Monday, April 6, 2015

From Gutenberg to Gates: The GPTS Electronic Classroom

It has been said that the Protestant Reformation may have never happened had it not been for Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press at roughly the moment of Luther’s famous theses on indulgences and his other break-through writings. World-changing ideas often depend providentially on the means for their dissemination.

Once again in our age, technology is being touted as the essential need of the hour. As one writer in the field has noted, technology is the quintessential component having a major role in modern-day education. The importance of technology in education can be seen in rapidly increasing access to a wide variety of learning resources. Things which one previously thought would remain unexplored are now well within reach.

Distant education, especially — which allows students around the world to tap into a unique educational institution’s programs in real time — is something we owe to technology. Technology has given us multiple channels of communicating with the world at large. It has expanded the power of education and unlocked the potential of students, educators and schools alike.

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has sought to keep pace with the state of the art with its electronic classrooms and distance learning programs, which are used by students around North America and a variety of foreign countries, including those in the Third World. Students logging in over the Internet are able to participate just as if they were sitting in our classrooms. Interactive meeting programs have been recently upgraded, giving our distance students an enhanced real-time experience.

GPTS is now pursuing further upgrades which will make the learning experience even more effective. It is our objective to provide our professors with high-end tablet computers — namely Microsoft Corp.’s Surface Pro tablets — which will equip them to more effectively communicate lesson components to distance students. These devices, for example, will allow professors to transmit hand-written “whiteboard” content directly to distant students’ computers. Currently, professors use standard classroom whiteboards for diagrams or other lesson content; but classroom cameras do not adequately capture and transmit whiteboard images to distance students. The new tablets would greatly enhance these teaching techniques, especially in our Greek and Hebrew courses which depend so heavily on visualizations.

Learning a language that isn't your native tongue is hard, particularly one that uses unfamiliar alphabets. Anyone who's had the experience of sitting in the back of a classroom only catching a few words as the teacher explains a concept, and seeing the rest of the class nodding their heads, knows what we mean. One of the benefits of technology in the classroom is helping language learners assimilate class instruction more quickly and effectively.

For the benefit of students in classroom, we also need additional projection equipment. Four ceiling-mounted digital projectors are required, one for each of our four classrooms.

We have identified sources for discounts on Surface Pro tablets and projectors. Still these devices are not inexpensive. We are therefore initiating an off-budget fund-raising effort to make this technological upgrade possible. We are seeking to raise $9,650 as soon as possible to purchase and integrate these devices into our program in time for the 2015-16 academic year.