Dr. Jefferey Witt
Uses Faculty Technology Grants to Promote Student Discourse
When Dr. Jeffrey Witt of the Philosophy department needed an alternative to Moodle’s forum capabilities, he turned to Discourse. Unlike Moodle, Discourse allows users to view posts by category, see related posts and integrate outside material to the message thread. The appeal of Discourse is its “frictionless,” approach: students can tag other students, similarly to social media platforms, and posts update in real time.
Implementing this kind of second-nature, highly optimized software alongside the Loyola Management System took some server power; Discourse requires server space and a domain name. Dr. Witt, who utilized his own domain name, worked with the Faculty Technology Center (FTC) in conjunction with a Faculty Technology Grant to fund the project’s server space for the year.
With Discourse up and running, both the Honors Ethics class and a first year Foundations of Philosophy class engaged in weekly posts and comments to actively prepare for class. Dr. Witt and his students noted an improved “user-experience” with the new web-based platform.
One senior from Honors Ethics 300 enjoyed how intuitive the technology was: “The [Discourse] platform felt like another social media application I would check regularly anyway.”
Dr. Witt notes that Discourse is not meant to be a replacement for Moodle, but his experience with the FTC’s adaptive services paves the way for professors to select their own ideal tools and receive support.
Check out These Grants for Faculty: Technology Research Grant | Faculty Technology Grant
Professors Lisa Oberbroeckling and Mili Shah
Mathematics and Statistics
In 2014 two Math and Stats professors, Lisa Oberbroeckling and Mili Shah, applied for and won Faculty Technology Grants from the Faculty Technology Center. The funding allowed them to bring iPads into their Loyola classrooms. Today, both agree that the iPads increase “productivity, accessibility with students, and our effectiveness in teaching.”
In class they incorporate the iPad as a presentation device—one that works in conjunction with the classroom projectors. The devices help them to easily create online notes and Padcasts. This functionality is especially useful to students who must miss a class session.
These innovative professors also leverage mobile applications that help illustrate complex concepts for their students. Most notable and useful, is the Desmos app. This tool is essentially a graphing calculator that animates solutions. Desmos increased their ability to show students calculations, equations, graphs, and animated problem-solving while teaching complex math. The animation capability builds the students’ intuition and understanding of key mathematical concepts by showing them in real-time.
Professors Oberbroeckling and Shah are happy with the iPads and believe for them to be a “great asset” in their daily teaching activities, both in and out of the classroom.
Faculty Technology Grants are available for Loyola faculty who want to experiment with technology in their teaching. We don’t draw the line at iPads. The purpose of this grant is to encourage faculty to explore educational technologies to enhance the effectiveness of their courses, and to enable them to support their peers in their endeavors to adopt appropriate technology in teaching and learning.
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