Anatomy of Academic Technology Support

When faculty think of our Academic Technology unit I suspect their mind races right to questions about how to solve a technology conundrum. Sure, that’s part of it but faculty can really benefit from our expertise and our broad experience.  We’ve worked with, collaborated with, completed projects for, and listened and learned from hundreds of faculty who have brought us unique instructional challenges. Some of those challenges are easily resolved but the tough ones are disguised as “solvable with technology”. The hard problems always have to do with the faculty perception that their design isn’t the problem; it’s the technology that’s not letting them get the result they want. It’s easy to understand why this happens since they’ve taught using the same or similar methodology multiple times and it’s been pretty successful. If technology would just let them do “X” then everything would be perfect.

When we work with faculty we’ll start with a standard question: “what are you trying to do”? It’s a simple question but it supports a conversation about the strategies and the motivation behind the design approach. This is where the collaboration begins. The benefit to faculty is it encourages them to talk through the process with an unbiased and non-judgmental person. We ask questions. They explain. We offer suggestions. Remember, we’ve worked with hundreds of faculty and have a lot of experience with good ideas and can spot a poor idea a mile away.

Here’s the thing: faculty tend to get stuck doing the same things the same way. In fact, many may have the experience building courses, but basically it’s the same course a hundred times rather than a hundred different courses.

So my message to faculty is this: the AT unit can help solve technology problems but we’re also adept at addressing instructional challenges that have nothing to do with tech and everything to do with design.

Drop by and visit us in our new location at Cheshire House. We would love to talk with you about your courses.

The Secret Revolution

Twitter, Jing, Google Sites, and SmartPens were just a few of the technologies showcased at last month’s Secret Revolution Faculty Showcase. The turnout was good and the feedback was even better. But what was it that raised enough curiosity to have people jazzed up about applications as simple as Jing?


Let’s reframe the focus from: Twitter, Jing, Google Sites, and SmartPens and instead focus on  engagement, feedback, collaboration, and explanation. Technology enables all of this to occur but not until it’s framed around classroom practice does the utility become so obvious. Take for instance, the use of Jing, a free screencasting tool that allows users to capture up to 5 minutes of audio and video of their computer screen. When it was presented as a tool for providing student feedback on written assignments the room began to buzz with possible ways it could be used in various disciplines. Broadcast Journalism Professor, Chad Nye, saw immediate application and is now using it to give his students precise feedback on student produced video clips. With Jing he is able to focus students attention to a peaked audio track while also sharing ideas for better shot selection. This kind of individualized feedback was nearly impossible to do in written form.

Technologies like Twitter and Smartpens aren’t a secret and they’re not even that revolutionary but when re-framed around student feedback and engagement, the possibilities seem like they are.

CELT did capture some of the presentations and have posted them here.

Using EverNote

Instructional Technologist Judy Brophy found a great post about how one academic is using Evernote for serious writing, and I thought that our group might be interested in his process.

A Method for Using Evernote for Serious Writing

This method of approaching writing with Evernote takes advantage of the application’s structured organizational system. While this might seem restrictive, it’s also a tremendously powerful mechanism for dividing up a larger project. Here’s one method for organizing your thoughts as during the writing process: Continue reading “Using EverNote”