Edified Center for Connected Campuses opens doors for both current and future Centre students

Posted by Centre News in Education, Internships, News, Research 15 Aug 2013

west_rachel_pederson_holden_ec3Everyone remembers the 23.7 miles of media cables used during the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, but the technological blitz that took campus by storm last fall was just the tip of the iceberg for Centre. In fact, the VP debate inspired the creation of the Global Center for Connected Campuses (GC3) as a way of continuing technological innovation at Centre. The goal of GC3 was to explore innovative and practical ways to better utilize technology in the college setting.

Earlier this summer, GC3 became EC3, or the Edified Center for Connected Campuses, to align the initiative with Connected Nation’s new P-20 education division that launched earlier this summer. Edified focuses on accelerating deployment of the latest technology, including tablets and mobile devices, to schools across the nation as a way of preparing students for the technological demands of the future.

“Technology is changing in K-12 education at a faster pace than we’ve ever seen due to the advent of low-cost tablet devices, engaging apps and high-speed mobile wireless connectivity, and that necessitates better preparation and innovation at higher education institutions like Centre,” says Brent Legg, vice president for education programs at Connected Nation. “Elite colleges like Centre must be able to adapt to students’ needs and expectations, while innovating in ways that enhance—not detract from—the rigorous and personal educational experience for which Centre has become known.”

Specifically, Legg says that Edified’s role is to keep Centre on the cutting edge of technology in higher education. One way Legg achieved this was in hiring two Centre students, Holden Pederson ’14 and Rachel West ’14, to work as summer interns for Edified.

“They’ve taken a dive into the deep end of the ed tech pool,” says Legg jokingly.

The “deep end” included attending an International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio, Texas, and a lengthy research project on trends in K-12 education technology. Their summer culminated with the submission of a ConocoPhillips mobile learning grant application that they authored from the knowledge and experience they gained over the course of the summer.

“If funded, this grant will put over 1,000 tablets in the hands of fourth through 12th grade students who live in some of the most inaccessible parts of Alaska,” Legg explains, “places that are only reached by small aircraft and have only recently been connected to what we would consider to be true high speed internet.”

For West, this was the highlight of her experience.

“The idea that we might design a research project that would not only get students in rural Alaska tablets to work with in class but also provide valuable research on the use of tablets in K-12 education, has really made working on a grant a completely life-changing experience,” she says.

The internship, because it dovetailed seamlessly with West’s interests in communication, technology and education, yielded valuable and unexpected insights.

“This internship furthers my career goals in ways I didn’t originally anticipate,” she explains. “I definitely have learned a lot about how a non-profit like Connected Nation works, which is something I expected. I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy working with educational technology, and now I think that my future career might focus on this field.”

The ConocoPhillips grant is just one of many projects in which Edified engages to improve technological access at schools across the nation. Much of the research Pederson and West have worked on will benefit Centre in the coming academic years as well.

“Mobile devices are going to fundamentally change the way education works in America,” Legg explains. “We at Edified want to help Centre College faculty, students and staff to gain a better understanding of what’s happening and adequately prepare, but do so in a way that never compromises Centre’s core values.”

Preparations include an effort to collaborate with the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) to make these discussions of innovative and efficient use of technology in higher education more widespread.

“We’re eager to find ways to support faculty members who want to experiment with emerging technology, while we maintain our commitment to helping Centre as an institution adapt and innovate inside and outside the classroom,” Legg says. “We’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what is possible.”

By Mariel Smith

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