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Spring 2019 Grants

Congratulations to the recipients of PLUTO Teaching with Technology Grants! The following projects were selected for funding and will be showcased in spring of 2019:

GEOS 105: Weather Station – Claire Todd

“I propose teaching GEOS 105 Meteorology students about weather parameters and monitoring by installing a weather station outside of Rieke Science Center. GEOS 105 teaches students about the atmospheric conditions that define weather and climate; there is no better laboratory for studying these concepts than the outdoor spaces through which students pass every day! While there are weather stations on campus, the weather station I have selected will allow students to view real-time weather data through an app on their phone, and through a website. I’m also eager for students to participate in the installation of the weather station, to facilitate learning about the technology behind weather sensors. I have discussed the installation with Ken Cote, the Campus Landscape and Athletic Fields Manager in Facilities, and he is enthusiastic about this prospect! He identified the field south of the Morken Center and west of Rieke Science Center as a viable location. I propose installing the weather station during the first two weeks of spring semester, so students can interact with the station, app, and online database throughout the course.”

“One of the most powerful teaching strategies is to help students see classroom concepts in the world around them – effectively creating an applied laboratory in their everyday experience. Meteorology is particularly rich with opportunities to implement this strategy because students see weather every day! Nevertheless, it can be hard for students to elevate their observations of weather into a scientific framework. Any PLU community member could tell you whether it felt hot or cold on a given day, or if it was raining or foggy – but few could connect those observations to a barometric pressure trend, a relative humidity, or incoming solar radiation. By studying the weather parameters collected and quantified by sensors they installed – students will be able to forge a connection between their weather experience and atmospheric phenomena. Because their learning will be linked to everyday weather experiences, these connections will prepare students for a lifetime of learning from the weather around them. Students will also gain valuable data processing skills including how to interpret and present time-series data, and how to quantify uncertainty. Through our in-class discussions of the station’s weather observations, students will develop a fluency in atmospheric data – able to communicate the conditions around them like a meteorologist!”

THEA 346: Audition Video Equipment – Tom Smith

“This spring, I will be teaching THEA 346: The Audition (which is a first half of the semester course) for approximately 20 students. I would desperately like to flip this course, putting all lectures and supporting materials and exercises on Sakai, so I could offer in-class units on voice recording and video recording auditions. I would use J-term to create the course content on Sakai and use the in-class course meetings to bring voice and video recording technology into the classroom.”

“In the arts, especially theatre, comfortability in front of the camera and the proliferation of recorded auditions has demanded that what we teach in an Auditions class change.  Yet the difficulty of getting the necessary technology checked out for a half-semester make this prohibitive.  Our students are in need of both training in recording technologies and practice recording themselves.  This knowledge would increase their marketability and increase their chances of finding work.  My flipping the class so that course sessions become labs rather than lectures means that we can not only find time to work with these technologies, but also students will have access to course content 24/7 by these lectures being recorded.  Having had PLUTO training, I am confident I can flip the classroom in an effective manner and adding technology would not only make student learning better, but would make my teaching better, as I would be able to work with technologies that would ultimately improve the quality of my recorded lectures and the course content.”

PHYS 389: Electronic Lab Notebooks – Bret Underwood

“I would like to implement electronic lab notebooks into the new course Phys 389: Experimental Methods in Physics. An electronic lab notebook is an electronic record that blends handwritten and typed notes, equations, photos, spreadsheets, data analysis, and graphs. Modern experimental physicists move seamlessly between these different forms of written and electronic records, and traditional paper-and-pencil lab notebooks are insufficient to capture this complexity. With electronic lab notebooks, handwritten notes and inking can be linked next to spreadsheets and graphs of data, and the notebooks can easily be shared facilitating collaboration. Traditionally, portability and the ease of entering sketches have been considered to be the primary advantages of paper lab notebooks. However, recent advances in computer tablet technology and cloud servers has eroded these strengths of paper lab notebooks. The electronic notebook would be implemented at the start of the term, and used intensively throughout the semester. A recent speaker at PLU demonstrated this in a stunning effect.
Scott Bowers, an engineer at Microsoft and member of the Surface mechanical engineering team, allowed us a glimpse of his laboratory notebook while he was designing the Surface Book latch mechanism. He had composed his notes in OneNote on a Surface computer, and the notebook contained inked sketches next to engineering schematics and back-of-the envelope calculations. Since everything was electronic, it was easy for him to share his laboratory notebook with us, and presumably with collaborators as well.”

“Students who use the electronic lab notebooks will be prepared for the modern experimental laboratory in several ways. By encouraging smooth transitions between experiment, design, and analysis, students will move away from a classroom-focused model of an experiment in which the experimental and analysis phases are largely separate from each other. Instead, they will practice a more authentic experience of feedback between these different elements of laboratory work in an environment in which they are not verifying known fundamental constants of nature, but uncovering more general functional relationships between variables. Students will also gain experience using electronic methods of laboratory record-keeping that are used at some of the most innovative companies, such as Microsoft (among others). This project will also inject a cutting-edge pedagogical tool into the physics and laboratory science community here at PLU: all of our physics students take laboratory courses in other departments, and can take their experience and expertise in using electronic notebooks with them, potentially catalyzing change elsewhere. Finally, in my interactions with other local physics departments, I have not found any who are actively training their students in the use of electronic notebooks. PLU has an opportunity to become a leader in the region in the use, and pedagogy, of electronic laboratory notebooks in the intermediate experimental laboratory.”

COMA 120: “Droning On” – Marnie Ritchie

“My proposed teaching project is entitled ‘Droning On’. The project is an integration of drone technology in an introduction to media studies class to teach literacy with a highly relevant, if little understood form of media: the drone. More specifically, the project is for COMA 120 Introduction to Media Studies (a 4-credit course) in the Department of Communication. The course combines visual media theories with actual media production. The course covers a range of subtopics: television, film, advertising, PR, marketing campaigns in a national and global context. Most importantly, the class is an opportunity to introduce skills that students then take into other courses and post-graduate careers in cinematography, editing, directing, scriptwriting, and other production-based tasks. The point of the class is for students to generate creative works. “Droning On” would extend these learning outcomes with a modern twist, insisting that media context will continue to see drones, well… droning on, or continuing. “Droning On” asks students to use drones to produce a short informative film about one important facet of the Tacoma area with a production team over the course of three months, with skills (coding, operating, editing) scaffolded in. Despite the relevance to journalism, marketing, advertising, and film production, drones have not been widely integrated as a potential tool for student and faculty use. Reticence can be attributed to cost, lack of training, and ignorance about technological use-value. Yet, these are surmountable challenges, considering the benefits of introducing students to a technology that implicates all content areas of the course. “Droning On” has the potential to impact numerous other media-related courses at PLU in a positive way. It could become a touchstone for other departments across campus who want to use drones for their production-based assignments in their courses, faculty within the Film and New Media Studies Minor currently in development, other Communication classes related to media (COMA 344, COMA 426, COMA 429) and the digital production lab “Media Lab” hosted in the Department of Communication. While the course is not an online course, COMA 120 utilizes digital components, and the technology could be integrated in future online courses.”

“‘Droning On’ can connect with audiences specific to PLU, such as veteran students. It can act as case study for how to teach with drones for a Drone Symposium hosted at PLU in Fall 2019, of which I am a co-organizer with Dr. Kate Hoyt. The Symposium will ask for involvement and input from veteran and military-affiliated students, and these students could lead the creative making practice with drones within COMA 120 given their prior knowledge. The campus is influenced heavily by its adjacency to military bases; that is all the more reason to integrate drone technology into our curriculum. Most fundamentally, “Droning On” would extend learning outcomes in accordance with PLU’s mission statement. First, drones alter the vantage point of media production, and students should be able to adopt this perspective and play with it. Students then learn to assume multiple perspectives. Students will learn to actively view the world around them, to consider it from a wider perspective than just their own. Second, “Droning On” asks students to care for communities and provide a service to the community. The final projects are informative videos about local issues. Students therefore engage the Tacoma area and consider the most pertinent issues here. Third, PLU teaches both communality and leadership, and the project asks students to be both leaders and team members. Students each have a designated role, which requires unique skills and research. The project instills responsibility for being an ethical leader and teammate. As technologies, both banal and extraordinary, proliferate in our students’ lives, PLU’s mission can guide their use.”


Teaching with Technology Grant Flyer