From Showroom to Classroom: Advancing Technology in Education

by Kayla Johnston ’16

Imagine walking into a classroom on the first day of school, and instead of waiting for the professor to take attendance, a retinal scanning device identifies you as you pass through the door. It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, yet technological advancements like this are already being implemented in classrooms around the world.

Azusa Pacific University’s Office of Innovative Teaching and Technology (ITT) and Information and Media Technology (IMT) joined forces, along with professors from several departments, to highlight emerging trends in technology through a three-day event, Teaching in the Digital Classroom, held October 14-16.

“Our goal is to equip the staff and faculty with leading technology in order to further equip the students we serve,” said Mike Truong, Ph.D., executive director for ITT. With that mission in mind, the two offices gathered department leaders, professors, and experts in the field together for a technology showcase, including hands-on displays and a series of question-and-answer sessions.

Tech specialists from Intelli-Tech, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard joined the conversation on Friday, October 16, seeking to equip the APU community with greater knowledge of the technology available to enhance the educational experience.

“We want to teach you how to use these products, so that you can go on to teach your staff, and eventually implement them throughout your campus,” said Brett Hollingwood of Intel during Friday’s Q&A session. “The best part of my job is seeing the light bulb go off in your head, as I put these tools in front of you and watch you realize the exciting potential they hold.”

The showcase featured several products on the market that are breaking down barriers in the traditional classroom. A three-dimensional computer screen allowed users wearing 3D glasses to pick up a stylus and move objects across the screen. Its applications include possibilities for professionals in the medical field to achieve close-up views and improved measurements at the flick of a wrist.

Additionally, a “one-button studio” booth invited users to step in front of a camera, insert a USB flash drive, and press a large, illuminated button to record videos that are then instantly saved to the flash drive. “We are hoping to add the one-button studio to our on-campus libraries,” said Andy Vivanco, director of IMT Media Services. “It would be a great way for teachers to record lectures or students to record study sessions to send to their classmates.”

Other technology on display included a telepresence robot, a 3D scanner and printer system, wireless projection technology, and HP’s interactive “Sprout” computer.

APU is continually working to keep classroom technology at the forefront, an effort that encompasses the recent remodeling of Wilden Hall. Over the summer, the building was restructured, creating a new lecture hall, and with it, new technology available to students and faculty. In the revamped lecture hall, professors now utilize a smart-board system that allows them to digitally share anything they write on the board to their students with a simple link.

In addition, outside each Wilden classroom, a small interactive screen displays the time, date, and name of the class currently meeting in the room. More than just providing helpful signage for students, an advanced feature is also available to staff and faculty. Rather than contacting multiple offices and clearing dates with various departments to reserve a specific room, the screens allow users to make streamlined room reservations at the touch of a button. If the room is open, a green light emanates from the device, and if a room is in use, red.

In utilizing these advanced tools, the university reinforces technology-driven learning in its own classrooms, while current and future education leaders also receive integrated training through programs such as the M.A. in Educational Technology. Educators in the master’s degree program gain in-depth skills to implement technology in their K-12 classrooms, creating innovative and engaging learning experiences for all students.

According to research conducted by ITT, blended learning experiences increase time spent “on task” in the classroom. “The more students are exposed to course content and are able to live it through technology, the better they are going to do in class,” said Ann Kwinn, Ph.D., director of instructional strategy for ITT. “As we increasingly integrate technology into classrooms, it becomes more natural and ultimately leads to an enhanced learning experience.”