UH classroom technology integration prepares students for 21st century

The University of Houston maintains offices that are tasked with integrating technology in the classroom. Ed Mayberry reports.

Things have come a long way since the days of the overhead projector.  The University of Houston's Teaching With Technology Group works with faculty to integrate technology into the classroom.  The university's Madhuri Kumar says the idea is to foster interaction between faculty and students.

"Be it interaction with content, be it interaction among students, or interaction with instructors.  So depending upon the discipline that's being taught and learned, they're various different ways in which the same technologies can be leveraged to achieve different outcomes." 

Ed: "And then you customize according to what those needs are?"

"Exactly.  Exactly."

Making full use of technology also prepares the student for life in the real business world, according to Kumar.

"Since the U.S. moved from being a manufacturing economy to a service economy, I mean, why would you want to memorize information when all you need to know is where to find it?  I mean, that kind of skill set is what the 21st century student needs to be successful in the real world."

Students are already accustomed to life on the Web, as the university's Dawn Shaw explains.

"They want that 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access because they're used to that with every other service that they get.  You're not waiting in long lines with a pen and paper, trying to get your classes, and things like that.  And what students can do is they can go in at the Student Service Center, they can pay their bills on line, they can set up installment plans, they can sign up for classes, they can meet with an advisor.  They can pretty much, it's like a student portal for all of those services.  They can do it remotely."

An instructional design team helps professors integrate technology into their teaching, as Madhuri Kumar explains.

"Most of the students are working at least 30 hours or more.  They're commuting to the campus at least ten miles on an average.  And so getting to campus for out-of-class activities is not always possible and convenient and flexible for our students.   So online technologies—you know, discussion forums, chat boards, Web conferencing systems—these are all leveraged to provide students the avenues to meet outside class and work on team projects.  That's just an example of what can be achieved with technology."

The boundaries of time and space are increasingly diminishing because of these technologies.  That helps people like Dawn.

"Well, in the College of Technology, I'm taking a class there and I'm able to remote in every class that we have.  So I raise two young kids at home and I've got a full-time job, so (if) I want to learn at nine o'clock at night, I can.  I can go to my class, I can access my teacher in those ways."

Demographic trends have been shifting away from the traditional, on-campus residential student.  And the breadth and depth of change because of the Internet and the global economy are having a profound effect on higher education's effort to prepare graduates for the 21st century.

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Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...