How Professors Can Bolster Inquiry in College Using K-12 Tech Tricks by Katrina Schwartz

How Professors Can Bolster Inquiry in College Using K-12 Tech Tricks

 | February 3, 2015 
Koltun-Fromm's students used Prezi to explore non-linear connections between class texts. (Courtesy Ken Koltun-Fromm)

Koltun-Fromm’s students used Prezi to explore non-linear connections between class texts. (Courtesy Ken Koltun-Fromm)

Coverage of technology in higher education often stops at whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be an effective way to educate hundreds of thousands of students cheaply, or focuses on the newest app to help students track their classes and homework. Much of the technology marketed to universities targets administrative tasks, things like registering students or sites like Blackboard and Moodle that make it easy for students to check assignments and download readings. But especially in a seminar setting, some professors are using technology in ways that mirror some of the forward-thinking practices of K-12 teachers who are known for applying inquiry-based methods, accessing low-cost technology that’s easy to use and making the subject relevant to students’ lives.

EXPANDING THE CLASSROOM

Ken Koltun-Fromm is a religion professor at Haverford College, a small liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia (full disclosure: I attended Haverford, although I wasn’t a religion major and didn’t know Professor Koltun-Fromm as a student). He’s been experimenting with various ways to bring technology into his teaching when he thinks it could enhance the classroom experience.

‘Use technology as a mode of inquiry and as an object of inquiry.’

When planning a course on modern Jewish thought, he wanted to capture the notion that this subject area is alive and still being developed, so he contacted colleagues in the field from universities around the country and asked them about their own research and writing. Each week he assigned his students to read a primary religious text recommend by the colleague, along with his or her analysis of that primary text. He then Skyped those colleagues into class to discuss their writings with his students.

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