Innovators Academy expands to Edgecombe County

Teaching assistant Amy Schlosser works with student Mandi Bass to develop a product for the Innovators Academy. (Contributed photo)

 

East Carolina University took a popular on-campus summer program on the road this summer. The Middle School Innovators Academy, which teaches innovation and creative thinking through design, debuted at West Edgecombe Elementary in Edgecombe County June 25 through July 9.

Eight students attended the two-week academy, where they learned practical sketching techniques, 2-D and 3-D digital imaging, model building, presentation, marketing and patent research. Supported by faculty and students in ECU’s School of Art and Design and NCSU’s College of the Design, academy participants developed ideas for innovative patent-worthy products.

Dr. J. Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development at ECU, said the expansion into a neighboring school district was aimed at introducing “a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship” to the county with an ultimate goal of boosting the economy.

“It was a positive experience for the faculty and teaching assistants working with the talented middle school students of Edgecombe County,” said Wayne Godwin, co-director of the academy.

The academy is a collaboration between art and design programs at ECU and NCSU, ECU’s Innovation Design Lab, and Pitt and Wake County public schools. The North Carolina Upper Coastal Plains Learning Council coordinated the Edgecombe County public schools connection with the academy.

The award-winning academy took first place last year at the University Economic Development Association’s 2011 Awards for Excellence national competition, acknowledging excellence in talent development. For additional information about the academy, or ECU’s Office of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development, contact Dee D. Harper at harperd@ecu.edu or visit http://www.ecu.edu/oeied.

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Virtual Early College Program Featured

ECU’s virtual early college program through Second Life 3D technology will appear as the member spotlight in the New Media Consortium episode of the Voice, beginning May 12. Visit NMC at www.nmc.org.

ECU’s Early College Second Life Program is an award-winning program that lets high school students enroll in virtual college classes. Read more on the award…

Read more on the program…

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Virtual Classes in Comfort

Announcements of cancelled classes due to wintry weather might some day give way to a much more positive message, perhaps one that reads, “Pajamas Permitted: Faculty and students may attend classes today from home.”

The technology to support this scenario is already in place and popular with thousands of East Carolina University faculty and students.

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Virtual Classes

School of Communication instructor Charles Twardy finds that Centra software helps him connect with his distance education students. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Centra Software Enables Virtual Classes in Comfort

Announcements of cancelled classes due to wintry weather might some day give way to a much more positive message, perhaps one that reads, “Pajamas Permitted: Faculty and students may attend classes today from home.”

The technology to support this scenario is already in place and popular with thousands of East Carolina University faculty and students.

Saba Centra, ECU’s Web conferencing software, allows ECU faculty to present a live virtual class from any location with an Internet connection and a web browser. From their homes, apartments or residence halls, students may log in and attend.

John Southworth, ECU Centra administrator, said approximately 8,000 people are actively using Centra on campus. In addition to online class meetings, the software is used at ECU for project presentations, office hours, guest lecturers, faculty meetings, streamed online recordings, software demonstrations, student meetings, international exchanges, conference sessions, research collaboration, dissertation defense and hybrid courses, he said.

ECU began using Centra on a limited basis in August 2003, and the program was released campus wide in January 2006, Southworth said. He estimated that as many as 20,000 users have used the program since its release.

The software integrates audio and chat, and allows users to load PowerPoint, mp3, images and video files. Faculty users may share with students any applications running on their own computer, such as Web browsers, Blackboard, Word or Excel.

The program provides features that imitate a face-to-face classroom. Students raise their hands to ask a question; the instructor transfers microphone access, allowing the student to speak. Laugh and applause buttons add a touch of reality as well.

Communications instructor Charles Twardy uses Centra to add a dose of energy and reality to his distance education classes.

“I try to engage students by being enthusiastic about what I am teaching, by using examples drawn from what I perceive to be their interests,” Twardy said. “In teaching online, I find it harder to be lively.” Centra’s features allow more interaction with distance education students, he said.

Twardy encourages students to nurture their curiosity and “take the time to stay informed about the world.” He said he provokes students to “think about why things are the way they are.”

Technology like Centra helps him implement this teaching philosophy with all students, not just those who attend classes face to face, he said.

Twardy shows his students images on his computer as part of an online class meeting using Centra software.


“We have to find ways to make the online environment more like the classroom – livelier and more interactive,” he said. His greatest satisfaction from teaching is when students “get it” and “in seeing that I have reached some of them and inspired them,” Twardy said. Centra helps him do that.

One of Twardy’s online students, Robin Daigle, said the software improved the course delivery. “This technology improves the rapport students have with the instructor,” she said.

Student Brittany Fish said that live teaching technology in online classes makes “a world of difference” to online students. “I think that every distance education course will one day be required to have live lectures,” she said.

More access to live lectures in all ECU classes might mean fewer missed classes due to weather conditions. And a bit more pajama time.

Contributions by Kimberly Hayes, undergraduate in the ECU School of Communication.

For additional information about Centra, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-itcs/centra/index.cfm. Training and support is available.

Responses to a Centra Survey

•       After using it for one semester, I think that any online professor should use it or a tool similar to it. It is simply that good.

•       I very much enjoyed Centra, versus the old way of having the instructor email presentations for us to look at on our own. It was nice to actually hear a presentation the way the presenters wanted it to be heard.

•       I really enjoyed the opportunity for office hours using the Centra chat. I felt like an on campus student with the opportunity to talk with my professor. Great tool!!

•       This course was challenging for me, but using Centra helped me a great deal. The real-time discussions brought a deeper level of understanding which was very helpful for me.

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