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.

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.”

Teaching and Learning with Technology introduces new Faculty Fellows

Teaching and Learning with Technology introduces new Faculty Fellows

Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State is excited to introduce its four TLT Faculty Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year—David Hunter, Kathryn W. Jablokow, Karen Kackley-Dutt, and Alan Wagner.

“We have a sensational group of Faculty Fellows this year. They are exceptional scholars in their respective disciplines, and their innovative ideas have the power to create positive change at Penn State and beyond,” said Kyle Bowen, director of innovation with TLT. “Our staff is eager to support their projects and help bring them to life.”

This year the TLT Faculty Fellows were chosen from dozens of applicants. Each fellow will work for one year with a dedicated team of TLT staff in order to realize the goals set forth by each of their projects. The undertakings by this year’s fellows include topics covering data science, digital fluency, immersive experiences, and robotics.

David Hunter – Data Science

A professor of statistics in the Eberly College of Science at University Park, Hunter aims to mobilize a data science community encompassing all of Penn State.

“Data science has developed into a discipline that influences nearly all modern academic fields,” Hunter said. “Despite its pervasive reach at Penn State, we are lacking a cohesive presence that can bring together faculty and students who are working toward similar goals.”

His project intends to deliver a web presence that will aggregate all the data science activities throughout the University and publicize programs that are ready to accept students. Additionally, Hunter plans to create a database of faculty members that would enable students interested in data science to locate scholars within their disciplines.

Kathryn W. Jablokow – Digital Fluency

Digital fluency is commonly understood as the ability to use technology to create new knowledge, while also using problem solving to resolve challenges brought about by that knowledge. At Penn State Great Valley, Jablokow, professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering, wants to help instructors avoid reinventing materials designed to develop students’ fluency in creative thinking and problem-solving.

“As someone who has taught in the domain of creativity from an engineering perspective at University Park and Great Valley for more than 25 years combined, I’ve observed this pattern time after time. A faculty member wants to encourage creative thinking in their classroom and hurriedly creates materials to do so. However, they don’t realize that something similar already exists within another department or campus at Penn State,” she said.

In order to disrupt that pattern, Jablokow aspires to create a “Compendium of Creative Fluency” that will make concepts, practices, activities, and materials covering creative fluency available to all Penn State students and faculty. Additionally, because creative fluency is important across disciplines, the materials will be functional for all subjects.

Karen Kackley-Dutt – Immersive Experiences

Kackley-Dutt, a biology professor at Penn State Lehigh Valley, believes that threats to Earth’s biomes—large regions that share similar climates and communities of organisms—can be neutralized, in part, by increased advocacy. To inspire new advocates, she will use her project to create immersive environments that let students experience far-away places through interactive 360-degree video and virtual reality.

“Marilyn Vos Savant stated that, ‘To acquire knowledge, one must study, but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.’ This project will provide students the chance to observe Earth’s biomes for themselves. By observing and virtually experiencing a variety of biomes they will become more connected to them,” said Kackley-Dutt.

Field researchers world-wide will help Kackley-Dutt compile resources for her immersive environments. They will receive Biome Boxes filled with cameras, tripods, instructions for using and returning the equipment, and recommended best practices.

Alan Wagner – Robotics

An assistant professor of aerospace engineering at University Park, Wagner wants to utilize robots in social situations, such as interactive games, to study their influence on ethical behavior in their human counterparts. His project intends to use findings from these studies to inform the development of explicit programming that can combat academic integrity issues in modern classrooms.

Research has shown that educators work in an environment where up to 30 percent of students attempt to use unpermitted technology-based resources on tests. Additionally, online services exist that offer to complete students’ academic work. Wagner and his team will explore how robotics, artificial intelligence, and targeted programming can slow the erosion of academic integrity.

“Our hope is that these systems can generate ‘nudges’ that encourage ethical behavior among students, or possibly cause them to reflect on the ethical implications of their actions,” Wagner said.