At the end of last semester, from November 30 to December 2, three Kennesaw State Communication professors traveled to Berlin, Germany, to attend a conference focused on online and technology-enhanced learning. This was the second year that Dr. Philip Aust, Dr. Jake McNeill, and Dr. Barbara Gainey attended the Online EDUCA conference. Along with over 2,000 participants from more than 100 countries, they attended workshops and lectures, networking with professionals interested in making education more engaging and accessible.
This year KSU hosted a Learning Café for conference-goers, with professors conducting ten to fifteen minute mini workshops focused on an element of technology in which they had expertise. As the Mobile Learning Coordinator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. McNeill focused on different devices used in mobile learning, a tool that is being implemented in several classes at KSU this semester.
In fact, much of the technology discussed at KSU’s Learning Café was explained using examples of the particular tool’s use in Communication classes. Dr. Gainey’s segment on Cloud Computing, for example, was presented as a case study of how the tool was used on campus for the benefit of KSU students. Cloud Computing at KSU developed from a need to simplify and streamline as classes became overcrowded. Now students are able to go to computer labs and access software through a central server, either on a lab computer or their own laptops. The result is a large savings on licensing and less maintenance on individual computers. These benefits, Dr. Gainey predicts, will cause a shift toward Cloud Computing over time.
Dr. Aust, who served as the Chairperson for the session, led his workshop on the software program Aviary, an editing tool that can be extremely useful in the classroom. The software is completely free, available to the general public, and offers a wide range of editing capabilities including photo, audio, and vector editing. Aviary even has a program specifically for education-related purposes, meaning that all material is safe to use in a classroom setting. Surprisingly, only a very small percentage of those that attended his workshop had even heard about the program, a fact attributed to the wide range of experience and technological expertise of conference attendees.
This diversity of conference-goers, spanning both the globe and various professional fields, proved to be one of the most beneficial aspects of attending the conference, according to all three Kennesaw State professors. The convergence of public, corporate, and academic sectors at the conference offered an opportunity to learn even more about up-and-coming technology. Dr. Gainey was able to attend a conference on Global Security and Defense, while Dr. Aust visited workshops focused on the corporate sector. As Dr. McNeill notes, technology used in education was often developed for a different purpose. Mobile Delivery Engines, for example, were first used in corporations.
The ability to work across sectors and across borders allowed participants to see the different needs, challenges, and innovations that various countries and companies have with regards to education. Each professor reiterates that no matter what the field, there are commonalities in the way we use of technology.
Posted: January 30, 2012