Bowen brings consumer technologies into the classroom
Kyle Bowen takes his cues for technological optimism from Star Trek story lines.
“Star Trek shows us that there’s this future out there that is prosperous,” Bowen says. “Technology advances us and makes us more successful. I look at it as an opportunity.”
A 1999 graduate of Purdue’s computer graphics program, Bowen is the director of informatics for Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP). He and his team provide guidance on technologies that will help faculty meet their instructional objectives. Over the last few years, they have used technology and consumer electronics to create new technologies for teaching, learning and research.
“Every one of them is a different interpretation of some traditional element of teaching,” Bowen said. Based on faculty needs from across campus, the tools incorporate ways for technology, in the hands of students, to influence classroom engagement, student interaction outside of class, academic texts and even grading.
The resulting projects include:
- Hotseat: a social networking-powered mobile web application that creates a collaborative classroom, allowing students to provide real-time feedback during class and enabling professors to adjust the course content to improve the learning experience.
- Mixable: a social learning environment that helps students connect to classes using devices and sites most familiar to them
- JetPack: a new way to think about textbooks and how information is shared in and outside of class
- DoubleTake: a mobile video system designed specifically for students to use in their courses – enabling video creation, sharing, and playback within minutes on many mobile devices.
The products are created as helpful tools to be used as part of the classroom experience; they do not replace formal teaching or laboratory experiences. “The tools shouldn’t prescribe what the pedagogy is,” Bowen said. “We provide the field, the stick and a ball, and the faculty member creates a game around them.”
It’s that sort of imagery that helps promote his team’s ideas to faculty and that entertained the sell-out audience of the inaugural TEDx PurdueU this past spring. Bowen likes to weave technology ideas into a short story that shows faculty a future where their academic problem is solved.
“It’s easy for people to react to the story. The story helps initiate a conversation,” he said.
Bowen’s story-telling prowess is backed by his Technology degree that focused on Web-based media and critical thinking skills. He says he learned the value of approaching problems in a different way during his classes in the College of Technology. The nature of his position, trying to keep current with the electronic devices students bring to campus and into the classroom, requires him to take this approach every day.
“How can you influence the market before the market happens to you? A big part of that is staying very current on trends that are existing right now,” Bowen said. “So much of the technology that students and faculty have is based on consumer technologies. Consumer technology is a leading indicator of where things are going. I keep an eye on the consumer technology space, new internet companies, start-ups, larger technology firms. We ask ‘where are the tools that nobody is working on?’.”
(Photo: Kyle Bowen describes the “cone of distraction” in a classroom setting during his TEDx PurdueU talk in March 2012, by Daniel C Nolan, courtesy of TEDx PurdueU)