Monday, September 26, 2016

Embracing Classroom Technology and Teaching Digital Natives

There aren’t many people who can offer the unique perspective that Dr. Han Nee Chong does. As HPU’s only Instructional Design and Technology Specialist, she’s responsible for introducing and supporting new technologies into both virtual and on-campus classrooms. She is also an adjunct faculty member, teaching communication courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Because of her dual role as both faculty and staff, she offers a different view on teaching students and supporting faculty.

Chong, an HPU alumna who got her Master's in Communication in 2005, has been working at the university since 2010. A self-proclaimed “geek,” Chong has always been fascinated by technology. “My first passion is teaching. But when I was in school, my dissertation was on Educational Technology and people’s attitude and perception towards technology. Why do some people embrace technology easily, and why do some people have resistance towards it?” She brings this question to her work at HPU when developing new instructional advancements.

Teaching digital natives brings an ever-changing dynamic to Chong’s role at HPU. Because they adapt to technology so quickly, what works for a class one semester might not work for a class the next semester. She is constantly evolving her teaching methods to better communicate and engage with students. Rather than resisting how much technology has been engrained in students’ lives, she uses it to help engage her students’ learning.

One way Chong embraces the changing landscape of technology and student education is through individualized learning. One of the biggest platforms that HPU utilizes is its Blackboard Learning Management System.  Blackboard is a virtual classroom that is used in online and on-campus classrooms to house course curriculum, discussion boards, announcements, and an array of other support tools. One way Chong is supporting individualized learning is through the adaptive release of learning modules, which helps students learn at their own pace. She is also customizing a technical writing online class to be modeled after the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Each week students receive quests (assignments), gain experience points by completing assignments and participating in discussion threads, and are put in Safe Havens (collaborative groups).

As both faculty and staff, Chong is able to understand the challenge of utilizing innovative technology. From a staff perspective, she is able to troubleshoot easily and understand the struggle that faculty might have with the technology as an instructor herself.  As a faculty member, course design comes easily with her background as an Instructional Design and Technology Specialist.

Faculty in need of support are always welcome to contact Chong for information and guidance to incorporate technology into their curriculum. “I work one-on-one and with small groups. It’s very much tailor-made for each group based on their need and it’s very user-driven.” The advantage of this is that faculty receive personalized attention and support that’s specific to their goals, rather than learning in a large workshop meant for faulty from different areas of study.

Chong believes that technology shouldn’t drive what you do, rather, faculty should “decide what the course learning outcomes are, and see what technology can do to help drive that.”

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