Senate talks classroom technology

Cynthia Golden speaks at the University Senate meeting. Will Miller | Staff Photographer

The Educational Policies Committee of Pitt’s University Senate is exploring different avenues to incorporate new technology, such as virtual reality and smartphones, into Pitt’s classrooms.

At the Committee’s meeting on Monday, representatives from the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education — a staff and student organization working to promote innovation in teaching — proposed new ideas for long-term planning.

Cynthia Golden, the director of CIDDE, and Michael Arenth, the director of classroom and media services for CIDDE, said some of those ideas include a virtual reality oculus models along with 3-D printing, gesture-based computing and cloud-based clicker systems.

Golden and Arenth proposed these gadgets as part of the educational technology portion of their presentation.

Arenth hopes to bring virtual reality to Pitt classrooms, but does not know when it will be possible. The new technology will enhance students’ learning experience by bringing the material to life instead of falling flat on a PowerPoint. He explained how a student could use her iPhone for virtual reality.

“Users first have to download the app that is associated with virtual reality. You place your iPhone into the slit of the cardboard. The built-in oculus device allows you to virtually experience the [particular] subject students are learning,” Arenth said.

Arenth also said CIDDE plans to introduce cloud-based student response systems, so students can use phones in place of iClickers, which are a separate device that students must purchase. Arenth said the Center didn’t have a set date when it would introduce the new systems.

Golden said students, faculty and staff can visit room B10 in Alumni Hall, where they are currently stored, to try the new technologies.

Golden also plans to host new faculty orientations, create diversity in curriculum — for example, by offering more LGBTQ+ specific courses — and open workshops for faculty.

In regard to University services, Golden announced that the University will showcase the work of University photographers in a gallery inside the William Pitt Union on March 30. Other projects include running a pilot for wireless sharing and hosting a Destination Diversity lunchtime series, which is an array of presentations delivered by experts and researchers, on diversity-related topics for faculty.

CIDDE is currently working with the School of Nursing to develop educational planning, which will include scenarios to better assess skills. According to Golden, CIDDE hopes to finish development this spring.

The center also plans to hold workshops to help professors teach effectively in a large classroom setting.

Last fall, the center helped renovate lecture rooms in David Lawrence Hall to help students see and hear the professor and projector screen from any part of the room and to allow chairs to rotate to ease small group work.

“So far, we have conducted surveys for students and faculties about these renovations. We have received positive feedback,” Golden said.

Arenth said the University should begin implementing virtual reality and the other devices into classrooms at Pitt to follow in primary schools’ footsteps.

“K-12 students are already using these oculus devices. Since they will be our future students, the University should begin using these devices as well,” Arenth said.

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