Published on April 27, 2017
Four members of the MU community have been recognized for using technologies to advance teaching and learning. Faculty members Michael Volz, Alexandria Lewis, staff member Derrick Fogle, and teaching assistant Kyle Stiers have been honored with Educational Technologies at Missouri’s 2016 Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award. Each winner received a $750 award to be applied toward educational technology teaching-related expenses.
Michael Volz, an assistant teaching professor of Chinese in the Department of German and Russian Studies, uses technology to help his students analyze and learn Chinese words. He received the Undergraduate Teaching Award.
“It is important to recognize technology’s limits as well as its possibilities,” Volz said. “Misused, it can hinder the learning process as much as help it. I hope that my use of technology in teaching can both simplify and deepen the learning process for students.”
To permit students to learn about the components of Chinese characters and to test themselves on new words specific to classroom material, Volz received ET@MO’s Teaching with Technology Innovation Fund to develop a flashcard application, IC Words, using FileMaker Pro. Unlike many other language learning tools, this application focuses on the greatest challenges in learning the language – in this case, memorizing the thousands of unique Chinese characters and understanding the components that make up the characters. With the help of this technology, Volz’s students can also look up words in the application, see the meanings of the words and see the phonetic transliteration of the pronunciations.
“Students who use IC Words have said they like the simple interface and the convenience of being able to study the words easily at any time,” said Tim Langen, a member of the Department of German and Russian Studies who nominated Volz. “The app empowers students, encouraging them to become more active language learners.”
Alexandria Lewis, a clinical instructor in the School of Social Work, received the Graduate and Professional Teaching Award.
Lewis joined the School of Social Work in July, 2015. Lewis is committed to enhancing the learning experience of students in the online classroom. Her passion with educational technology and online learning led her to take additional course work to receive an Online Educator Information Graduate Certificate in 2014 and an Educational Specialist degree in information science and learning technologies with an Online Educator emphasis in May 2016. She also earned her master’s in social work (MSW) in 2005.
An instructional challenge Lewis faces when developing online courses is how to provide “lecture” content to students in meaningful ways.
“The online classroom is similar to the face-to-face classroom in that there should be some level of instructor content,” Lewis said.
Her strategy for this challenge is to use digital lessons as a way to facilitate the learning experience of students. Lewis proposed using SoftChalk in three of her Social Work courses and received money from ET@MO’s Teaching with Technology Innovation Fund to incorporate SoftChalk digital lessons as part of her online classes.
“When developing course content, I always ask myself, ‘what can I offer to students as part of their learning that they cannot do on their own,’” Lewis said. “It is important to have different learning opportunities for students to engage with their weekly course content.”
“Alex has proven to be not only a valuable asset to the School of Social Work, but also for the whole campus as several other online programs will be adopting her comprehensive approach to the orientation process for new students,” said Dale Fitch, director of the MU School of Social Work.
Derrick Fogle, technology resource coordinator for the Academic Support Center, has helped make “walk and teach” possible in large lecture classrooms by using Apple TV on the touch panel.
“It has made it possible for instructors to better interact with the students,” said Joseph Snow, an electronics technician at the Academic Support Center.
Fogle also helps ensure that the centrally scheduled classrooms are easy to operate. He provides extensive support on high quality Tegrity lecture recording and makes sure that projectors, microphones, video cameras and sound systems all work smoothly together for instructors.
As a teaching assistant in biochemistry, Kyle Stiers worked with Professor Lesa Beamer and Assistant Teaching Professor Chris Lee to develop a new teaching module for an existing undergraduate level, advanced laboratory course for seniors.
“Ultimately, Kyle is the individual who brought all of this project together and found ways for it to fit into and enhance the existing curriculum by linking experiments together that were otherwise disconnected. He was an integral part of the brainstorming and curriculum design to fit the types of experiments we needed to add into the curriculum,” said Lee, who teaches the lab class. “Without his original ideas and identification of key resources to bring into the teaching labs, none of the addition would have been possible.”
One application of technology that Stiers helped bring to the class is PyMOL, a molecular graphics program that allows the students to clearly visualize and compare molecular details of large biological molecules. He developed the tutorial and provided applications for utilizing the software, and worked directly with the students to prepare them for creating models from their own data.
“My goal for this module was to really bring structural biology to the forefront of how students think about molecular processes. The best way to do this, from both an engagement and teaching standpoint, is to have students operate the same cutting-edge technology that structural biologists use,” Stiers said. “Many of the students told me that it was one of their favorite things they did all semester, and some were even inspired to add structural components to their future work – which is by far the most rewarding part for me.”
Stiers also made possible unprecedented use of the synchrotron facility in Berkeley, CA, which houses the world’s most powerful x-ray beam line to date, by using Skype. Through the virtual tour, the students were able to observe how the protein crystals they grew in the lab diffract under the exposure of the high-energy x-ray beam at the synchrotron facility, and were able to collect real-time molecular structural data remotely.
Learn more about the Excellence in Teaching with Technology Awards and nomination process here .