Three TTU instructors win TBR Innovation Awards

Three award-winning instructors at Tennessee Tech University turn their backs on traditional blackboards and turn on their computers when they want to reach students in an instant.

The instructors — Wei Tsun Chang, Darlene A. Franklin and Sandi J.W. Smith — recently received honors for their innovative uses of technology at the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Annual Distance Learning Conference.

The conference, which focuses on keeping students connected around the globe, presented Innovation Awards to representatives of several TBR schools who demonstrated the best practices in their fields.

“These instructors are helping the university find the best ways to connect students on and off campus to learning opportunities,” said Susan Elkins, TTU’s dean of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education. “They’ve chosen to embrace technology and use it to expand the classroom experience.”

Chang, assistant professor of music who teaches violin at TTU, was a member of the university’s Fall 2004 tablet computing initiative, which provided the teaching tools to 11 different professors in an effort to help move TTU toward paperless classrooms.

As a participant in that initiative, Chang successfully developed a more technologically advanced version of the university’s standard music appreciation class that allows him to spontaneously write music that can be played on the tablet computer.

In addition, he has a distinguished career as a soloist and chamber musician. He is concertmaster of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra and performs regularly with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra.

Franklin, an assistant professor of nursing, has been teaching at TTU for 20 years and has developed areas of interest in curricular assessment, evaluation and improvement activities.

Recent opportunities for technology development have provided experiences that sparked her interest in applying innovative technological methods to those areas, she said.

In Fall 2004, for instance, Franklin began using TTU’s Voice Over IP Virtual Classroom computer program to record all classes for later student review, which resulted in increased student performance and satisfaction.

She is currently developing an educational computer game targeted specifically for nursing students.

Smith, an assistant professor of instructional technology in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at TTU, has developed and taught courses for 17 years about integrating technology for pre-service and practicing teachers.

She facilitates a university outreach program, “Technology for Teachers,” which services more than 500 teachers from 30 Tennessee counties each fall.

Smith was recently named a Macromedia Educational Leader for demonstrating exemplary uses of Macromedia computer technology to enhance student achievement, effective teaching and learning practices.

She’s on the board of directors for TTU’s Institute for Technological Scholarship, and in Fall 2004, was a lead trainer who worked with university faculty involved with the tablet computer initiative.

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