10 Questions with Cole Camplese
I sat down recently with Cole Camplese, the Director of Education Technology Services at Penn State. Cole leads the group that is charged with fusing technology with education. Our meeting was downtown at the Rider Building in a room ETS calls the Cafe.
ETS has been making a spectacular push for students and faculty to utilize tools like blogs and podcasting over the last few years. Seeing as we’ve pretty much got the blog part going for us here at Onward State, I thought we might try another ETS initiative- podcasting.
So without further ado, I’d like to present Onward State’s first podcast. I hope you enjoy.
Some highlights from the interview:
ETS has been pushing “platforms” that support “digital expression”. This includes blogs, podcasts, etc. They are working with professors to redesign classes like English 202 to breathe new life into the archaic and much dreaded essay.
The classroom of the future may use technologies like text messaging and Twitter to survey students. We’ll see the traditional kinds of education, with technology aiding the engagement between faculty and students (aka do away with the “death by Powerpoint”). Students know how to apply technology to new concepts they learn in class since they’ve been using technology their whole lives.
The Education Gaming Commons, set to open soon in Findlay, will be used for using gaming to supplement education. Think ancient battles being reenacted within video games, or microeconomics demonstrations in Second Life. The Gaming Commons will also be available for game development. Head to gaming.psu.edu for more details.
Cole Camplese would choose to be a pterodactyl. Seems like a wise choice to me.
Many thanks to Cole Camplese and ETS for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to let us know what you think about our first Podcast in the comments section below.
Photo from John Harwood’s Flickr
2 Responses to “10 Questions with Cole Camplese”
Audio transcript lightly edited for accuracy and clarity.
I’m Steve Sharer from OnwardState.com, and today we’re going to try something new. Visitors to Onward State have seen the popular 10 Questions feature we run highlighting individuals like the Willard Preacher, Miss Virginia, and the Nittany Lion. We thought we’d shake up our usual 10 Questions format by trying out podcasting in addition to the normal blog post. For our inaugural podcast, I’m sitting down with Cole Camplese, Director of Education Technology Services for Penn State.
SS: Mr. Camplese, how are you doing today?
Cole Camplese: I’m doing great.
SS: So tell me, what kinds of things does Educational Technology Services do?
Cole Camplese: Well, so—ETS, as we call ourselves, because we’re part of ITS, which is Information Technology Services, and we love to use acronyms for everything that we do—our job really is to think about the way faculty, in particular, use technologies to support teaching and learning. So it’s really all about what they do in and around their classrooms to help students get engaged in the learning that’s going on. Our tag line is “providing leadership and support in the appropriate use of technology for teaching, learning, and research.”
SS: So what kinds of projects does ETS get involved with to bring technology to the classroom?
Cole Camplese: Well, for the last several years we’ve been focusing on what I’ll call platforms, and platforms that support digital expression. We put into place Podcasting at Penn State, working with colleagues in the Computer Building and ITS to do that, iTunes U – The Blogs at Penn State is one of our newer initiatives we’re really excited about, we’re seeing a lot of things happen there.
We also work with faculty to redesign their courses. Right now we’re working with faculty in English to rethink English 202, to give them the opportunity for students to do more digital kinds of things. Instead of writing all of their essays, they might do a documentary, something like that. Also, we work with Communication faculty in COMM 180.
We’re building the first “real” open courseware for biology. Totally Creative Commons, open, reusable, and that’s all built on a blog platform. We do these platform things and more recently we’ve started to think about “how do we use those platforms to redesign things that are going on with faculty in the classroom?”
SS: So tell me what the classroom of the future looks like.
Cole Camplese: That’s tough. The classroom of the future is this thing that… It’s funny, I get asked that question a lot. “What is it going to look like?” It’s probably going to look a lot like it looks today. There’s going to be seats, and there’s going to be these screens where you project stuff on them, and typically faculty will stand at the front and talk and students will raise their hands and things like that.
I think it’s going to be supported in all sorts of new ways. The rise of mobile devices, I think you’re going to see students being able to use text messaging to get questions to the front of the room. Twitter, I think, and in particular I’ve been teaching a course called “Disruptive Technologies in Teaching and Learning.” We use Twitter to let students try out questions and pass around resources like URLs and things to each other, and that’s been really successful. I think you’ll see more of those kinds of things. I think you will see the rise of collaborative software supporting a lot more in-class activity like Google Docs, really supporting what people can and can’t do. I think what’s going to end up happening is more and more students will come to class with their laptops. I’m not sure that they’re going to be netbooks but I think they will be something in-between the iPhone and the laptop, devices that will allow you to do really interesting things in the class.
I think you are going to see a lot of the same kinds of traditional activities that we do in the classroom, but probably supported more by this wider range of technologies from the back of the room. We call that “backchannel.” “What’s going on back there?” instead of “what’s happening completely at the front?” I think you’ll see this mash-up of students being encouraged to participate in a virtual sense (being present though), and having that content flow to the front of the room to help move the conversation around. My vision for the classroom of the future is one that is much more engaged, where students and faculty are engaging in conversations more than just the “death by PowerPoint” that we get a lot of times.
SS: What kind of tools does the University currently offer to enhance students’ education?
Cole Camplese: Beyond what everybody knows about—everybody knows that we have agreements with Microsoft, you have lab computers that have an absolutely ridiculous amount of good software that you can use for all sorts of kinds of things—more and more, like I mentioned earlier, the one thing that we’re really excited about are these blogging platforms, because one of the things we’re really keen on seeing is students starting to write early in a electronic sense, that’s stored in a database that can be sorted really easily, that you can search, that you can find things. The notion of an e-portfolio, if you think about people thinking about that in a traditional sense, what they think about is that a portfolio is something that happens at the end. Our vision is that you start writing the day that you come in, and you do that reflectively all the way through.
When I was an undergrad, I had all of my notes in notebooks. Do you guys still use those things, notebooks, with the paper and everything? [cross-SS: Not so much.] I lost all of those. We were living in an apartment after college and we had a flood in the basement and I lost basically my entire undergraduate career. But if I were able to have been writing that in a digital repository online somewhere, all-indexed, all-searchable, I just can’t even imagine how cool it would be to go back and see. I’ve been blogging for about six years now, and I can literally go back and see “what was I talking about six years ago today?” That’s really important if you think about intellectual development. Those are the kinds of things that we’re thinking a lot about, and right now that’s something that you’re going to see take off hopefully in the next two or three years, this idea of ongoing reflection and participation in a digital sense.
SS: We’re going to take a lightning–fast 10-second commercial break, but then we’ll be back with 10 Questions with Cole Camplese.
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SS: And we’re back with Cole Camplese, Director of ETS for Penn State. So Mr. Camplese, what kinds of projects are in the pipeline for ETS?
Cole Camplese: The big thing that’s really interesting that we’re working on: we’re getting ready to open up the Educational Gaming Commons. It’s going to be in Findlay 6A. Basically it’s a room that has plasma displays on the walls, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wiis, all connected to the Penn State network, fully authenticated. We worked for about a year figuring out how to put these devices on our network and make them work. Really beefed–up lab machines for games that faculty can reserve that room and teach courses and use gaming for education. If you think about a history professor maybe wanting to reenact some of the great battles, they can use a game that would simulate some of those kinds of things, to take them through scenarios and stuff like that, or economics professors who want to use something like Second Life to demonstrate what a micro-economy looks like. So that’s really cool, and that space will probably be done this summer and be ready for the fall. Right now that’s the big thing.
Secure blogging, which means that you can now be able to say “O.K., this is my own private journal, no one else can see it.” That’s coming in the fall.
Those are three little glimpses. It’s not like Apple here, where I can’t tell you anything, but I can’t tell you what’s coming a year from now. We have some ideas.
SS: So does this Gaming Commons only allow the playing of games or does it allow for the development of some games?
Cole Camplese: Excellent question. The idea is that it supports both. So we have this affiliate program, you go to gaming.psu.edu and you can join the EGC Affiliate Program. The goal there is to match students who want to build games with faculty who are looking to build games, to help with their teaching or their research. Games are hard to build, but we have so many students who are interested in these kinds of things that we thought the best thing was to try to play the space in-between and connect interested students with interested faculty. So go check out gaming.psu.edu and sign–up to be a part of that.
SS: In terms of technology getting in the way of learning, or disrupting learning, what kind of insight can you shed on that?
Cole Camplese: Well, that’s funny that you use the word “disruptive,” that’s the name of the class I teach, Disruptive Technologies. I think that in every single case where you start talking about letting students use technology in the classroom, the first vision faculty have are of students sitting behind their monitors, hiding behind their monitors, and all we see are the backs of monitors. Right? I think that that idea is a barrier to adoption sometimes. But it all depends on what’s going on on that monitor. If you’re finding ways to engage them while they’re back there, then you’re actually using that to draw them into the learning.
I think we’re at a point now where technology is so pervasive and connectivity is so pervasive where everyone has access to the internet, whether it’s on a mobile device, an iPod Touch, or an iPhone, or your laptop, really anywhere, that’s it’s incumbent upon us to find ways to tap into that. So in a lot of ways most of the work that we do here is to rethink the role of technology within the teaching and learning process. Sure, it’s “disruptive,” and it’s complicated, but so was the chalk board. People don’t realize that at one point in the mid-1800’s the chalkboard was a really disruptive piece of technology in a room, because for the first time in a teacher’s life she had to turn around and write on a board, turn her back on her students. Right? That’s really, really disconcerting. She had to be able to spell. These were things that were really terrifying to teachers. Over time, practice changes (and by practice I mean the way teachers use those technologies changes) and they adapt to them and they learn. The things that are troubling today will be routine tomorrow, and then the things that we haven’t even envisioned for tomorrow will drive everybody crazy for years until we figure it out. We may be in this period of really radical change, where this pervasiveness is causing us a lot of headaches we will eventually, probably in the next few years, begin to sort out. It’s the natural evolution of any of these kinds of things.
SS: Do you find that students over-apply technology to some of their classwork, or rely too much on technology?
Cole Camplese: I don’t think so. I think that so many people make this mistake that ‘just because students have grown up in a digital world that they really know full-on how to appropriately apply and to solve these new problems.’ Because in a lot of ways, the things that you are learning in a classroom are new to you. Some of them are old–hat, like how classes build and they spiral up and things, but some concepts are really new and some things that you do are really new. I don’t necessarily think that all students really have a sense of how they would actually use—we’re doing a podcast here—actually use a podcast to express themselves appropriately when they’ve been taught to write their entire life. That’s what I mean about “practice,” and it happens in both directions. Faculty will begin to understand, “well, when’s the right time to assign a podcasting activity?” “How do I assess that?” Students will begin to understand “how do I effectively create one to meet those outcomes?”
I think that students are using technology all of the time, but it’s to do more social activities. I’m guessing Facebook is one of those, texting is another of those kinds of things, Twitter probably not quite yet, but it’s definitely moving into that space. I think that’s a rapid adoption point; the average age [on Twitter] is 32, that’ll drive down pretty soon. I think a lot of us grownups mistake your use of those kinds of environments—to do the same things that we did, by the way: talk, interact, pass notes, all those kinds of things—as being over-use for teaching and learning. I just don’t think that that’s really the case yet. Again, it’s just like with the teaching thing, as time moves on we’ll all become more comfortable on both sides of the fence and realize when it’s best to assign those things and when it’s best to use those technologies to solve those challenges.
SS: Where can students go to find out more about combining their schoolwork with technology?
Cole Camplese: Where can they go? Well, that’s difficult because there are all these websites across Penn State that let you do all these kinds of things. It really comes down to “what are you trying to do?” If you’re trying to create a digital video, for example, I would recommend that you go to the Digital Commons website, which happens to be digitalcommons.psu.edu. If you’re looking to learn about podcasting, and how you might want to do that, you should go to podcasts.psu.edu. If you want to get involved with blogging, you go to blogs.psu.edu. I think the ITS website is another good place to start, its.psu.edu. There are lots of different websites.
If you go to the main website at Penn State, then go to the search field, type a function, that usually helps. “What is it that I want to do?” Do that. Search really helps, but a lot of times you’re going to find that some of your best answers live outside of the walls of the university. Then you’ll take those answers and apply those as questions as to “where do I actually go to do these things once I’m on-campus?” We have outstanding classrooms and labs all over campus that you can go to and do most of all this kind of stuff.
SS: Are there any classes that Penn State offers that focus on technology in education?
Cole Camplese: Yeah! Most of them are in the College of Education. When you’re talking about technology in education, usually for pre-service teachers (students that are going to become elementary school teachers, high school teachers), there’s lots in the College of Ed. They’re lots of classes about technology as well: IST, Computer Science and Engineering, and other little pockets here and there. But typically if you want to find out how to apply it in an educational sense there are courses in the College of Ed. That’s where I teach a class every spring, a 597-level graduate course, mostly doctoral students and a couple of master’s students.
While there are classes, I have no idea of the general availability of those courses. I don’t think they are Gen Ed. courses per se, but you can always check. It’s something that we feel should be offered more but it’s hard to convince somebody in you–name–the–college that they need to have a teaching course in technology. It’s a difficult thing to do, but primarily in the College of Education you’ll find it.
SS: For our last question—we always like to ask this on our 10 Questions features—if you could be any kind of dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
Cole Camplese: Oh boy, you know I dunno, that’s tough. Dinosaurs. I saw this on your 10 Questions. I’m guessing probably a pterodactyl, that’s the one that can fly, right? I’m guessing that would probably be kind of cool to do that, fly above all the noise and all the drama and just only observe the things that you want to do, I guess. That’s probably why I’d want to be a pterodactyl.
The pterodactyl was first discovered in 1925 by Harry O. Hoyt. Source (26:18–27:12).
SS: Very good. Well thank you for your time, and that wraps up our first-ever podcast for OnwardState.com. Thanks for listening.
SS: We’ve got some great advertising options for businesses and clubs at OnwardState.com. If you are interested in advertising on the blog, please shoot an email to <steve [AT] onwardstate.com>. We look forward to hearing from you.
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