU vendor MathWorks, manager and customer success engineer Ye Cheng will explore MATLAB technologies for cloud-era education, including instant feedback in the classroom.

The goal is to avoid technology becoming an end in itself, or “hands on, minds off,” says Brad Wheeler, a Center for Teaching & Learning learning experience designer, who will moderate a faculty panel on using technology. “Our role is to find out what instructors are trying to do and find technologies that can support those larger objectives in their classes.”

BU technology experts will offer 15-minute “rocket sessions” on digital learning tools and platforms and research-based pedagogical ideas. One of the most anticipated will be instruction sessions on how to use MyMedia, the new BU video-sharing platform that works with Blackboard and Sakai systems. A BU video production team will demonstrate how a media studio operates and work with faculty on their presentation skills.

“The more you talk to faculty, the more you find out people are trying things,” says Jan Smith, DL&I communications manager. “And they’re hungry for opportunities to network with each other, as well as with us.” She says that the event is structured to accommodate those who are available to drop by for only an hour or two and that most of the short rocket sessions will be repeated morning and afternoon.

“If faculty hear from their peers that it is not so difficult, and that there is support, which is what we offer, and that there is ample light at the end of the tunnel in the form of better student outcomes and more satisfaction, we hope more of them will embrace and experiment with new ways of teaching and learning,” Dellarocas says.

The Teaching with Technology Festival is Tuesday, October 3, at the George Sherman Union, second floor, 775 Commonwealth Ave., from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Register in advance here.

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Joel Brown, Staff Writer for BU Today, Bostonia and BU Today Marketing & Communications
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

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