A faculty member, graduate student, and administrator at Virginia Tech received the university's 2010 XCaliber Award for excellence as a group involved with technology-assisted teaching.
The team includes
- R. Bruce Hull, professor of forest resources and environmental conservation in the College of Natural Resources;
- Courtney Kimmel, a doctoral student in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; and
- Jennifer Sparrow, director of emerging technology and new ventures, Learning Technologies.
Established in 1996 by Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award (shorthand for exceptional, high caliber work) is presented annually by the Virginia Tech Center for Innovation in Learning to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches to learning activities. Awardees receive a cash award and are called upon to demonstrate their work.
The team was recognized for integrating Web 2.0 educational technologies into an established course, Nature and American Values. The heavily subscribed course is listed in many "environmental" curricula and can be used for the ideas, cultural traditions, and values component of the university's curriculum for liberal education.
Approximately 130 students enroll in the course each semester and its purpose is to equip students with ethical, historical, and philosophical tools and principles to examine, take positions on, and engage in the public debate about historical and contemporary issues affecting sustainability.
The revised course was piloted by the team in the fall 2009 semester. The team set out to achieve six key objectives -- increasing student interaction with, and understanding of, course content; facilitating interaction among classmates in a large-enrollment course; sharpening critical thinking and communications skills; reaching and affecting a wider audience than professor and classmates; providing students with modern media skills through active and engaged learning; and increasing course enrollment.
Subsequent student evaluations demonstrated that the revision was well received and successful. The use of Web 2.0 technologies helped students develop and present logical arguments on controversial issues and become better informed and engaged on issues affecting their future.
"Nature and American Values is an important class for our department and college," said Janaki Alavalapati, professor and head, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. "I have attended the class and can testify that student are actively engaged and motivated."
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