Using technology to innovate teaching and learning

CHERTL lecturer, Mrs Nompilo Tshuma
CHERTL lecturer, Mrs Nompilo Tshuma

By Lelethu Tonisi, Journalism & Media Studies postgraduate student

The Teaching with Technology Showcase on 22 October 2018 saw a group of academics come together to present and share new and exciting technological innovations that they have implemented in their teaching.

Centre for Higher Education Research Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) lecturer, Ms Nompilo Tshuma, who has been working with educational technology since 2005 in both student and staff development, facilitated the event, which was themed “Teaching with Technology: Research, Innovation and Practice”.

Academics from the School of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS), Pharmacy, Psychology, German Studies and Creative Writing shared some of the challenges and triumphs they have experienced teaching with technology and offered new ideas and the various types of software that they have adopted in a lively and interactive discussion. “In our department we have been doing a lot of qualitative research trying to understand how people use social media. And with tools such as Tableau available, we are able to expand,” said JMS lecturer, Ms Alette Schoon. Tableau uses an application programming interface (API) that scrapes information on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and represents the information graphically for research purposes.

The Teaching with Technology Showcase has been deemed as crucial given that academics normally don’t have many opportunities to discuss what they are doing with technology among themselves. “Most of our academics are now on RUConnected [the institutional learning management system], but I feel people are sometimes too comfortable there,” said Ms Tshuma. “Not only does RUConnected have several underutilised features, the University has many other technologies available for use by staff. Furthermore, if there are tools staff want to use that we don’t already have available, they can be requested and we will try to source them,” she said.

While teaching medical biochemistry in America, Dean of Pharmacy, Professor Santy Daya, had used a programme called VideoScribe that allows lesson narrations to be captured and then edited with pictures and background music. “The nice thing about videos is that you can just refer students to it. Here at Rhodes, I’ve made a YouTube channel where I address questions in the videos and it saves a lot of time,” he said.

German Studies lecturer, Ms Gwyndolen Ortner, whose technological experience was influenced by the #FeesMustFall protests that disrupted lecture attendance, uses a software suit called Camtasia. Previously, the only resources available for learning in German were the language textbook and RUConnected. “The protests became a catalyst to take my lecturing online,” she said. 

Following this workshop, Ms Tshuma is hoping academics will build networks and assist each other in accessing they haven’t been able to before. “If we better understand the context within which the academics are working, then we have a better chance of supporting them in their use of technology,” she asserted.