Summit Showcases Variety, Methods of New Technology Tools

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

Jeff Borden is an educator with a passion for finding the best ways to teach and learn. He also showed himself to be an entertainer during his Oct. 26 keynote presentation during UTEP’s 2nd annual Academic Technologies Summit in the Undergraduate Learning Center.

Borden, Ph.D., vice president of instruction and academic strategy at Colorado-based Pearson eCollege, shared a list of recognizable college syllabus classroom rules during his interactive “routine,” such as “be quiet,” “stay seated” and “only use original work,” but he turned those notions on their head by offering research results that showed the creative parts of the brain need motion and engagement.Randy Anaya, AT student success coordinator and senior media advertising major, right, explains the process of building a 3-D image to a guest at the 2nd annual Academic Technologies Summit. Photo courtesy of Bill RobertsonRandy Anaya, AT student success coordinator and senior media advertising major, right, explains the process of building a 3-D image to a guest at the 2nd annual Academic Technologies Summit. Photo courtesy of Bill Robertson

As part of his finale, the Denver-based speaker played a tape of himself strumming guitar and bass chord progressions to demonstrate how they have been “borrowed” effectively since 1790. He sang a few words from oldies to contemporary songs and had many of the 150 people in the audience joining him on such hits as The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and even the theme to 1970s sitcom “Laverne and Shirley.”

“This is what we do. It’s how we live,” Borden told his audience that was made up mostly of UTEP faculty, administrators and students representing various colleges. His point was to show how work can be – and should be – created, consumed, remixed and shared.

“When we start to look at how the brain works, when we look at education technology to further that message at scale, when we utilize cognitive psychology, suddenly we are teaching our students to be more successful and we are going to be more successful ourselves,” he said.

Borden provided a strong kickoff to this year’s summit that was focused on a wide variety of technology, its issues and best practices, and the different methods that can be used to integrate them into academic settings. The event included more than 20 presentations that showcased the four interdisciplinary Academic Technologies (AT) areas of excellence: Online Learning, Creative Studios, Learning Environments, and Teaching and Learning Laboratory.

“The summit is a way for us at Academic Technologies to welcome the UTEP community to our services. It’s an opportunity to network, but mostly an opportunity to demonstrate what we do,” said William Robertson, Ph.D., associate provost and AT director. “People come to us looking for innovation.”

In his welcoming comments, UTEP Provost Junius Gonzales expressed his admiration for the faculty-driven innovation on this campus, which is considered among the country’s most innovative when it comes to online programming.

Gonzales said the University seeks opportunities to help students access higher education, whether through the convenience of online classes or through online materials that eliminate their need to purchase expensive textbooks. Regardless of the method, he said the key is engagement.

“It’s about how we can serve the students and the region better at a very simple level,” Gonzales said.

 In between sessions, which included a 3-D cadaver dissection and gesture-based computing, participants were encouraged to browse around the UGLC’s rotunda to get a sense of AT capabilities in 3-D printing, the virtual world Second Life, and the creation of online courses and mobile applications.

Terri Storey-Gore, a lecturer in UTEP’s Developmental English Program, was there to learn more about Blackboard, a technological tool that allows teachers to add accessible online content, and anything else to enhance her classroom experience.  

“Technology is not my strong suit so I come to as many of these presentations as possible. A lot of my peers are ahead of the curve so I’m trying to catch up,” said Storey-Gore, who tries to add something different to her class every semester.

Marni Baker-Stein, chief innovation officer for the UT System’s Institute of Transformational Learning, said the interest in new academic technologies is evolving and universities witness the full spectrum of faculty from those who are pushing the innovations to others who are confident in their tried and true academic methods.

The best approach to faculty development is through individual campus programs because each one is as unique as the faculty member, said Baker-Stein, who was the afternoon keynote speaker. 

“The most important thing when working with faculty is that we know what we’re trying to do, we know how we’re trying to do it and we know why we’re doing it to align with our institutional mission so faculty can not only get behind it but lead it as well,” she said.

In her keynote address, Baker-Stein said she wanted the audience to understand the complexities of transformational learning and transformational change, and the need for focus and collaboration to do it well.

She praised the UTEP team that is working on the academic technology frontier and assembling the necessary infrastructure and training programs that support the diffusion of innovation among faculty.

John Hadjimarcou, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Marketing and Management, said he attended the summit to see how other instructors are using technology and to learn how he can incorporate more social media into his classes.

“Basically, I just like learning new things,” said Hadjimarcou, recipient of a 2013 University of Texas Board of Regents Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Those faculty members and graduate students interested in learning more about technological advancements are invited to the Academic Teachers Learning Community on the third Thursday of the month at the UGLC, and the “Black Fridays” every other week where faculty gather to discuss different Blackboard issues from beginner to advanced.