Penn State Brandywine's spring semester is in full swing and students are hard at work in their courses, but their opportunities to learn aren't limited to textbooks and lectures. Undergraduates are working with new technology across all academic disciplines, enhancing their college experience and making it more hands-on and engaging.
One of the professors embracing technology in the classroom is Associate Professor of Earth Science Laura Guertin. Since joining the faculty at Penn State Brandywine in 2001, she has used technology as a tool to teach her students material in a more effective way.
Along with publishing several journal articles and book chapters on the use of technology in education, Guertin has presented at regional and international conferences, including Penn State's Teaching with Technology Symposium.
Guertin has also dedicated a website to her use of technology. Dr. G's Teaching with Technology Portfolio highlights examples of how she incorporates technology into her curriculum.
One of her favorite tools to use in her classes is Google Earth, which is a virtual map and geographical information program. It has the capability to show the entire Earth, its structures and topography in a three-dimensional format.
"The geographic literacy of students is declining. That's nationwide," Guertin explained. "That's not just a campus issue or just a college student issue. At the K through 12 levels, geography is just going away. My big push is to use technology to increase the geographic literacy of students from all majors."
Brandywine Instructor in Business Francis Green, who primarily teaches upper-level courses in marketing and management, uses technology in a unique way. Students in his courses are required to attend every class; however, sometimes they attend class virtually.
Green uses a program called Second Life, which is an online virtual world where users can interact with each other through avatars. An avatar is a graphical representation of the user. "Residents" of Second Life can travel the online world undertaking a number of lifelike activities, one of which is attending Green's classes.
"That's the way business is done today. Everything's electronic," Green said. "If you're not in tune with that and you're not able to adapt to the new types of technology, you're going to be left behind. Many major corporations are actually using this type of technology to hold virtual meetings."
In Asad Azemi's engineering classes, undergrads are given the knowledge and tools to not only design three-dimensional objects, but also create them with the click of a button.
Associate Professor of Engineering Asad Azemi teaches his students how to operate the campus' 3D printer, which was supplied by University Park. This groundbreaking tool allows students who have designed three-dimensional items in a computer program to "print out" the object, which is created layer by layer out of melted plastic.
This type of technology not only gives Brandywine engineering students hands-on experience when modeling three-dimensional objects, it could impact the U.S. manufacturing and medical industries.
"This kind of equipment will help us to enhance our engineering courses and keep up with the innovations that are being introduced and implemented by other institutions," Azemi said. "It offers a tool that allows people to express their creativity by designing an object and then seeing its prototype, which is very much functional."