New Presidential Fellow Seeks to Tech-up Teaching and Learning

Oct. 1, 2014 -- Kat Flies, CNM’s 2014 Presidential Fellow for Instructional Technology, is spending the next year exploring new ways to make the teaching and learning experience at CNM more technology-rich.
July 16, 2015

“Using mobile devices and other technologies as part of curriculum comes with challenges,” Flies said. “Some instructors are eager to use them and are self-training. Others, not so much.”

As a Presidential Fellow, she will not be teaching this year. Instead, she will focus her time on the use of new technology in the classroom. She has already begun the process of implementing iPads in labs, as well as math and large science courses. She also plans to offer workshops at different campuses and at various times for instructors. Some of these workshops will involve hands-on training in specific software that can make faculty’s preparation and teaching experience more efficient and productive, while in other workshops, instructors will learn how to incorporate mobile devices into their classes. 

The School of Math, Science & Engineering recently purchased about 48 iPads for lecture classes at Main Campus and another 48 for lecture classes at Westside Campus. This is in addition to the Biology Department’s purchase of 24 iPads for Anatomy and Physiology labs at both the Main and Westside campuses. The biology iPads are loaded with special Apps showing images of human anatomy in great detail.

Flies is responsible for the four iPad carts that are configured and managed with the help of MacBook Pros. Two of these carts with iPads are used in the anatomy and physiology lab and at MSE lectures on Main Campus; the other two are at the Westside Campus, where Flies’ office is located.

The Apps in the iPads for labs provide additional and important learning material that will help students better understand the subject matter.

Getting the new mobile devices ready for use in the classroom has had its issues, Flies said. Even something seemingly as simple as moving the iPads and carts to different campuses became a challenge.

“They’re computer-like devices so you just can’t use Shipping and Receiving,” Flies said. “Instead, ITS was given the responsibility for delivery of the carts.”

Also, all the iPads needed to be tagged, labeled and have a cover added, and the iPad carts would have to be moved from the classrooms to storage after they were used by students. After much deliberation, it was agreed that Audio Visual Services would take over those tasks.

More importantly, instructors have varying degrees of understanding on how to use the mobile devices and incorporate them in the classroom. Some are very tech savvy. Many are not. Part of Flies’ job is to come up with an easy standard training program that she can use to train faculty in workshops. She’s working on that now.                      

Eventually, Flies hopes to further support the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) project that Brian Sailer, last year’s Presidential Fellow for Distance Learning, developed. In its pilot phase, about five instructors have designed their course curricula based on all students being able to bring their own mobile device of choice to class.

“In some of my classes it’s been my experience that 100 percent of the students already have laptops, iPads and smart phones,” she said. “So supporting Sailer’s BYOD project at CNM shouldn’t be hard to accomplish.”

Another of her tasks is to expand the Ed Tech Center idea initiated by David Valdes, last year’s Presidential Fellowship for Innovation. The Ed Tech Center would be an informal place on Main Campus where faculty can drop in and learn about technology through hands-on activities. It would consist of a device display room and a classroom – all geared for faculty.

 Yet another task for the year ahead is to research the possibility of students getting online textbooks through OpenStaxCollege.org, a nonprofit organization located at Rice University that makes available free open-source, peer-reviewed and high-quality textbooks to instructors and their students.

She also plans to explore the possibility of offering Google accounts to faculty members. Since students have Google accounts as their official CNM email system, Flies believes it would be much easier for faculty members to share information if they had Google accounts as well.

“Our president wants CNM to be at the forefront of technology,” Flies said. “I support that. In order for us to reach that goal successfully, we need to have a clear plan on how to implement new technology. This requires open dialogues between ITS and all Schools under Academic Affairs, as well as libraries and AVS across all campuses.”