For Phyllis Leber, the Dr. E. Paul and Frances H. Reiff Professor of Chemistry at Franklin & Marshall, organization is an essential part to success in the classroom. "The reason why technology is so valuable to us, is that it provides an organizational framework," says Professor Leber. By embracing technology in the classroom, she has provided tools that facilitate straightforward and effective modes of communications, centralized file sharing portals, and around-the-clock access to information.
This organized exchange of information is especially valuable when instruction is a team effort. In her Foundations course, Professor Leber teamed up with course preceptor, Mona Lotfipour '12. The course preceptor is a student who has previously taken the course and assists with instructing the course. This creates an environment where the preceptor brings a student-perspective as well as an instructor-perspective. Both Professor Leber and Ms. Lotfipour speak highly of their partnership. The synergy between them is undeniable, but the true value is in the quality of instruction the students in this Foundations course are receiving. Professor Leber believes that this teaching format is a successfully collaborative teaching effort that is truly invaluable. “It’s definitely a completely different perspective from being a student to being a preceptor but it has allowed me to critically look at different parts of the course,” says Ms. Lotfipour.
Some of the successes of this partnership are witnessed in projects that utilize technology, including Blackboard and Google Docs. Professor Leber discovered Blackboard, the College's course/learning management system (CMS/LMS), in Spring 2009 as a result of looking for an online grading solution. This initial discovery led to her using Blackboard discussion boards, email, and file sharing. Her students, too, have benefited from this shift to online course management. The notion of being able to access course assignments, readings, and grades virtually anywhere at their own time makes an attractive solution for students at F&M.
The course work for this Foundations class frequently has students experimenting and formulating solutions to achieve efficiency, but it is clearly not limited to beakers and Bunsen burners this time. They have also been experimenting with Google applications in an effort to streamline their communications, data collection, and analysis digitally. Formulating solutions to achieve efficiency is clearly not limited to their lab work. Google applications such as Google Docs and spreadsheets have enabled this Foundations course to communicate more efficiently, foster collaborations, and provided a centralized data entry and access point.
Technology played a critical role in the relationships in this classroom by allowing an organized and innovative exchange of information between faculty, preceptor, and students. Both faculty and preceptor excelled in their collaboration of utilizing technology in the classroom and beyond. This, in essence, is a symbiotic relationship. Faculty, preceptor, and the Foundations course students are benefiting from each other by sharing data more effectively and efficiently. The framework for the course ensures that the technology is simple to use and vastly available to all users. Doing so ensures that the emphasis is on teaching and learning while the technology remains in the background.