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First-year students and their professor explore technology in education

Jill Bechtel
December 10, 2013

As the class explores 3-D printing, social media, cloud computing, facial recognition systems and more, everyone in the “Technology in Education” first-year seminar is on a steep learning curve – including professor Margaret Trader.

“I don’t have to know everything about every topic,” said Trader, associate professor and chair of McDaniel’s Education department. “I just have to be willing to learn from my students. I like to think of this class as a team of researchers.”

As they research the topics and bring their new-found knowledge back to class, the students are learning how to distinguish “good” information from “bad” in this time of information abundance. They are learning how to access library resources and prepare an annotated bibliography.

At every step along the way, they also must ask themselves repeatedly how the technology they are researching impacts how students learn.

“We have to ask in relation to each new technology, what do we want to gain and what do we not want to lose,” said Jill Bechtel, who was surprised to learn that 3-D printing, her topic, had been in use for about 30 years. “We’ve been able to print organs using a person’s DNA for about a decade – it made me wonder why I hadn’t heard of it.”

Bechtel can’t say that she hasn’t heard of 3-D printing anymore after extensive research that included a trip to Carroll County Career and Technology Center to learn about 3-D printing from instructor and McDaniel alumnus Jim Gilford. 

Bechtel, a first-year honors student from Edgemere, Md., quoted one of her sources, ‘Absolutely Fab-ulous’ Library Technology Report, in her presentation: “It will redefine how we make and consume goods. Just as books democratized information and the Internet democratized communication, 3-D printing will democratize the production of goods.”

“In other words,” Bechtel said. “We will be able to print parts and items in our own homes.”

First-year students and their professor explore technology in education

Trader designed the class for students to examine how technology has changed how we learn and how we teach. Bechtel, who is majoring in Mathematics with plans to teach high school math, sees significant uses for 3-D printing in the classroom.

“By printing out a 3-D object, students can visualize and see why formulas are what they are,” she said, adding that even the printing set-up requires students to use software to design the object and calculations to determine strength and other values. “Studies have shown too that having a tangible object affects the reward system in our brain.”

By the time class ends, the first-year students and their professor will have explored interactive kindergarten, flipped classrooms, game-based learning, cell phones and laptops in the classroom, e-books, assistive technology, social networks and more. And the line between these digital natives and their teacher – a self-described digital immigrant – will have blurred even more.