TLT seeks proposals for Faculty Fellows

TLT seeks proposals for Faculty Fellows

Each academic year, Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) welcomes a new cohort of Faculty Fellows who work on projects that explore ways technology can help overcome pedagogical obstacles and maximize opportunities for student success. Since 2009, 38 diverse Faculty Fellows have worked with TLT to help transform education and drive digital innovation at Penn State.

The call for 2019-20 TLT Faculty Fellows is now open. TLT is inviting faculty to submit proposals focusing on this year’s theme of “Learning Spaces.” All Penn State faculty, from any discipline, are encouraged to share their innovative idea by submitting a proposal for exploring, enhancing, or engaging students in the many spaces where they learn. Learning spaces can include physical, digital, virtual, blended, and data-informed places where students interact with course material.

Faculty who submit successful proposals will work collaboratively with TLT staff to combine ideas, innovative spirit, and academic expertise to apply emerging technologies to teaching and learning. The deadline for proposals is April 19, 2019.

To request more information or to submit a proposal, please email

New Faculty Learning Communities are forming

New Faculty Learning Communities are forming

Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) will continue to support Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) at Penn State for the 2019-20 academic year. This program allows tenure and teaching faculty to explore topics like learning spaces, scholarship of teaching and learning, data science, and more in peer-led groups.

Leaders are needed for the upcoming year and applications are now being accepted until April 12, 2019. Faculty whose proposals are selected will receive a $500 stipend and up to an additional $500 to fund supporting activities such as lunches, guest speakers, and tech tools. Proposals selected for funding will be announced the week of May 3, 2019.

Applications can be submitted on any topic related to teaching, learning, and technology. Communities that form around these topics will be cross-college, cross-campus, and cross-discipline. Leadership for the FLCs will come from a full-time faculty member along with support from TLT.

Stephanie Edel-Malizia will host virtual open office hours on March 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., April 1 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and April 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Stephanie can be contacted at for more information on these sessions, or on applications for 2019-20 FLCs.

TLT helps THON teens experience immersive technology

TLT helps THON teens experience immersive technology

Rest is not commonly associated with the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, also known as THON. Dancers are on their feet for 46 consecutive hours. Committees and volunteers work for a year to organize the event, collect donations, and ultimately execute the event. Thousands of supporters, who are gently encouraged to not sit down, fill the Bryce Jordan Center and sustain the dancers’ spirits. In the end, the energy poured into the event raises millions of dollars annually for Four Diamond families in support of their battles against pediatric cancer.

Throughout THON weekend Four Diamond families travel to University Park to take part in the festivities and share the energetic atmosphere. Unlike the dancers, the kids fighting childhood cancer, their parents, and other guests occasionally need to step away from the BJC and catch their collective breath. This is where THON’s Family Relations Committee steps up with strategically planned experiences that provide a respite from all the hustle and bustle. This year, a brand-new event at the HUB-Robeson Center’s Break Zone aimed at helping a special group of THON teen participants gave Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) a chance to contribute to THON for the first time.

At the Teen Adventure, dozens of kids played pool, ping-pong, and video games. The sunshine filled the Break Zone on a Saturday afternoon as Colin Murtha, teen and adult coordinator on the Family Relations Committee, reflected on the ideas that brought this supportive event to life.

“A lot of THON is geared towards younger kids – that’s part of what makes it so special – and this year we’re really making strides to provide all ages, from teenage years through adulthood, with emotional support,” Murtha said.

The scope of that support is larger than just the Teen Adventure. Murtha helped create the THON Engagement and Empowerment Network (TEENetwork) whose efforts include teen-focused programming during the THON Family Carnival and “Teen Nights” that take place four times per year. But THON weekend is the big showcase, and Murtha was quick to recognize everyone who had a hand in making the Teen Adventure possible.

“It’s a lot of coordination and planning to bring together 40 teens and their guests, members of the football team, and groups that provided programming. It’s great to see all the effort pay off,” he said.

TLT, whose day-to-day efforts center around collaborating with faculty and students across the University to discover and advance technology that supports engaged learning, was one of those groups. With TLT in attendance, the Teen Adventure kids enjoyed some hands-on experience with augmented reality and other educational gaming technology. It a chance to work with THON that the staff jumped at according to learning experiences designer Zach Lonsinger.

“This was a great opportunity to support THON and also advocate for emerging technology. A lot of kids dream about being a Jedi, but not many get to experience an actual lightsaber battle with Darth Vader. Thanks to the technology that’s been developed, this is possible,” he said.

The lightsaber battles that Lonsinger referred to were made possible by a mobile phone, an augmented reality headset that projects holograms into the player’s vision, and a beacon and game controller that respond to the player’s movements. Most of the teens in attendance that afternoon hadn’t experienced augmented reality previously, but they were eager to try it out and adapted to it quickly. One of the “Jedis” in training, Josiah Garcia, didn’t quite get the ending he expected from his first try at the game.

“The augmented reality was a lot of fun, but I didn’t like getting ambushed by the Storm Troopers at the end. They just ganged up on me!” he said, laughing.

While gaming is often people’s first exposure to augmented or virtual reality, it can open their eyes to other ways the tech can be applied, such as in an educational setting.

“As a society, we are just beginning to understand what is possible with immersive technologies. It’s not that far off from anyone being able to experience what a THON dancer sees from the floor,” said Lonsinger. “Someone from across the world could put on a headset and experience the powerful moments of THON as if they were on the floor.”

Ethan Munoz was another teen adventurer who spent time with the augmented reality game, and the Nintendo Labo technology that showcases principles of engineering, physics, and basic programming. As a middle school student himself, the educational potential of the technology wasn’t lost on him.

Ethan Munoz plays with the Nintendo Labo during THON weekend

Ethan Munoz plays with the Nintendo Labo during THON weekend

“The Labo could help kids who need to work on motor skills, and augmented reality could be used to improve hand-eye coordination,” Munoz said.

Education technology is something close to Murtha’s heart as he is studying education policy. He thinks that aside from giving the kids a chance to play and relax during a busy THON weekend, the immersive technology could have a meaningful impact on their future as students.

“Besides the gaming aspect, the technology presents learning opportunities where you can put yourself into an entirely different environment and learn about it with almost hands-on interaction,” Murtha said. “It has the potential to give teenage students a tangible learning experience which is something that speaks to them as people who like to be engaged.”

Lonsinger echoed Murtha’s sentiment.

“Kids are growing up with access to mobile and immersive technology. Just like I grew up with the internet and expected it in my classrooms, students now are going to expect immersive technologies to be a part of their learning experience,” he said. “As with any technology, immersive tech should be viewed and used as a tool or a complement to learning.”

Josiah Garcia dances at the THON talent show

Josiah Garcia dances at the THON talent show

Once the Teen Adventure wound down and the HUB’s Break Zone cleared out, the kids, their guests, and family members made it back to the BJC to rejoin THON’s festivities. And while he performed admirably in augmented reality, Josiah Garcia saved his best performance for the THON stage as showcased his dance skills in Saturday evening’s talent show. Ultimately, everyone who took part in the weekend came away from the experience touched by THON’s magic.

“THON has impacted me completely; it’s how I’ve met some of my best friends,” said Murtha. “Really, though, it’s such a humbling experience to work with the families and be a part of their lives.”

Lonsinger added, “THON is so much more than a 46-hour dance marathon. It transcends higher education and goes beyond just getting a degree. It’s about making an impact on the world and changing the way you view the world. When you are invested in something that’s bigger than yourself, it changes you in a meaningful way.”

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) kicks off its first virtual conference

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) kicks off its first virtual conference

The first virtual conference Lead From Where You Are, sponsored by the Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) peer group, was held on February 8, 2019. The three-hour webinar featured two women keynote speakers and a panel of three women at different stages of their IT careers, sharing advice on the importance of diversity as well as building an inclusive culture in the workplace and in higher education.

At Penn State University Park campus, women and men in IT attended the webinar at two watch party locations at the Technology Support Building and The Dreamery at the Shields Building. A total of 28 watch party locations were organized across the Big Ten with an additional 331 Zoom virtual attendees joining in on the discussion.

Keynote speaker Ana Hunsinger, vice president of community engagement at Internet2, kicked off the webinar with alarming statistics on the number of women in technical professions and the rates of attrition for technical women. She cited that in 2015, women made up only 25 percent of computing-related occupations and the number has continued to decline, despite the increase in the percentage of women in select STEM undergraduate degrees. The statistics are even more concerning when it comes to women of color where only four percent of Black and Hispanic females hold U.S. computing jobs. The rate of attrition for technical women is 56 percent leaving their organizations at the mid-level point (10-20 years) in their careers.

The takeaway from Hunsinger’s discussion is how leadership in organizations need to recognize the problem in order to make a commitment in changing the work environment, allowing for increased creativity and job satisfaction by championing women in technical professions and encouraging male counterparts to advocate for more women to rise to leadership roles.

Hunsinger is proud that Internet2 believes that diversity is essential for research and education. Through the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative (I2I), her organization focuses resources, attention, and scholarships to improve gender diversity and inclusion in the community of networking and technical professions.

Second keynote speaker Maureen Biggers, director of Indiana University’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology followed up with a talk on how we all have unconscious biases and make associations about characteristics such as race and gender, but research shows that gender-diverse teams demonstrate superior productivity and financial performance compared with homogenous teams. In a study of 500 U.S. businesses done by the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) on the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance, companies with more race and gender diverse teams had higher sales revenue, more customers, greater market share, and greater profits than did less diverse companies. Biggers explains that we need to be aware and intentionally put your own biases aside when hiring or promoting people within an organization.The three career panelists Diane Dagefoerde at Ohio State, Kaylah Norris at Rutgers, and Laura Farvour at University of Minnesota, all shared their tips for career success, adding in their own personal experience with challenges they faced as women in the technical profession. The underlying message the panelist focused on was how important it is to empower other women to make those career leaps forward, to believe in your ability to succeed, and to never be afraid to take risks.

Students create immersive videos to enhance criminal justice courses

Students create immersive videos to enhance criminal justice courses

Immersive technologies such as 360-degree videos will revolutionize the future of forensic science, giving police and criminologists a tool to visualize different crime scenes and ultimately, become better investigators. Through the Berks Teaching & Learning Innovation Partnership Grant, Penn State Berks students in CRIMJ 210, a course on Policing in America, are learning to create 360-degree videos of crime scene scenarios.

These videos are viewed by their peers in CRIMJ 100, an introductory course to Criminal Justice, to learn about topics such as self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property.

“The project transforms student learning on two levels: It allows students to engage in creative collaboration related to a course topic, and students get to ‘experience’ the scenarios presented by the 360-degree videos created by their peers,” said Mary Ann Mengel, an instructional multimedia designer for Penn State Berks’ Center for Learning & Teaching.

During the fall 2018 semester, students were separated into five teams to research their chosen topic, brainstorm ideas for a storyboard, create the dialogue, assemble props, and select locations to film. Like good police work, careful research and attention are required to recreate crime scene scenarios that accurately represent the characters, props, settings, and timing of events.

Due to the limited examples of 360-degree storyboards, Mengel designed a template for students to visualize how their scenes would play out through the 360-degree camera. The camera’s vantage point positions the viewer within the scene, and the viewer can focus their attention in any direction. By design, minimal video editing is required.

“This should be the standard,” said Deb Dreisbach, lecturer in criminal justice. “I’m always thinking outside of the box and as we continue to come up with other ideas for these videos, we will institute them.”

Dress rehearsal videos were peer-reviewed before students produced their two- to three-minute-long final videos in November 2018. Assessment questions were written by the teams, which students in future classes will answer after exploring the immersive scenarios.

“In having to develop questions, students are analyzing it a lot differently, and enjoying it more,” Dreisbach said. Dreisbach plans to expand the library of scenarios as she repeats the assignment in future semesters.

These videos significantly enhance how criminal justice students learn. Students are better engaged in the course through extended classroom discussion and reflection.

“By experiencing 360-degree videos created by peers, students are provided a safe way to be present ‘on the ground’ at what might otherwise be a dangerous policing situation,” Mengel said. “The result is an engaging and memorable learning experience.”

Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) virtual conference

Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) virtual conference

Championing women in technology professions plays an important role in diversifying the workplace and improves talent retention. Understanding the challenges women face and allowing women to empower other women to make those career leaps forward is a first-step in transforming the future of tech companies and higher education.

Lead From Where You Are is the first virtual conference sponsored by the Big Ten Academic Alliance Women in IT (WIT) peer group to feature two women keynote speakers as well as a panel of three women at different stages of their IT careers, sharing advice on professional development and other useful resources.

Join in on this free virtual conference on Friday, February 8, 2019 at 1:30-4:30 p.m. (EST)

There will be two viewing parties featuring interactive breakout sessions and refreshments on the University Park campus:

  • Technology Science Building, Room 22 A & B
  • The Dreamery, Shields Building

The first keynote speaker Maureen Biggers, who is director of Indiana University’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology, will be discussing inclusive work practices and unconscious bias. Ana Hunsinger is vice president of community engagement at Internet2, and as the second keynote speaker, she will follow-up with a discussion on championing women in IT.

The three career panelists will include: Diane Dagefoerde at Ohio State, Kaylah Norris at Rutgers, and Laura Farvour at University of Minnesota.

Hope you will join us!

Check out the Big Ten Academic Alliance website for more information.