Using educational technology to enhance student learning | MIT News

Using educational technology to enhance student learning | MIT News

Improving the educational offer is a central axis of MIT, and also a priority for the training of new generations of professors of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). On July 19, about 30 postdocs and graduate students attended a digital education workshop hosted by CEE to learn about the digital education tools available to them as they prepare to teach undergraduate and graduate students, both at MIT and to other places.

The instructor, Dipa Shah of MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL), was invited by the CEE Postdoctoral Committee to provide an overview of the latest online technologies and their use to deliver content to students and provide practical students and comments.

Shah opened the workshop with an overview of the changing landscape of college education in the United States and a snapshot of the ways MIT is using digital learning. He pointed to the residence of the Institute MIx More than 90 MIT faculty and 80% of undergraduate students have used the online learning platform, which allows faculty to create interactive texts, post videos, create virtual “labs,” and assess student learning. “Some MIT professors are moving content to the MIx platform so they can go around the classroom, asking students to review the material before class and then use the class time for practice,” said Shah. “This allows students to assess where they are, relate – with their peers and relate to the teaching staff”.

“After my postdoc, I will be looking for a faculty position,” said workshop participant Sarah Safieddine, “Having knowledge of the latest digital technology techniques for teaching will also help me write a better teaching statement . how to use these techniques in my future classes.”

Through the CEE Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowships program, postdocs have the opportunity to gain teaching experience in the classroom and laboratory, and can apply some of the techniques presented in the workshop, further strengthening their professional profiles .

Training of future teachers

Shah encouraged participants to examine how technology can be leveraged to support student learning. Workshop participants used their laptops and smartphones to interact with some of the software tools he highlighted. He also told them case studies of the ways in which MIT professors are already using digital platforms in their courses.

“Even as a senior graduate student, I didn’t realize that there are such rich online educational resources at MIT that I can use to enhance my learning until I attended this workshop,” said Kai Pan, candidate for PhD in CEE and computational science engineering. “I believe that digital education is definitely the future direction of student education, or at least will serve as an important complement to the traditional approach to education. If I were to become a teacher one day, I would definitely develop the digital education materials for my class.”

The use of smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom is growing, Shah said, adding that surveys show many students own all three types of devices. “Students are asking teachers to use more technology in the classroom, but sometimes students are distracted by using it or watching their peers use it, so you have to evaluate if, when and where to add technology” .

Blended learning gets high marks

Shah continued, “Consider using a combination of traditional classroom teaching methods with digital applications,” citing recent studies indicating that combined approaches work well. “Digital tools used inside or outside the classroom can significantly enhance the learning experience by helping faculty use class time for the interactions that matter most, capturing students’ attention, and assessing their progress toward to the results of the subject”.

He also discussed the types of educational practices that help students learn, again emphasizing a combination of approaches. For example, using quizzes to encourage knowledge retrieval, spacing practice of a given concept over time, asking students deep explanatory questions, combining graphics with verbal descriptions, and connecting of abstract and concrete representations of concepts have proven to be effective and complementary.

“There are hundreds of interactive applications available for teaching, enhancing collaboration and facilitating dynamic interaction,” he added, “Try a few and see which one works for your context.”

Konrad Krakowiak, a postdoc working with Professor Franz-Josef Ulm, said he helped teach his first lab subject, 1035 (Multiscale Characterization of Materials), this past term using basic desktop presentation software such as teaching tool “I see many opportunities to explore advanced technology to improve teaching and learning,” he said. “For example, I like the idea of ​​doing online quizzes and tracking responses globally and individually, to monitor student progress. It would be great to see at a glance the percentage of the class, and of the students, who do or don’t understand the material. That way, I can move the class more efficiently and I don’t have 20 students show up during office hours with the exact same question to whom I have to repeat the exact same answer.”

Meanwhile, Krakowiak, who won an EEC Mentoring, Teaching and Postdoctoral Research Excellence Award this May, admitted he’s hesitant to adopt a technology that may not be fully ready for its implementation and use. “You have to put in some work up front to make sure the system is working 100 percent when you want to use it. You don’t want to have to take class time to troubleshoot network issues or other issues,” he said.

Shah couldn’t agree more, so he concluded the workshop by reviewing a framework for selecting and using technology. Other indirect factors, such as Wi-Fi availability and accessibility, ease of use, student security and privacy concerns and cost, should also be considered, he said, when select technology-based teaching options. In addition, Shah cautioned workshop attendees that satisfaction with an app or program is not the same as learning effectiveness, so comprehensive analyzes of outcomes should always be part of the evaluation process.

Virtual reality?

New educational technologies are particularly important for those involved in fieldwork, new types of practical subjects or design training. For example, Assistant Professor Admir Masic recently led a group of students’ summer field trip to Italy with unprecedented access to ancient art, archeology and architecture.

“I can’t just lecture on a whiteboard and expect students to remember, understand, and appreciate the wealth of knowledge, beauty, and complexities that we discovered during our fieldwork,” he said, referring to the follow-up theme of the summer program 1.S993 (Heritage Science and Technology), which he teaches this fall. “I need to document the things we saw with video, annotations, and interactive software, including creating 3D reconstructed models. I want to remind students where they were, how the structures were designed and fit into their environment, and what contribute to its resilience for centuries.”

Videos taken in the field, for example, can be edited and integrated with other content and instructor feedback to significantly enhance subsequent classroom and lab exercises. “This is exactly what I need to ensure the longevity of my teaching materials and promote greater interest and interactivity with students,” said Masic.

“It’s exciting to learn about all the new tools available for digital education,” said Professor John Williams, Chair of the CEE Postdoctoral Committee and also the CEE Digital Education Committee, who helped organize the workshop. “We intend to introduce some of the tools mentioned in the workshop in CEE’s new collaboration with MIT’s Office of Digital Learning and use some of their MIx facilities in our courses.”

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