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Educators learn best practices with technology

BOONE—More than 115 educators from across the state gathered at Appalachian State University July 13 to learn best practices for using technology in the classroom.

View larger imageSteve Breiner, director of learning technology services at Appalachian State University, opens Appalachian’s Summer freeLearning Conference on campus. More than 115 people registered for the event. (Photo by Linda Coutant)
View larger imageMegan Johnson, a librarian at Appalachian State University, leads a session during the Summer freeLearning Conference on campus. (Photo by Linda Coutant)

This is the second year Appalachian has hosted the Summer freeLearning Conference for higher education instructors, faculty members, technologists and administrators for a day to learn and discuss emerging technologies and how to use them effectively.

“Technology is not the answer; it’s a tool, and if used well it can be a tool that really engages students. The goal of the conference is to see what other people are doing and how they’re using technology effectively in their teaching,” said Emory Maiden III, an instructional developer in Appalachian’s Learning Technology Services Department, which hosted the event.

Topics addressed included distance learning, hybrid courses that combine online learning with face-to-face activities, e-portfolios, team-based learning and community building in the virtual world, as well as the incorporation of electronic testing, social media and QR codes into instruction.

“Students coming to campus are comfortable using technology and they expect an element of that in the classes they take in college,” Maiden said.

While some technology, like Facebook and Twitter, can be egocentric, other forms such as online discussion boards used in coursework allow students to develop the collaboration and communication skills needed in today’s workplace, said Gordon Hensley, a faculty member in Appalachian’s Department of Theatre and Dance professor. He delivered an opening address.

“As educators, you set the scene and design the framework (for using technology in the classroom),” he said. “If students learn in a collaborative environment, they are more likely to become good collaborators.”

Session leaders represented N.C. State University, Appalachian, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, Iredell-Statesville Schools, Stanly Community College and Wake Technical Community College. The majority of participants came from Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh and points further east with many representing the faculty and staff of Appalachian.