UT Showcases Educational Technology

KNOXVILLE — Digital video and audio, wireless networks, and interactive Web sites were among the hi-tech teaching tools demonstrated Tuesday at a University of Tennessee faculty showcase of educational technologies.

The BestPractices@ UT2000 Showcase featured faculty and technology personnel from more than 30 UT departments and colleges displaying how they use technology to support teaching and learning.

Dr. Paula Zemel, UT nutrition professor and event coordinator, said the showcase enables the UT community to exchange ideas and view model examples of technology use at its best.

“Higher education has begun an irreversible transformation, with information technology as the catalyst,” Zemel said. “The participants in this showcase highlight how technology can support and enhance teaching and learning at UT.

“Technology does not replace faculty, but it enhances teaching by providing interactive opportunities, illustrating complex concepts in a visual or simpler way, and allowing students to engage in the learning process more actively.”

UT President J. Wade Gilley has made information technology one of the university’s top priorities.

“Information technology is the force that leads many of the changes we encounter in the world around us. It is changing the way we work, the way we play, and it will change the way we learn,” Gilley said. “Universities on the cutting edge in education, research and service must be leaders in information technology.

“It is especially important that the state’s engaged, or interactive, land grant institution, with its broad public service commitment, be a national leader in information technology use and research.”

The Showcase, sponsored by the Innovative Technology
Center and the Teaching, Learning and Technology Group at UT, displayed several examples of information technology, such as Web sites, online discussion forums and multimedia, used as instructional tools by UT faculty.

Dr. Bruce Robinson, UT professor of civil and environmental engineering, demonstrated a compact disc he created to take students on a virtual tour of a wastewater treatment plant.

“The CD shows the more visual things beyond what they can see in a textbook,” Robinson said. “It does not replace the field trips, but it enhances what they learn when we do take a field trip.”

UT Law Dean Thomas Galligan showed a series of online streaming audio lectures he uses for his first-year law class each spring.

“The first year of law school is a totally different classroom experience for many students,” Galligan said. “They read cases and then have to pull out what the law is from those cases.

“Because we use the case method, many law students are starved for study aids that give them the law in a format that they can just read and absorb.”

Dr. Michael Sims, UT professor of veterinary medicine, illustrated how groups of clinicians and students at UT and Auburn University use live video and audio to interact via the Internet while reviewing, diagnosing and treating animal medical cases.

“It’s just like the students, clinicians and animals are all in the same room. The benefits are tremendous,” Sims said. “They see more rare or unusual cases. It also gives students experience in interacting with other professionals.”

Sims said veterinary medicine is a good place for interactive online technology because there are only nine vet schools in the Southeast and only 31 in North America.

“The technology also can be used to share expertise,” Sims said. “It just opens up a whole new world of communications.”