Conference rewards

by David Hyland

Sitting idly at a display showing off his hard work digitizing old archaeology photos, frustration gripped Kent Bakken.
Despite his effort exerted converting the slides for an Internet site, people paid more attention to the out-dated slide projector Bakken’s work made obsolete.
“It’s proven more interesting than this computer,” he said. “Everyone’s got one of these.”
Bakken’s exhibit was part of the Technology Enhanced Learning Conference and Exhibition held Wednesday at Coffman Union. Conference organizers aimed to both display and recognize the work of University instructors for their work in weaving technology and education.
Along with an awards ceremony, the conference showcased almost 80 exhibits to complement two special presentations and a panel discussion.
“This event, in many ways, symbolizes the progress we’re making.” said Robert Bruininks, University executive vice president and provost. “We’re really talking about something that’s going to affect our lives.”
Although the majority of attendees came from the University, people from the private industry and K-12 schools across the state also signed up.
The conference began in the morning with an awards ceremony in which the University honored 23 instructors and researchers for using technology in their work.
Awards were handed out for work in everything from teaching Latin using interactive television to collaborating with students from Norway via the Internet.
After the awards, state Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, gave a keynote speech detailing the impact of technology on learning and education institutions and emphasizing the institutional changes such progress requires.
Kelley said higher education institutions should “take time out of education” by not focusing on deadlines in classes or a student’s year in school. Such boundaries are a “limiting factor on what can be accomplished,” he said.
Technology will allow students to take classes on their own time through programs like distance education, Kelley said.
To demonstrate these sweeping changes, more than 100 University instructors displayed their projects in Coffman’s Great Hall.
Exhibits ranged from CD-ROMs about anthropology to a computer program to test students’ foreign language abilities.
The exhibits also featured the latest in interactive technology, specifically laptop computer video conferencing and Internet video streaming.
In conjunction with the exhibits, the conference also featured a panel discussion and two presentations to encourage instructors to include technology into their work.
While one presentation discussed the success stories of using technology to aid learning — specifically by documenting the evolution of the designs for online courses — the second focused on software availability.
Overall, organizers said the conference demonstrated the myriad possibilities technology offers higher education.
“This shows once you get engaged with it, what can be done,” said Sue Engelmann, project manager for both the Technology Enhanced Learning initiative and the Virtual University. She helped organize the conference along with Shih-Pau Yen, director of Academic and Distributed Computing Services.
Engelmann said she hopes the conference will help establish partnerships between researchers within the University, as well as in private sector and K-12 schools.
“I’d want people to be able to say that this University is on the cutting edge of using technology to really help learners learn,” Engelmann said. “That’s what we’re here for.”