James Ptaszynski presents keynote address at BCNET

Dr. James Ptaszynski opened the conference today with a keynote address on technology tools. Ptaszynski, who designs and implements technology tools at Microsoft, demonstrated a number of Microsoft innovations that enhance learning for both students and instructors.

Ptaszynski says that these tools and the promise of technology enhanced education will virtually transform how educational practices are conducted in the next several years. For example, a study quoted in the presentation predicts that by 2020, 60% of higher education courses will be taught online, as hybrid learning becomes increasingly accessible for students, and allows instructors to manage their time in ways that can potentially connect with students in innovative and interactive ways.

One tool that he demonstrated that could greatly enhance online learning is a new feature of MS PowerPoint, which allows users to email presentations to each other, and view presentations in real-time while the presenter navigates through the slides.

While Ptaszynski noted that technology trends in education are perhaps the biggest “threat” to traditional education, it is also most definitely the greatest opportunity for educators to augement traditional systems with enhanced methods.  For example, technology is often layered on what instructors are already doing in the classroom, instead of integrating new systems into teaching processes.  By layering new technologies, many instructors can feel frustrated, they suddenly require more time and effort to accommodate technological requirements.  However, new features are now being integrated into many of the tools such as PowerPoint, that educators are already using. This enables instructors to take advantage of technology trends and innovations without overhauling how they already organize and communicate information. For example, MS Outlook 2010 has incorporated language translation into its interface, which becomes especially relevant as the prevalence of online education grows. 

Another feature of the 2010 MS Outlook is the use of social networking technology, in which communication between people can be enhanced by linking  to social networking sites such as Linkedin.