Dr. Julie Lieber, a professor of History and Jewish studies, is a self-declared technophobe. That is why she was shocked to receive recognition from ASSETT for excellence in teaching with technology. Lieber recognized that while technology was outside her comfort zone, it made up a large part of how her students learn. “I recognized that while writing on the board and reading from textbooks is my comfort zone, that’s not the way students are learning today… Meeting students where they’re at has been something that I’ve learned.”
Lieber uses technology to enhance her in-class experience, by barely including it inside the classroom at all. Instead, Lieber does things like administer quizzes and stream movies on D2L, so that the in-class time she has with her students can be the most productive. “I try to spend most of class time actually engaging with students and having that face-to-face encounter. So a lot of ways I use technology is to preserve that within the classroom.” Lieber says too that technology can maximize the amount of material as well as the quality of learning in a class.
There is a concern that technology, if used improperly, can mean the loss of the human element. Lieber has noticed a significant decrease in the number of students who come to her office hours when they can simply send her an e-mail. In moderation, however, Lieber sees how technology can help students perform better. “The more visual material I give them, the better. Students seem to connect a lot more with images and short clips from films. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback when I’ve used those.” Lieber also allows her students to take their exams on their laptops instead of with blue books.
“Asking students to go into a final exam when they’re being asked to really perform, and write in blue book was dissonant to me. So instead, I have students write their exams during the exam time on their laptop because that’s the way that students can process and produce information in the most productive way… Technology was a way to allow them to perform at their best.”
Lieber advises professors to not be intimated by technology and to be open to experimenting with new things. Lieber utilized the numerous help resources to learn about new technologies. “Find your tech person,” she says with enthusiasm. “They can be of great help.”
While Dr. Lieber may not be breaking the mold with her use of technology, she uses the existing resources to realize her classroom vision. She listens to the needs of her students, stepping out of her comfort zone to give them the best learning experience, and the most full in-class experience.