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The Scarlet & Black

Tech Talks series educates college community on various forms of technology

Gina Donovan (left) and Claire Frances organize the Tech Talk series at Grinnell College. Photo by Liz Paik.

By Hannah Bentley

Tech Talks, informal events originally meant to help language instructors with their utilization of technology inside the classroom, now host other staff, faculty members and students at the College. As technology has become more important for education and social life, so too has education in its proper use. In running the Tech Talks series at Grinnell College, Gina Donovan, instructional technologist, and Claire Frances, director of the Language Learning Center, attempt to do just that. Although “originally, the audience was language instructors, … now we really just say anyone [can come to the talks],” said Donovan.

However, instructors seem to have had the most interest in the events thus far. The talks are especially meant to “provide faculty with professional development opportunities to learn how to use different tools and how to integrate them into their teaching,” said Frances.

Donovan furthered this point by explaining that the Tech Talks series has “implications for education” by making “students more engaged” in instructors’ content, thereby indirectly furthering students’ education.

Learning about new technologies can also have a direct impact on students’ education. Although Frances says they are generally “geared towards supporting language … and other faculty,” Donovan expressed her excitement about the influx of engagement from the student body, saying that she thinks the “informal level” of the open workshops has helped a lot with increasing student interest.

“Students are going to need to go into a world in which technology is going to be used in every little facet of their life, no matter what they’re involved in,” Frances said.

In looking towards the future, more student engagement within the realm of Tech Talks looks promising. Teaching instructors and students about tech such as WordPress and Storybird, services paid for by the College, allows for teachers to pass on what they have learned to students and for students to learn the material directly. Ultimately, this technology can be used both inside and outside of a college atmosphere, in the wider, global world.

Either way, the tech seems to be ultimately meant for giving instructors the tools to teach and students the tools to succeed on their own, both inside the classroom and after graduation in a tech-dominated world. “I don’t know that there’s many areas that tech hasn’t affected,” said Donovan.

With this effect comes the need to understand not only how specific technology works but also how to keep up with it, making sure that students and faculty have basic ideas as to how different forms of technology work.

“Even if I were to teach you these amazing tech things, by the time you graduate you will be halfway through the lifetime of that software,” said Donovan. Therefore, “just having the ability to do research and be really curious about … how the world works … is a huge benefit in this job market,” she said.

Gina Donovan (left) and Claire Frances organize the Tech Talk series at Grinnell College. Photo by Liz Paik.
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