Teaching Goes High Tech
Remember those heady high-tech days when you ditched your typewriter and headed to the computer lab instead? You produced your research paper on a dot-matrix printer, being sure to tear off those perforated
edges. There also was the wonder of doing research on an encyclopedia CD-ROM and the mind-blowing experience of communicating via email.
Technology on campus certainly has come a long way since then, with computers in every dorm and students using their smartphones and tablets to take notes and write papers. Evolving to offer such advances, St. Catherine University also continually forges new ground with technology in its curricula and classrooms.
Faculty are constantly innovating, using cutting-edge tools to teach coursework in new ways while driving academic innovation. “Learning about technology definitely improves economic outcomes for our students,” confirms Siri Anderson, director of graduate education for licensed teachers. “It gives them an edge and can lead to bigger and better job opportunities.”
Here are a few ways St. Kate’s is leveraging revolutionary technology and leading students to become even more accomplished and marketable.
FIRST, DO NO HARM
The patient on the table is giving birth, and the team of nursing students must check her cervix and make sure her blood pressure and the fetal heartbeat are normal. All goes well when she delivers the baby, but then the new mom starts hemorrhaging — a life-threatening situation. What should the nurses do?
They must communicate with the patient, loved ones and other team members, all while making split-second decisions. It’s not easy for a nurse in training.
But don’t worry. No patients were harmed in this scenario. The students were practicing techniques on St. Kate’s SimMom, a highly realistic pregnancy mannequin who provides real-time learning opportunities. Two to four times each semester, these future nurses use SimMom to make life-or-death decisions to better prepare them for the field.
“The students love it and they hate it. They’re always nervous because they don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” says Katie Molitor, assistant professor of nursing and coordinator of the Applied Learning Lab. “But we hear very positive comments about how it’s a really good learning experience, even if it is stressful.”
Nursing students certainly learn in the classroom, but these hands-on clinical experiences bring books and lectures to life. During 15- to 30-minute simulations, students practice putting in IVs, giving medication or helping the patient through a seizure without worrying about causing harm. And when they make a mistake — which they often do — they learn a great deal from that experience and never forget it, Molitor says.
“Simulations are a lot more interesting than reading a book or listening to a lecture. It cements the learning and helps them understand,” she says. “Simulation is great because you can create any situation and you won’t harm the patient.”
SUSTAINABILITY MEETS SCIENCE
Watching three-dimensional fashion walk the runway then seeing a 3-D printer in action got Anupama Pasricha thinking: How can I marry my passion for sustainability and apparel design with this emerging technology? Pasricha, department chair and an associate professor of apparel, merchandising and design, decided to experiment — and bring a student along for the ride.
She and Rachel Greeninger ’18 conducted an extensive review of existing literature, trade articles and technology news to improve their knowledge and understanding of 3-D printing. Then the duo dove in, using the online tools and software programs for modeling and prototyping such as Tinkercad and Rhinoceros 5.
Pasricha had twin goals: to design cutting-edge apparel with 3-D printed accessories and to find ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated from the printing. Using the art department’s 3-D Makerbot Replicator 2 desktop printer, she created custom buttons out of the corn-based biodegradable polylactic acid, or PLA. Greeninger, a double major in apparel design and fashion merchandising, produced a jewelry collection.
Pasricha’s nine buttons — each a letter that spelled out Minnesota — were applied to a contemporary wool-cotton cape she created with remnant fabric emblazoned with a Twin Cities map. In all, she finished the project more knowledgeable and comfortable with using 3-D printing in fashion in sustainable ways.
The same goes with Greeninger. She presented their research, which was funded by St. Kate’s Summer Scholars program, at the 2016 National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Asheville, North Carolina. (Read about NCUR 2017, page 11.) Next year, she is planning to design and create other 3-D accessories for her senior line at Katwalk, the annual spring fashion show for St. Kate’s apparel and merchandising students.
Though Pasricha hasn’t fully incorporated 3-D into her curriculum yet, she’s heading quickly in that direction. “Technology sparks the innovative mindset and opens the doors to thinking differently,” she says. “That’s how we prepare practice-ready grads.”
REDEFINING THE MODERN CLASSIC
Talk about Roaring ’20s, and flappers, gangsters and speakeasies come to mind. But history can roar in other ways, like on a multimedia website that engages viewers in a historical map of New York, complete with images, sounds and newsreels from that era.
Studying the humanities — or how we as a society process and document the human experience — is a vital part of any education grounded in the liberal arts. St. Kate’s is bringing this centuries-old foundation into the 21st century with a new minor in digital humanities that immerses students in diverse technologies and classic literature in bold new ways.
That might mean creating 3-D restorations of archaic heritage spaces or using computer science, artificial intelligence and computational linguistics to analyze Biblical and rabbinic texts in their original language.
“People are excited we’re offering this minor,” says Kyunghye “Konhe” Yoon, associate professor of library and information science. “Because the humanities are the very last place you would expect to adopt or engage in computer technology.”
Students learn technical tools that enhance knowledge and research. Courses cover building databases, app development and web design, while exploring how to use technology to engage with art, literature, history, language, music and more. Yoon developed the program last year to explore the pervasiveness of technology and its implications while giving more women a deeper understanding of its possibilities.
“Technology advances so fast,” she says. “We’re not only taking what’s already here and showing students how to use it in subjects like history or philosophy, we’re teaching them to apply more critical thinking when new technology comes out.”
AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW
Licensed teachers who come to St. Kate’s seeking how to integrate technology and STEM education in their teaching are often caught off guard, in the most pleasant of ways, on their first day of class. Instead of settling into their seats, they’re sent off on a quest: Find the spot to get the best view of the Mississippi River or to snag a free bag of popcorn every Friday. (Answers: Derham Hall porch and Coeur de Catherine Info Desk!)
This smartphone scavenger hunt, created by their professor, Siri Anderson, challenges students to find quick-response (QR) codes — those square, checkered symbols rich with hidden data — so they can uncover their next clue. Other times, Anderson teaches students how to create 3-D images using their smartphones and a virtual reality (VR) cardboard headset.
These exercises are part of Anderson’s mission to foster the K–6 teachers’ interest in computational thinking and see new ways to facilitate exploration and authentic learning opportunities. “Many of our graduate students haven’t used VR as part of their instructional practices prior to our first day together,” Anderson explains. “But in five years, this technology will be transforming learning opportunities in every school.”
Jeff Kohoutek, an elementary teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools, couldn’t wait to put into practice all he discovered at St. Kate’s. He contacted the Minnesota Zoo to request that they help him create a 3-D VR model
of its snow monkey habitat. His goal was to engage his fourth and fifth graders in engineering a new and improved living space for the animals.
The zoo agreed, and Kohoutek’s students jumped at the chance to don VR viewers and experience the exhibit from the monkey’s perspective, prior to building a prototype — out of cardboard, pipe cleaners and construction paper — that they would later present for actual consideration by the zoo. Next year, Kohoutek plans to take it a step further, guiding his young students to build their snow monkey’s home in a virtual reality world.
Kohoutek’s translation of his technical integration immersion at St. Kate’s into a real-life problem his students could solve is an excellent example of the influence Anderson hopes to have on today’s educators.
“Engaging in authentic, creative and collaborative problem solving, such as improving the life of a monkey in a zoo, is much more likely to engage children in transformative STEM learning,” she says. “While the opportunity to present their work to others — as part of an actual competition for zoo improvements, for example — provides further reinforcement to the child that she or he can be a STEM leader.”