Faculty Invited to Try Classroom Voice Control App This Summer
UC Staff | March 28, 2013 | UTEP COMMUNICATIONS
An effort to enhance student engagement in class will begin this summer and Academic Technologies at UTEP needs faculty to volunteer for a pilot program that relies on word of mouth.
Academic Technologies (AT), the new name for the former Instructional Support Services, plans to introduce a new classroom voice control application in the Undergraduate Learning Center (UGLC) that will allow faculty to move around their classrooms while maintaining access to all the available technology behind the lectern via voice command. In fact, the right codes and terms will allow faculty to turn on the classroom lights and computer systems as they walk to the building.
The new application consists of seven commands that would allow faculty to call up slides, computer screens or overhead projections. They even could stream videos if they use the app with a wireless devices such as an iPhone, iPad or iPod.
"We want to make sure the program is useful and helpful," said Mike Pitcher, an AT director who is overseeing the pilot program. "We want to enhance accessibility among faculty who do not want to be confined behind the lectern. We want to make instruction liberating."
The concept was developed by Felipe Jovel, a UTEP computer science graduate student who earned his bachelor's in computer science from the University last May. He created a similar iPhone app three years ago that involved touch screens on a wireless device.
"I wanted to apply at work what I was learning in school," Jovel said before offering a demonstration in the UGLC's 555-seat Room 106. Standing in an aisle, he spoke into his iPhone and called up slides and computer images on the room's giant screen.
Jovel even considered accents as he created the English-language app. Unintelligible requests will be directed to the building's tech support services, where a staff member will assist the faculty member, who also has the option to use the touch screen application.
Now Academic Technologies needs faculty to test the cutting edge application on a larger scale in preparation for a fall 2013 release. Among those who are interested in participating is German Rosas-Acosta, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences. He has worked with the AT staff to push the boundaries of classroom technology since he joined UTEP six years ago because the advancements enhance the student experience.
Rosas-Acosta said the new technology, whether it be touch screen or voice activated, allows him to roam the classroom as he teaches with his materials at his beck and call. He said the proposed application combines speed and content, which keeps the students engaged. It seems his efforts have paid off among students who anonymously give his classes an average of 4.8 out of five points.
"It's more an interaction than a lecture," he said, adding that he uses an Apple TV device that allows him to get instant feedback from students who use a $30 iClicker.
Ray Luna, a junior biological sciences major, said the Rosas-Acosta approach keeps him interested, especially the use of the iClicker because it creates an immediate student-teacher dialogue. He is taking a molecular biology class with the professor this spring.
"It lets you test your knowledge and lets him gauge class thought processes," Luna said. "If he sees we're doing something wrong, he'll go back and explain it again."
The use of the voice app is the latest example of the relevant, cutting-edge technology that the University is introducing to improve the lives of faculty, staff and students, said William H. Robertson, Ph.D., associate provost in charge of instructional support.
"It makes classrooms more compliant to (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards and more user-friendly," Robertson said. "This software allows professors to be facilitators. The sage on the stage can use technology to be the guide on the side to better interact with students. This provides the faculty member with more freedom in the classroom and improves the student learning experience."
Faculty who want to be part of the pilot program should contact email@example.com.