The Instructional Technology Center picks one faculty member (or several members) each semester to be our "focus". They are chosen based on their use of technology and how they incorporate that technology into their teaching.
Dr. Craig S. Darroch
Professor, Animal Science
Dr. Darroch holds a Ph.D. in Animal and Poultry Science from the University of Saskatchewan. His scholarly interests include swine growth and nutrition, modeling, and environmental enrichment.
1. Do you think using technology helps you teach better? If so, how?
Yes, I think technology helps me with my teaching and helps students learn. I have been able to enrich the traditional classroom environment and make online classes more personable with the use of the internet; and through the use of photo and video technologies that provide the student with enhanced and interactive course materials. From the student's perspective, technologies that I use in my classes provide them with flexibility, allowing them to complete homework and listen to lectures when their time allows. Technology gives students a chance to improve their learning skills and get better grades. It also allows students to participate in extracurricular activities on campus (judging teams in agriculture, varsity sports, etc) or work, without having to stress over missed classes. This flexibility, will improve retention rates of students at UT Martin.
I think technologies that have been available to me have also helped me reach out to students in high school. New dual credit course offerings in the fields of Agriculture and Natural Resources have made prospective students more aware of UT Martin, and I think have contributed to recent enrolment increases in our Department.
2. Is there anything at UTM in regard to technology that you would like to mention that makes a difference for you as you do your job?
Faculty have a lot of access to useful technology at UT Martin. I have come to rely on Blackboard, tablet computers, Echo360 classroom recording technology, Adobe software (Presenter and Captivate), Study Mate software, digital microscopy; and student laptops and wireless access in the classroom. I also rely on support from ITC and the help desk to quickly solve technology related issues in my classes which improves the student and faculty experience.
3. What are some current things that you are doing with your courses and your students that you are particularly proud of and want the campus to know about?
Some technology related practices that I feel help students succeed at UT martin:
- In Blackboard, I post current event/news articles and link these to discussion board forums. Students receive credit for contributing to the discussion. I think this helps on-campus and off-campus students in my animal science and horse science classes connect with one another. It also keeps them current with issues in these areas.
- I use the test/quiz feature of Bb to create homework assignments. Many faculty use this feature, but I create a question pool for each homework, and students get a random set of questions when they attempt their homework. In my animal science class, students can attempt a homework assignment three times, and each time they may receive different questions. The benefit is that, I get students to learn more material. In grading their work, students that make two or three attempts improve their homework scores (5-15%) over students that only make one attempt. This leads to improved scores on term test given in the classroom, and an overall higher class average at the end of the semester.
- In teaching animal science on campus, I utilize the Echo360 technology installed in Brehm Hall 258. This equipment records my lectures (audio, screen capture and classroom video capture). Once set up the technology is easy to use. Recorded lectures are then posted to Blackboard about 2-3 hours after a class, and are then accessible to students. Off-campus student watch the video from their high school classrooms. All students (on and off campus) are provided with what I call semi-notes (PowerPoint files that only have some information). The students complete their class notes by filling in missing information. If they miss something in class, they watch the recorded lecture posted in Bb. This has really helped students keep up with their class notes, especially when they miss a class due to sickness or some other activity. With this style of teaching, more students are using their laptops in the classroom, and more students are also watching the recorded Echo360 lectures outside the classroom. I would say that 40-60% of on-campus students are now using their laptops to take notes in animal science. I would like to see all students using laptops in the classroom.
- I use Study Mate and Respondus software to create extra study materials. I can also utilize questions made with the test/quiz feature of Bb to create interactive study questions (Flash cards, word puzzles, etc) which my students use before tests. The students really like this feature. Once I create the study material, it is posted into Bb and can be viewed directly or downloaded to their computer, iPods or mp3 players.
- Safe assignment is a feature of Bb that allows faculty to check for plagiarism, but I encourage its use by students to help them learn to write in their own words. This has been a very effective tool in an online graduate class in MSANR program that focuses on scientific writing and presentation that I team teach.
- I also use two other recording technologies (Adobe Presenter and Captivate). These are software programs that allows you to record audio onto other prepared material (PowerPoint slides, Spreadsheets, etc) in your own office. The advantage I see over Echo360 technology is it allows you to create a more polished product. Presenter is a plug-in for PowerPoint that is easy to use. Captivate is similar to Camtasia, and provides the user with some more advanced recording features. In most of my classes, I now have recorded material posted in Bb from these technologies or from Echo360.
- I also create personal video and publish it to Bb. This requires a personal video camera (Sony & JVC HD camcorders and an office computer video camera, digital audio recorder, and video editing software (Adobe Elements 8). This really helps me to connect to students. For instance, in horse science, I am creating virtual farm tours. As I tour area horse farms with students taking my on-campus class, I videotape the experience, edit and then publish the video to Bb. Off-campus students taking horse science can then see what we saw, and listen to the owners talk about their farms. Students are also impressed when they see that "I practice what I preach". Examples include riding and shoeing a horse. I would have to say that this is for me the most challenging technology to use, mostly because of the time commitment.
- GPS-GIS technology is not available to everyone, but I utilize this technology in my senior stable management class to facilitate in-service learning. Students are assigned each spring to area horse farms. They work with the farm owners to map their properties and identify structures on the properties that include: buildings, fence lines, etc. Once mapped, students use the information to determine actual fertilizer requirements and costs, material costs for new fencing or to plan future facilities on the farm. They look at people and animal movement to improve farm efficiency and safety. It has been a valuable experience for students and farm owners alike.
- Agriculture and Natural Resources purchased a Smart Board and it was installed in Brehm Hall 219 in fall 2009. I am using this technology in my nutrition and physiology labs to present material and project digital microscope images. Anything I write on the board is captured, and I save the files in PDF format for the students. Great technology when you are drawing, or leading students through math calculations or chemical equations. I am still exploring this technology.
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