ODU Professor Brings Cutting-Edge Technology to Local Brewery for Science Pub

AviYonce Scott | Assistant Technology Editor

The first ODU Science Pub of the year was hosted last night, Jan. 28th at Smartmouth Brewing Co. in Norfolk. Dozens of local teachers and residents gathered at the brewery to hear Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education’s Associate Professor, Dr. Helen Crompton discuss the benefits and problems with technology in K-12 schools.

“Good teachers are greatly enhanced with technology,” Crompton said to the crowd. Throughout her presentation, the professor emphasized the importance of contextualizing learning, and how technology helps students understand concepts by “showing the full picture.”

She elaborates on how, although field trips, a real world tool used to help students conceptualize information is rarely used today, virtual reality could be a viable technological alternative to make concepts more understandable for students. She uses the example of teaching a classroom full of students about the Great Wall of China, and how virtual reality can enhance their visual and auditory understanding of the concept.

“Multiple connections must be made to learn a new concept,” Crompton says. “Phones, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence are ways that we can help make these connections.”

Crompton emphasized that while teachers are using 21st century technology, teaching methods must shift to the 21st century as well.

“Simply buying the technology is not enough. Professional development for teachers and training on how to use the technology is important too,” said Crompton. She says that this is where the “bad and the ugly” emerges. Without proper training on how to use this technology, teachers could resort to technology only when they have extra time in class or they may allow for the technology to be a replacement for instruction or simply putting “worksheets on an iPad.”

Crompton also explains how artificial intelligence or AI can be used to monitor the progress of students within the classroom. By employing AI, Crompton said that software such as Grammarly and SAS Writing Reviser that can check students’ grammar are great tools to enhance a student’s understanding of writing mechanics.

On the stage behind Crompton stood a white, toddler-sized nao robot with glowing blue eyes. The professor pushed a few buttons on a small tablet, and the robot instantly lit up, speaking to the professor and the audience alike. Crompton carefully knocked the robot down and the audience watched in awe as it stood back up on its own.

Not only did the bot display advanced motor skills, but it danced to various songs, entertaining the audience with its fluid movements. The sophisticated AI was previously used by Crompton for research purposes in a preschool classroom to help young children with motor skills and communication.

After the presentation ended, the room was filled with enthusiastic teachers ready to start implementing this technology into their classrooms. With endless opportunities on the horizon, students could start seeing this technology being used more frequently very soon.

While it’s exciting, Dr. Crompton cautions the crowd of educators that, “the more powerful the tool, the more likely it can be used in a negative way”, which is why it’s important that teachers are trained to use and teach the newest tech to their students.

Dr. Helen Crompton is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology, Director of the Virtual Reality Lab, and the Technology Enhanced Learning Lab at ODU. With a PhD in Educational Technology and Mathematics Education, Crompton is a worldwide expert in educational technology. The professor has engaged in multiple speaking engagements nationally and internationally.

ODU Science Pubs are held at a different location every month, and it’s an opportunity for the community have casual conversations with ODU researchers. The next Science Pub will be held on Feb. 25th, featuring Economics Professor, Dr. Robert M. McNab of ODU at Maker’s Craft Brewery in Norfolk, where he will be discussing Virginia’s economy.