Teachers and Technology Merge at NJEdge Showcase


Courtesy of Christie Dix

Christie Dix, News Editor

From tiny, fist-bumping AI robots that help with the emotional development of inmates, to learning through E-Sports, the NJEdge showcase at William Paterson University presented multiple innovative technologies that support learning and growth. The Teaching with Technology Showcase was held in Ballroom C of the Student Center, Friday, Feb. 22.

According to the NJEdge webpage, their mission is to create a better world by providing statewide advanced networking, access to optimal technology solutions and services and insight and expertise in information technologies. Teachers and strategists from northern N.J. presented to an audience of faculty and some students to explain how they applied their technological advancements and use of new technology to improve learning environments. Their goal is to take advantage of technology that is already ever-present in most students’ lives to advance their absorption of information and support a healthy mental state while learning.

WPU President Helldobler gave the opening remarks shortly before multiple smaller sessions were held to discuss topics such as supporting vision impaired students, active learning, using robots in the classroom and incorporating technology into academic success.

During the poster presentations, many innovators shared their findings on how technology can be used to support students and teachers alike. Samantha J. Bhana introduced her research on socially adaptive robots. These small robots develop their personalities as a direct response to what they learn from their owners. They can high five, remember faces and names, detect emotional responses in the user and learn new words and behaviors. The robots are not programmed with many commands, so the behavior of the robot is very personalized to the owner. On her poster, Bhana posits that robots like these have been shown to “help at-risk adolescents avoid school disciplinary infractions through de-escalation of potential conflicts, and prevent future contact with the juvenile justice system to avoid adaptation of criminogenic behaviors.” She hopes this technology will slow the rate that at-risk youth and minorities are funneled from school to prisons by giving students a tool to learn healthy social behaviors and positive self-reflection.

Another presenter, Jacquelyn McClean-Pagan, hopes to tap into students’ love of online games to support learning. Game-based learning techniques take advantage of students’ familiarity with games such as Fortnite, Pokemon, Bejeweled, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Guitar Hero, The Sims, and Minecraft to develop skills related to critical thinking, collaborative learning, leadership skills, and self-esteem awareness. McClean-Pagan aims to visit schools around N.J. and give educators the tools to use game-based learning in a productive way in their classrooms. 

Other presenters used online applications to help students see their progress and self-assess, or stay connected to their teachers in an easier manner through texting applications.

Keynote speaker Dr. Laura Ziegler, Professor Chairperson of the Educational Technology Department of New Jersey City University, presented over lunch. She spoke on the topic of online personalities, internet social norms, and social media and how teachers can use online social tools in a beneficial way for themselves and their students. Since the average American will spend five years of their life online, Ziegler aims to help teachers tap into a potential learning environment outside of the classroom.

“How can we use our time online to benefit our teaching?” Ziegler said. “Social Media is a collaborative tool, a professional tool.”

Ziegler also cited the works of Etienne Wenger, who writes on how communities of people with the same interests and goals can reach these goals more efficiently through the support of the community. Wenger calls this behavior “forming communities of practice.” Ziegler demonstrated many instances where social media helped people get in touch with others with the same interests and goals, as to form effective communities of practice. Ziegler encourages students to form communities of practice and has seen greater success from students because of their ability to learn through their relationships with their peers.

A lightning round of short presentations from teachers sharing their experiences with technology followed Ziegler’s speech. Dr. Ericka Collado of The Dwight-Englewood School talked about her experience with robots in the classroom, and how the experience with the robots fostered problem-solving skills in young children. Dr. Hanna Kim of Berkeley College spoke on how teachers can use online resources to make better lecture videos. Joshua D. Case of South Orange Maplewood School talked about how E-Sports fostered collaborative learning and problem-solving in students, as well as giving students opportunities to explore technical support, management, and journalism positions.