Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of occasional features provided by the UCCS Teaching and Learning Center to encourage faculty to share ideas about teaching strategies that engage students and enhance learning. Faculty members are encouraged to share their ideas by contacting the TLC at 255-4872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Free coffee vouchers are available to get the discussion started.
Q – What is your name and department? How long have you been at UCCS?
A – Sonja Braun-Sand, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I graduated with my PhD from the University of Notre Dame in 2003. I went to the University of Southern California to do postdoctoral research until 2005. I joined the UCCS faculty in fall 2005, so I have been here about five and one-half years.
Q – What is your teaching philosophy?
A – My teaching philosophy is to treat everyone like adults and to make students think about the material. I do not take class attendance because I recognize that many students may become ill or have other obligations that prevent them from attending from time to time. I do my best to write exam and quiz questions that make students think about what they have learned and apply it to new problems they’ve not seen before rather than simple regurgitation.
Q – How do you use technology in your teaching? How does it fit into your teaching philosophy?
A – I like to use lecture capture and iclickers. The lecture capture fits in particularly well with my teaching philosophy, because I recognize that sometimes students will need to miss class due to being sick, having sick children, work emergencies, etc. This allows these students to not fall behind. Even for the students who come to class, many have told me how much they like the lecture capture, because in class they are so focused on taking notes that they don’t get to “listen” to the lecture. A lot of them will listen to the lectures in their cars or other places. One student greatly improved his performance in my class by re-listening to the lectures. The other technology I really like is iclickers. It is tempting for some students to stay home from class, particularly with the availability of the lecture on iTunesU. I do the iclickers for a small amount of extra credit. That helps motivate the students to come to class. I also use Blackboard for the gradebook and posting class notes, announcements and handouts.
Q – Did the use of technology in the classroom change how to you teach or feel about teaching?
A – The use of technology definitely changes how I teach. I think the lecture capture enables me to go a little bit more quickly, because students know if they missed something they can just listen to it again on iTunesU. This can be a good or bad thing. I personally like a little more interaction in the classroom and don’t mind being interrupted with questions at all. I always tell my classes not to hesitate in asking a question because if they have the question it is likely that several others do as well. The iclickers also help because I can gauge how well the students understand a concept by how many got the question correct. I slow down and revisit the topic if they didn’t do well on the clicker questions.
Q – Would you recommend the use of lecture capture, Blackboard and iclickers to your colleagues? What tips would you offer?
A – I would recommend using all of these technologies to my colleagues. Using Blackboard gives students a centralized place to find materials, grades, and announcements. I also tend to like lecture capture and iclickers but it does end up being a lot of stuff to carry from my office to the classroom. Overall, most of the student feedback has been positive for these technologies. The main complaint is that they feel like they can skip class because they have the lectures online. The iclickers help with that and I think the benefits for other students far outweigh any negatives.
–Photo by Philip Denman, University Advancement