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This year’s Innovative Teaching and Learning Award winners will give Cornell students a host of new opportunities and experiences – from building their own musical instruments to using new software programs for imaging dynamic processes inside the human body.

A faculty committee assembled by the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) granted funding for six projects for 2019. The awards program, in its second year, aims to support faculty – with grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 – in exploring new tools and emerging strategies to facilitate vibrant, challenging and reflective learning experiences at Cornell.

The 2019 awardees and instructional designers from CTI gathered for a kickoff luncheon on Sept. 17 in the Biotechnology Building. A representative from each of the winning teams presented briefly about the projects.

  • Jennifer Birkeland, assistant professor in landscape architecture, will use funds to facilitate a class where students design interactive digital landscapes, scripting biosensors and visual images projected into a space. The final projects will be immersive environments in which users interact with the images around them.
  • Darlene Campbell, senior lecturer in biology, and Andrew St. James, graduate student in microbiology, will implement software that allows students to explore aspects of anatomy that are difficult to access through live dissection. Students will be able to image smaller structures and more intimate connections between structures, making their learning and assessment more comprehensive and interactive. 
  • David Deitcher, associate professor, and Bruce Johnson, senior research associate, both in neurobiology and behavior, are building a low-cost miniature microscope that will allow students to image the activity of multiple neurons at once – putting students at the cutting edge of their field. Students will assemble the microscopes and learn how to use the software to acquire and analyze the images.
  • Peter Hitchcock, assistant professor, and Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer, both in Earth and Atmospheric sciences, are using new digital tools to help upper-level majors design visualizations to illustrate and communicate how complex mathematical data contributes to weather and climate forecasting. In addition to giving students the most up-to-date training in the field, the tools will help them connect difficult quantitative concepts to real-world applications.
  • Trevor Pinch, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Science and Technology Studies, and Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, assistant professor of music, are creating a class in which students will build, perform with and modify an instrument of their own design. They will then “bend” this instrument to explore further sonic, artistic, cultural and technological possibilities. 
  • Michelle Smith, associate professor, and postdoctoral associate Claire Meaders, both in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, are building a community of faculty who teach large-enrollment, introductory gateway courses. The cohort will meet throughout the academic year to discuss how to help students with the transition from high school to college STEM courses. They’ll explore a range of topics, including investigating national trends; discussing ways to build inclusive classrooms; and using course-specific data to inform changes.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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