Educational Technology Pairs Students with Faculty
Unique Pilot Program Underway
Editors note: The newly created Educational Technology (ET) Partners Program pairs a faculty member with a specially trained student for one-on-one technology training. The goal is to help instructors implement educational technology effectively. This article is part one of a three-part series which will outline each phase of the ET Partners Program. In phase one (fall quarter) the ET Partners Program prepares the student partners for their winter quarter pairing with a faculty member. Preparations consist of a quarter of rigorous training.
When sophomore Elizabeth Upton came to UC Davis to major in communications and anthropology, she planned on studying differing interpersonal communication styles in order to better inform her future goals of studying and documenting global cultures. What she may not have expected is that her own communication skills might lend themselves to an entirely different occupation: helping her instructors to use educational technology. Elizabeth is one of 11 students employed by the pilot program, Educational Technology Partners program (ET Partners) initiated by Mediaworks, the instructional technology and digital media branch of Information and Educational Technology.
The ET Partners Program pairs a faculty member with a specially trained student for one-on-one technology training, with the goal of helping instructors implement educational technology effectively. "The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of instruction on this campus," says Chris Sarason, the ET Partners program manager.
Sarason and Mediaworks director Harry Matthews collaborated with UC Davis lecturer, Mary Jacob, who designed the innovative curriculum that would both follow the lead of other universities around the country that are experimenting with like programs, and improve upon these models to suit the Davis campus. Compared to other universities that are implementing this kind of program, "UC Davis stands out, because we offer the students a broader training, focusing dually on technology and interpersonal communications," Sarason explains. The strong emphasis on communications training by the Davis program is part of a concerted effort to make the technology-learning process time-effective and frustration-free for busy instructors. Sarason explains that the faculty desire to learn educational technology is everpresent, but that the process can be time-consuming and cumbersome. She hopes that when faculty members are paired with student technology users, they will see how technology can be incorporated into their teaching without frustration.
To utilize Davis students for this program is to tap a very rich resource on campus. Not surprisingly, the newest generation of UC Davis students are sharp and enthusiastic when it comes to technology. "Computers are almost a sixth sense for members of my generation," says Lenora Cheung, another of the ET students in training. Like Elizabeth, Lenora is a sophomore who is busy undergoing the fast-paced training by a collection of Mediaworks staff and Davis faculty this quarter, in preparation for the partnership with a faculty member to be arranged in the winter quarter. Students are learning the teaching- applications of basic tools such as Excel, word processing and MyUCDavis, but are also being introduced to writing skills and software programs (such as PhotoShop, PowerPoint Dreamweaver, and Fireworks) which will allow them to help faculty create course Web sites and digital lecture presentations. The other half of the thrice-weekly training sessions covers communication skills, role-playing, and problem solving scenarios.
The students in training represent a diversity of majors-everything from pre-med, to computer science, to psychology. Between the 12 students, 8 different majors are represented. Sarason explains this hiring choice: "In selecting the students, we thought the combination of their different backgrounds would create a team of students who can complement each other's strengths." Elizabeth clarifies how this dynamic plays out in the training sessions: "I have a background in communications and art, while some of the others are more technically talented. I'm the one always asking questions during the computer training, but I don't mind: I'm comfortable communicating in all different types of situations. I try to remind other students what it feels like to be a computer novice who needs the freedom to ask lots of questions." Such a perspective will likely prove invaluable when it comes time to guide faculty members through technology tools they have not yet experienced. Lenora hopes to draw from her background of tech-teaching experiences when it comes time to help out a faculty member: "The role switching will be interesting. But I've done this before both in high school with my teachers, and also at home with my Dad who has me helping him to grasp Microsoft 2000."
By the end of the quarter the students will be ready to pair up with their assigned faculty members. Sarason explains the vision for this new partnership: "We want our students to guide the mouse rather than seize it, so it is truly a meaningful learning experience and partnership." The faculty member will guide the partnership, determining the projects to be undertaken, with the student providing the support and coaching necessary to carry out the goals. Sarason notes that both faculty member and student partner will find this experience rewarding. "The role reversal will be a good experience for the students, some of whom are interested in going into teaching." Students like Elizabeth see the job as "valuable communicating experience" from which she'll always draw. She also looks forward to contributing the knowledge of technology she's acquiring to her own field of study — anthropology — in which "so much global information needs to be shared, organized and communicated via technology."
The individual rewards for the program participants (both faculty and student) are obvious. But Elizabeth and Lenora, both extremely intelligent and articulate, are quick to outline the benefits that the ET Partners Program will offer the campus as a whole. Lenora explains, "the biggest reward of this program is that many people on campus will become more educated both immediately and in the future." True to the program's intent, Elizabeth explains that widespread familiarity with technology can have meaningful results: "Technology can enhance learning, because it accommodates all the types of learners-auditory, visual, tactile, kinetic. To be able to look at an image, hear a professor discussing it, read it, see text displayed, hear sounds — all these elements will help a student absorb information and knowledge." Along with so many faculty, students, and staff on the UC Davis campus, Elizabeth says she constantly imagines how we might "enhance the learning experience." The ET Partners Program, she ventures, "will be very beneficial" in achieving this shared goal.
In the next IT Times, we'll catch up with Elizabeth and Lenora in the midst of their faculty partnership. In the meantime, find more info on the ET Partners Program by visiting http://mediaworks.ucdavis.edu (click "Educational Technology" and then go to "ET Partners") where you can also catch a glimpse of the program curriculum and the application process for Spring quarter.
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