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2010 Innovative Uses of Technology in Teaching Award: Janet Mannheimer Zydney

By empowering her teacher education students to create online textbooks and e-portfolios that will support their careers, this assistant professor transformed a former passive classroom into a community of active creators of knowledge.

Date: 5/3/2010
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
What in the world is a wiki? That might have been a common question when students first started taking Janet Mannheimer Zydney’s “Computer Tools for Teachers” course. But by the time they completed the course, the teacher education students had created an online textbook using a wiki that is now a featured resource in the CECH Library.
Janet Zydney
Janet Mannheimer Zydney

Zydney, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction for UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), is the 2010 recipient and the university’s second recipient of the “Innovative Uses of Technology in Teaching Award,” sponsored by UC’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CET&L). The award recognizes faculty who are creatively incorporating technology into courses and using that technology to improve student learning.

Zydney says when she first started teaching the undergraduate-level “Computer Tools for Teachers” course, the wiki – a Web site that is open to a community of content contributors (Wikipedia may be the most well-known) – was just entering the realm of social networking in education. She also noticed something else. “Students weren’t opening the textbook. The textbook was great. It had lots of really cool ideas on how to use technology in the classroom, but if no one is opening it, no one is engaging in that material.

“That’s when a light-bulb went off,” she said. “I was thinking, there’s so much great information on the Web, and of course there’s a lot of bad information, too. A wiki would be a great way for students to work together to evaluate and harness the material to create an online textbook. Now they’re not just reading the material, they’re actually writing their own textbook.

Janet Zydney

“Furthermore, the project becomes a resource after they complete the class. They can refer to it when they begin their own teaching,” says Zydney.

“Dr. Zydney’s course taught me so much about actual teaching methods,” says secondary language arts education student Kimberly Nixon, who took the course last fall. “I was unaware of tools that could be found on the Internet that were free, and would allow me to easily create a rubric, lesson plan or quiz. Her instructional methods proved that you can use technology in just about every lesson that you teach.”

“The use of the wikispace changed my role as a student in the class,” agrees Nicola Bagwell, who earned her degree in secondary education from UC. “I no longer simply read information and regurgitated it on a quiz or test. Instead, I was a contributor to my classmates’ knowledge, a role I believe every student in the class took seriously.”

The use of the wiki in this course has now expanded beyond the wiki to allow students to create e-portfolios of their work, reflecting how they are meeting national educational technology standards for teachers. The e-portfolios can be used to demonstrate to future employers how these future teachers can incorporate technology into classroom learning.

“The ‘Computer Tools for Teachers’ class has historically been a very challenging course to teach,” says Holly Johnson, director of the UC School of Education in CECH. “It’s a requirement for all undergraduate education majors who possess a variety of technology skills from the novice to the advanced. Finding assignments that address such a variety of skills is crucial to great course delivery and student enhancement. Dr. Zydney’s innovative teaching methods have transformed this course,” says Johnson.

Zydney joined the CECH faculty in 2006 and received her PhD in educational communication and technology from New York University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship in special education technology at the University of Kentucky before coming to UC. She earned her master’s degree in educational communication and technology from New York University and earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Washington University, St. Louis.

Her primary research focus centers on how computer-based instructional supports can assist students in scientific and mathematical problem solving. She has conducted research and published in the areas of technology professional development, technology integration in diverse classroom environments and the learning sciences.

Janet Zydney

One of the sponsors of the Innovative Uses of Technology in Teaching Award, UC’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CET&L), was founded in 2002 and is dedicated to providing UC faculty with cutting-edge professional development opportunities to benefit students. Another sponsoring unit, the Faculty Technology Resources Center, assists faculty in using technology in the classroom. Zydney’s honor means she is also invited to facilitate a future CET&L Technology in Teaching workshop.

“If you can use the Internet, you can use a wiki,” she says. “I think the stumbling block is visualizing what the technology can be used for in a classroom environment. I think the wiki can accommodate so many classes, and I’m looking forward to teaching a faculty seminar about it,” she says.