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Center Offers WIU Faculty Learning for a Lifetime

February 18, 2002

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MACOMB, IL - - An initiative spearheaded by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) has produced a modern technology center where any Western Illinois University faculty member can go to learn and share teaching techniques and technologies to enhance the learning environment for their students.

The Teaching, Learning and Technology Center (TLTC), located in Tillman Hall 301C, officially opened to WIU faculty in January. The former Tillman Hall map library has been transformed into an open and inviting venue with comfortable seating, traditional reading material including the Chronicle of Higher Education and professional journals; and modern electronic classroom technology, including 24 wireless laptop computers, an ELMO (Electricity Light Machine Organization) visual presenter, a recordable whiteboard and video editing systems for Macintosh and PC.

"We want to encourage all faculty to take advantage of this resource," said Jim Schmidt, College of Arts and Sciences assistant dean, who has guided the facility development.

"Our primary focus is on pedagogy, the actual teaching and learning processes, and TLTC is a place for faculty to meet and discuss relevant teaching issues, to share ideas and to explore ways in which a variety of technologies can improve our teaching and enhance student learning," Schmidt added. "The center is a place where faculty can participate in discussion groups, workshops and training sessions. It's as much about faculty development as it is about technology; and if a certain tool will enhance teaching, then we'll help train that faculty member to use that technology."

Plans for this type of center evolved out of a CAS "vision" committee Schmidt chaired beginning in Fall 2000. Charged with studying what role the Internet and technology should have in the college's teaching mission, the committee concluded the use of digital technologies should be viewed first and foremost as a teaching tool to enhance the educational experiences of residential students.

CAS Dean Phyllis Farley Rippey made a college-wide commitment to develop such an on-campus center for faculty, under the direction of a Technology in Education Committee led by Schmidt.

The TLTC has been a collaborative project with the College of Fine Arts and Communication, Faculty Development Office, WIU Libraries, Academic Computing and other campus areas, said Schmidt, who oversees a University-wide advisory committee for the center.

Schmidt got his first taste of the use of technology when he taught a distance education psychology class. Although suspicious of its advantages, Schmidt said he gradually added more technology components to his teaching of residential classes.

"I found it interesting and fun as a faculty member, and I was impressed that technology added elements to students' learning, such as incorporating writing into the class lessons. Moreover, I found that more students were getting involved with the class material in meaningful ways, and the level of discussion - - both in class and online - - improved significantly."

In June 2001, Schmidt was among 45 individuals selected from a competitive international pool of more than 300 professionals to be named a fellow at the prestigious Frye Leadership Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, which focuses on leadership issues in higher education specifically related to academics, information technology, economic, public policy, student and constituent relations dynamics.

The TLTC is a direct outgrowth of Schmidt's experiences at the Frye Institute. It's development and implementation is part of Schmidt's yearlong practicum experience associated with the institute. This June he will return to the Frye Leadership Institute to share the developmental results and future plans of the TLTC.

Western's TLTC presently has two discussion groups meeting and three scheduled workshops in February.

"One of our goals is to have three or four workshops scheduled each week," Schmidt said. "I would encourage faculty to stop by the center, see what it's about and tell us what types of programs we could offer for their teaching needs. Faculty with skills in various technologies who would consider being a presenter are also asked to contact the center."

The TLTC, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, is staffed with faculty and student assistants. Five faculty assistants, each with specific technology expertise, are available a minimum of three hours per week.

The College of Arts and Sciences will soon add two technology fellow positions, one each for fall and spring semesters, for faculty to pursue a project of their proposing to develop the use of technology in teaching. The faculty member will be released from one class during the semester and will be given a new laptop or desktop computer for their work, Schmidt explained.

Information about the TLTC - - including staff, schedules, workshops, discussion groups and links to relative sites - - is available on its website at, or call the center at 309-298-1632.

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