Newer technological tools available to enhance learning

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

For engineering instructor Jerry Visser, using technology in teaching goes beyond posting schedules and quizzes online.

He wants to connect with his students.

The instructor has become one of the first SDSU educators to use podcasts as part of his courses.

He uses a blog and Facebook to engage his students as well.

“As I started looking at it (Facebook), I realized … if I’m trying to communicate with the students, that’s the place to reach them,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out what makes today’s students tick.”

Through his Facebook page, Visser posts notes to notify students about course material, quizzes and the podcasts he records.

“My purpose for this (podcasts) is not for lectures, it’s more of a study guide,” he says.

His manufacturing technologies class joins the list of two accounting and one journalism class now offering podcasts through iTunes University, said Patricia Edler of the Information Technology Office. The Cooperative Extension Service podcasts portions of its “Garden Line” show as well, she said.

Podcasting technology has been in place at SDSU since fall 2006, she said. Student tech fellows have been trained to help faculty use the option.

“One question set before each faculty member is how can technology enhance their teaching,” Edler wrote in an e-mail.

Since podcasting is new to many educators, Instructional Design Services staff meet with faculty at a college’s request, “as well as providing one-on-one consultations with faculty at any time throughout the year,” she wrote.

“I was ready to do it, and they were ready to have a faculty member try it,” said Visser, who had already planned to use the technology in his courses.

To record his podcasts, Visser uses equipment in the Pugsley Continuing Education Center.

“It’s not seamless yet,” he said. “Even though I’m excited and want to do it, it’s still not convenient.”

That factor, along with faculty reluctance to experiment with the technology, may be part of the reason why podcasting hasn’t caught on at SDSU, Visser said.

In order to become popular, a “critical mass” of both faculty and students will have to want the technology available.

“In my opinion, it’s going to require students to expect (podcasting),” he said. “I don’t know if it will or will not happen at SDSU.”

Like other university professors across the nation, Visser said he worries about technology becoming a substitute for class time.

“I still want students to come to class,” he said. “And I don’t know how to completely resolve this issue.”

Even with the technology, Darrin Eichacker, a senior manufacturing engineering technology major, still attends class. He called the podcasts a “nice resource to have on hand.”

“I like it as a resource outside of class,” he said.

Eichacker said he uses the class feature weekly to help him study for quizzes. The reaction among his classmates has been mixed, he said. He estimates about half of the class uses the podcasts.

Visser said another reason he uses technology is to let students know it exists and how it works. For example, he uses other podcasts as a way to research his field.

“I think he’s right on base with that,” Eichacker said. “At least I know that it’s out there and I can use it getting into a career.”

While Visser’s class is Eichacker’s first with podcasts, the senior said he would take another class that offered the technology.

“I’m probably more prone to use it now since I know what a valuable resource it is.”