Bringing Technology into the Classroom

A biology professor uses new teaching techniques to enhance the classroom experience

Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry Brent Stockwell this year enlisted the services of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning to redesign his “Biochemistry: Structure and Metabolism” course using digital tools so that students would be better prepared for and have more incentives to attend class. Stockwell’s “blended learning” environment, which builds upon the “flipped classroom” model, requires students to watch recorded lectures and complete corresponding quizzes for homework. Class time is devoted to discussions, during which students use smartphones or tablets to answer discussion questions and to tackle biochemistry problems in small groups. During summer 2014, Stockwell, along with Associate Professor of Psychology Valerie Purdie-Vaughns ’93, participated in the 2014 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Science, exploring how to use current research on the best pedagogical practices to engage students in science. Stockwell believes his new class format makes material more accessible for students who struggle to grasp scientific concepts as presented in a traditional classroom format.

“I wanted to bring [an] aspect of actual research into the classroom and have students work together to conquer the material.”

Brent Stockwell, professor of biological sciences and chemistry, recipient of a 2014 Lenfest Distinguished Teaching Award and a 2014–2015 National Academies Education Fellow in the Sciences

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