UC academics, administrators collaborate over technological student engagement at 1-day summit

Jessica Gleason/Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — UC academics and administrators gathered Friday to discuss ways to engage students through technology and to plan how these technologies could revolutionize UC education for the next three to five years.

The one-day conference, titled UC Engage, began with a keynote from UC President Janet Napolitano and featured various in-depth panel discussions. During these sessions, academics shared their preferred apps for teaching and also presented their own research on learning with technology in and out of the classroom.

“Instead of monitoring (students) and policing them to not to use technology, I told them how to use technology,” said Juliette Levy, an associate professor of history at UC Riverside.

Levy encourages students to live-tweet lectures, and through a class hashtag on Twitter, she is able to gauge their understanding of and response to the course material. Clarifications are posted on Piazza, an application for students and instructors to interact via question and answer.

“Lectures are the most boring, passive, uninteresting part of our job,” Levy said during the session. “In an 80-minute lecture, you’re not going to get 80 minutes’ worth of knowledge.”

Other ways of dynamic teaching, according to Levy, include using video lectures in which students can only proceed after answering periodic questions. The generated analytics from these videos reveal how quickly students answer, how often they rewind the lectures or whether they watch them at all, she said.

At UC Berkeley, education doctoral students Jennifer DiZio and John Scott are creating Collabosphere, a multimedia application designed for navigating curriculum content through various media such as short video lectures, images or student-produced artifacts such as memes.

According to Scott, memes function as “highly modular units that connect us to culture” because they circulate through complex social networks.

Online education, however, is still considered problematic for students who prefer traditional learning environments. While online education websites, such as Massive Open Online Courses, increase access to education, these environments lack the personalized learning experience for certain students.

“How can we cultivate curiosity if we can’t see face-to-face?” said Greg Niemeyer, an art practice associate professor at UC Berkeley, during a panel discussion on UC technological innovations in the classroom.
According to Niemeyer, peer-to-peer feedback and ownership of the classroom by verbally engaging with the class are needed to stimulate student curiosity.

“When we learn, we transform, and we don’t know who we’re going to be yet,” he said during the session. “When learning, we are amorphous beings. We change shape.”

Other panels focused on how popular social media platforms benefit and impact student life. Attendees also discussed how analytics and big data projects, for example, affect student experiences and success.

Contact Lydia Tuan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tuanlydia.