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Faculty Attend MCLA’s Annual TechFest


The academic year may have ended this month, but a number of professors were back in class for the day on May 17. However, this time, they were the students at MCLA’s Ninth Annual TechFest, a faculty-driven conference that each year explores new technologies and their uses, and showcases creative faculty projects and initiatives.

According to Dr. Justin Golub, an assistant professor of biology, TechFest provides a great opportunity to see what others are doing with information technology, and to discover what new advances he might incorporate into his classes to benefit his students’ learning.

“During the semester, there just isn’t enough time in the day to learn about all the new and cool things going on with information technology, or academic technology,” Golub said. “TechFest offers a chance to learn about all of these things going on, and to give feedback.”

That’s exactly why MCLA holds the event each year, said Dr. Gerol Petruzella (right), assistant director of academic technology.

“Technology changes so quickly. There’s always a new focus,” Petruzella said. “Last year a big focus was to understand the pedagogy of online learning. The year before that, we focused on features of Canvas, our learning management system.

“Going back further, people were really interested in learning about ePortfolios, classroom response devices and the classroom clickers. All of those different products have had a place and a focus at past TechFests.”

This year’s sessions included workshops about some of the most interesting educational applications (apps) available for tablets and smart phones, how to design one’s use of online resources to integrate them fluidly into the natural flow of physical classroom dynamics, and how to use OpenStax textbooks and associated learning tools.

Pamela Contakos, the digital services librarian at MCLA’s Freel Library, taught a course on integrating library resources into the faculty’s Canvas courses, and also talked about the campus’s embedded librarian program, which allows professors to collaborate with librarians to provide enhanced library assistance to their students.

TechFest, she said, “is a good opportunity to let faculty know about how we are using technology to deliver library resources and services, and how they can use it.”

“The best thing about TechFest is the opportunity to hear about what faculty are doing with technology in their classes, what worked for them, and what didn’t,” Contakos continued. “As a participant, I find it gives me ideas for things I could use in teaching, and it helps me to keep up-to-date with technology that I might not be familiar with.”

For Christopher Tate ’14,access advisor at the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE), TechFest provides an opportunity at the end of each academic year to reflect on what took place, and what’s to come.

“As a participant, it’s nice to see what other people are working on and look to broaden collaborations,” Tate said. “As a presenter, it’s a great opportunity for me to have a ‘captive’ audience to discuss assistive technologies and how they help our students, whether it’s broaching the subject for the first time with newcomers to TechFest or reviewing and clarifying with faculty with whom I work with regularly.”

He added, “Any time I can get face time and answer questions in person is a valuable experience for me and for faculty.”

“An event like TechFest,” Petruzella said, “humanizes the technology. We want our faculty to feel as comfortable with a laptop or a tablet as they do with a book or a pencil. That’s the real value of events like TechFest.”