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Associate Professor Yuko Oda is among the many NYIT professors who boost student engagement by incorporating technology and new teaching methods.
NYIT Professors Embrace Teaching Methods That Put Learning and Student Engagement at the Head of the Class
By Elaine Iandoli
An odd-looking canine just might become the mascot for a new breed ofteaching and learning at NYIT.
The bizarre beast, a 3-D character model designed by a fine arts student, had a fatal construction flaw: its back and chest inexplicably shared the same surface vertices; in fact, the torso looked as if it had imploded. So Associate Professor Yuko Oda abandoned a scheduled lesson and challenged her class: fix the glitch in 20 minutes.
What came to be known as the “messed up dog” was animating in more than one sense of the word. Students jumped at the chance to correct the canine’s unfortunate contours, and they found several ways to do it. Oda discovered that her spur-of-the-moment decision to use the dog as a class exercise was an “organic” teaching moment.
The experience was a powerful reminder to experiment with approaches that depart from the usual instructional routine, Oda says.
She has company among her NYIT colleagues. With flexible in-class exercises, transitions to blended courses that incorporate online learning with face-to-face classroom work, new service-learning projects, experiential education, and enhanced multimedia content, a growing number of instructors are boosting student engagement by changing the way they teach and by incorporating more technology in their craft.
“Aristotle taught us that all arguments need to first consider audience and purpose, and the audience for today’s teaching needs to be considered and reconsidered with time,” says NYIT President Edward Guiliano, Ph.D. “Socrates also knew the value of being interactive with students in his questioning. This skill set and the experiences—today with technology and interactive approaches—cannot be ignored. We are utilizing the interactive toolbox of the 21st century.”
A collection of phrases and words defines the tools and techniques; educators have long spoken of “instructional paradigm shifts” and “learner-centered models” in favor of the “guide on the side.” A more recent trend is the “flipped classroom,” where students view online lectures, readings, assignments, and videos on their own, leaving more time for group work and other learning activities in face-to-face classes.
No matter the terminology, the goal is twofold: expanding students’ active involvement in their education and improving their critical thinking skills.
“There’s a great deal of research that shows that when students are engaged and have well-designed learning experiences, they learn better,” says Harriet Arnone, Ph.D., vice president for planning and assessment.
Arnone praises faculty members who adopt new tactics to help students learn. A change might be as simple as altering a lecture that proved successful for a morning class but seems less effective with a different group of students in the afternoon. More ambitious adjustments include transitions to blended courses—a move that often requires a significant revision of how material is presented and organized.
“They’re paying attention to providing experiences that students get excited about,” says Arnone. “Engaged faculty make engaged students.”