By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief
Grand Rapids Community College opened its doors to 65 faculty from over 14 colleges around the state to attend the Educational Technology Organization of Michigan (ETOM) conference to learn to better use technology in the classroom.
“Technology used to be a tool but now it’s a way to communicate,” Ric Underhile, Associate Dean of Instructional Support and Interdisciplinary Studies at GRCC, said. “Technology is not an option anymore, it’s just the way it is.”
Kimberly Rosario is a 3rd year student at Grand Rapids Community College who finds technology in the classroom to be helpful for learning.
“I’m a visual learner so the use of Youtube videos, photos and websites is very good,” Rosario said. “The use of lab tops in the classroom allows for easier access to information which is also very helpful.”
The conference was held to help teach faculty how to use technology as it continues to advance which can make it daunting to some.
“There is no better time to think about the many different ways to embrace the students,” Underhile said in reference to the different technological options there are today. He did however mention that himself and others sometimes do get overwhelmed. “I sometimes feel overwhelmed with how many different tools there are. It’s like opening a cabinet and finding 65 spices to cook with.”
Ronald Betzig is a faculty member at Jackson Community College who attended the conference and explained the importance of taking the time to understand and use technology to relate and establish trust with students.
“If you can’t connect and speak with students then it limits your effectiveness as an instructor,” Betzig said. “Part of establishing trust in the classroom is about being able to speak the student’s language with technology. If I take the time to learn their language, that will build their trust in the classroom.”
One improvement stressed by guest speaker Linda Henderson, Academic Dean at Northwood University, in regards to on-line material had to do with consistency of materials.
“When students enter a building, they know where the classroom is,” Henderson said. “The same should be said for on-line classes. Everything should be consistent with the on-line form of the class. This includes Blackboard and the syllabus.”
The conference was broken down into four break-out sessions taught be faculty and staff from area colleges and universities that provided those in attendance with 15 different class options.
Topics covered in the break-out sessions ranged from how to improve the use of Discussion Boards, how to better engage students on-line, the use of phones and tablets in class, and ways to teach mathematics on-line.
The ETOM organization, which is run by Craig Peterson, was established in the 1980’s and has trained over 450 faculty and staff since 2006.