February 7, 2006
Technology grant puts human factor into
computers, and computers outdoors
When you think about the great outdoors, you
don't necessarily envision laptop computers
But as Penn State DuBois wildlife students
are learning, technology is a valuable tool
when recording data in the field. And in a
unique partnership, wildlife students are
learning to implement technology, taught by
information science technology students at
Penn State DuBois.
The proposal to use students to teach other
students was conjured by Instructor in
Wildlife Technology Keely Roen and
Instructor in Information Science Technology
Jason Long. IST students have created a
training program, will train the wildlife
students, then will continue to provide
technical support for this semester's
Wildlife Management Techniques course.
For Long, the partnership also meant the
opportunity for his students to learn
something he couldn't necessarily teach –
the human factor.
"I can teach my students how to configure a
computer system, how to do coding, and all
that fun tech-y part of the I.T. world,"
Long explained. "But part of the customer
service end is dealing with people. When you
are working the support line and the
customer says my computer doesn't work,
well, where do you go from there? What
questions do you ask?"
The innovative approach won Penn State
DuBois a $75,000 Hewlett-Packard Technology
for Teaching grant. Tablet personal
computers, digital cameras and an LCD
projector were purchased for the students to
use. The idea for the wildlife course, Roen
said, is to transform one course and
integrate technology to enhance learning of
a concept. But for Long's students, the
project provides the opportunity to support
real-life technology users.
"Our wildlife students are not necessarily
technology savvy," Roen said. "In the
workforce, you need to know how to be
computer literate. And that means being able
to enter, manipulate and analyze data."
Having a field computer will also make it
easier for the students to learn, Roen
theorizes. For example, when students are
learning about bird songs, she will play the
songs in the classroom. When the students
then go out in the field to identify birds
by sound, they previously had to rely on
their memories to make a positive
identification. With the tablet PCs, the
students can upload the bird songs and
listen to them again in the field to compare
with what they are hearing.
In another lab, students have been catching,
tagging and releasing snakes, using one
paper master list to record data. Roen found
it was difficult to keep the master list up
to date when numerous students were
collecting data. With a shared Excel file,
students can be assured that when they log
on to record, they are seeing the latest
Long's students have created the training
package and have trained the wildlife
students, and will now support the wildlife
students just as they would for a customer.
"We have to keep them happy," Long said.
Penn State University's Schreyer's Institute
for Teaching Excellence is also supporting
the joint endeavor. Roen and Long presented
their project Feb. 1-3 at the
Hewlett-Packard Technology for Teaching
Conference in Monterey, Calif.