Administration and Professors Seek to Integrate New Technology in Classes



Since 2008, Colgate has been working on increasing its use of technology in the classroom and for learning enhancement. Through faculty proposals, the help of the Information Technology and Services (ITS) staff and the Faculty Development Council, innovation has become an essential piece of many courses in varying departments.

In the fall of 2009, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Emilio Spadola used audio recorders and GarageBand software to allow students to create audio ethnographies for his “The Craft of the Anthropologic Inquiry” research class. Students used archives, conducted interviews and performed participant-observation techniques while recording their research.

“I wanted to demonstrate the challenges cultural anthropologists face when they document the lives of others ethnographically, especially as ethnographers are more and more answerable to the people they have attempted to represent,” Spadola said.

He noted that students were successful in obtaining a cultural overview of life in Hamilton, N.Y. and that two students extended their project into longer documentary pieces.

Assistant Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization Aisha Musa had a similar experience. Inspired by a faculty presentation while at a CORE retreat in May of 2012, Professor Musa decided to introduce Wikipedia editing projects to two of her religion classes that fall. During the summer, she met with the Collaboration for Enhanced Learning team in the library and began to plan projects for “Women & Religious Tradition: Islam” and “Death & Afterlife: Islam.” Professor Musa believed the project’s success was apparent in student evaluations and final reflective essays written at the end of the semester.

She said that students appreciated consuming knowledge and presenting their work for an audience outside of the professor.

Professor Musa was so pleased with the project that she is continuing Wikipedia editing in her Islamic Jurisprudence class and is requiring student podcast presentation for her course called Life of Muhammad.

One of Colgate’s newest initiatives, funded and introduced by the Faculty Development Council and President Herbst, is the iPad Pilot Project. In the spring of 2012, professors were allowed to submit proposals for iPads to be issued to students in their class. Of the eight proposals submitted, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kristin Pangallo’s Chemically-Altered & Natural Environment course and Assistant Professor of Art & Art History Wenhua Shi’s Digital Studio were selected.

“As an environmental chemistry class [the use of iPads] seemed reasonable,” Pangallo said.

Over the course of the semester, students will use the iPad’s apps to understand processes and conduct interactive activities with classmates. Although many students still bring notebooks to class, Pangallo says that a note-taking app is available through the iPad.

“The hardest thing [about using iPad in the classroom] is finding the right app,” Instructional Technologist for Division of Arts and Humanities Zlatko Grozl said.

Both Grozl and Instructional Technologist for Division of Natural Sciences Mark Hine will be periodically checking in with the professors and students to assess the use of iPads.

“In terms of the iPad pilot, only time will tell,” Hine said.

The project is brand new to Colgate, and Grozl said the main goal of the project is getting students and professors to try it out and finding the best solution for a certain problem.

So far, Professor Pangallo has noticed a few glitches with the iPad program.

“The iPad and eTextbook do not play that well together,” Pangallo said. 

Pangallo is hopeful, however that reformatting will occur in the near future. She is also one of five professors using the iClicker personal responses system for another one of her classes. Based on previous use, the iClickers are proving to be helpful in improving feedback time for student comprehension and classroom discussion.

Other faculty members and students express their apprehension about the use of technology in the classroom, as well. While Professor Musa encourages fellow faculty to use these resources, she also suggests that the university should be careful to see what really works in the classroom.

Profressor Spadola expressed his opinion on the importance of communication from these advanced technologies.

“[The use of these innovations] must include teaching students to observe and understand, in one fashion or another, the effects of digital and virtual communications even as these techniques transform consciousness and community from the inside out,” Spadola said.

Senior Class President and member of Colgate’s Student Executive Board Matthew Levitsky  stated that technology enhancement is a large concern of the board.

“One of Colgate’s greatest strengths is the quality of interaction between students and professors. I fear that a reliance on technology may weaken these interactions,” Levitsky said.

Colgate’s Director of Academic Technology Ray Nardelli,  is cautious of the introduction of new technologies to the classroom.

“ITS is mindful of this danger and attempts to focus on promoting technologies that indeed enhance faculty to student interaction and engagement,” Nardelli said.

Professor Pangallo believes it is the faculty and students’ job to go embrace innovation.

“As a scientist, you have to do the experiment.”