UI's TILE program set to expand

BY SAM LANE | NOVEMBER 04, 2010 7:20 AM

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The "sage on the stage" might be giving way to the "guide on the side."

The style of teaching in which a professor stands at the front of a lecture hall and talks for an hour is being replaced in some UI classes, officials said.

And the innovative technique has found a home in the UI's "Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage" classroom, a high-tech space in which a lecture hall meets a computer lab.

These classrooms are found in many universities nationwide. But the UI is one of the only schools to use such spaces for humanities.

The UI has one such room, in the Main Library. Eight classes — ranging from music to computer science — use the space, in which students click on black Dell laptops at round group tables and watch professors project information on flat-screen TVs around the perimeter.

The 5-month-old classroom has garnered positive comments from most who use it, but it's not perfect, said some UI officials and professors who teach there.

"Faculty want [the classroom] to work the way they want it," said Maggie Jesse, the head of instructional services in Information Technology Services who has helped run the program.

Mary Adamek, a UI School of Music clinical professor who teaches Music Techniques in Special Education and Recreation in the classroom, said students learn things in "a more deep sense."

"I think it's a good way of teaching," she said. "But I don't think it's applicable for everything."

The project, which started at North Carolina State University, was originally geared toward physics and related disciplines.

"It's a shame [the program is not used more in humanities]," said Jon Gaffney, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Kentucky who helped train the UI faculty involved. "I'm glad Iowa is looking at the whole university. Engaged learning and learning with technology can be powerful for humanities as it was for science."

The only other school he knows that uses the idea for humanities is Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., he said.

And though the UI's use is rare, the outside-the-norm nature will present some challenges, Gaffney said. Professors who teach hard sciences can more easily design curricula that take advantage of the equipment, while those who teach humanities may struggle more to put some of the options to good use.

Jean Florman, the director of the UI Center for Teaching, said she thinks using the program for humanities subjects is "fabulous."

"I think there's such an interest in humanities on this campus … if we hadn't gotten a response from humanities the first time [we presented the project], we would have gone back and asked them again," Florman said.

UI officials have their eyes on expansion. By the spring of 2011, the university will have four of these classrooms and one informal learning space.

Officials estimate the university will spend more than $2.8 million on the project, including construction, technology, and faculty development. Funding has and will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and state appropriations, as well as some money from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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