UTNBA granted the CIIE Award to Innovation in Education

The winner was Eng. Julian Drangosch, Physics II teacher.

Publicada el 3 de octubre de 2018

The second Innovation in Education Event, organized by the Research and Education Innovation Center of UTN Buenos Aires, was held in the Aula Magna of the School of Engineering on August 7. During the event, the winner of the CIIE Award was announced: Julian Drangosch, Physics II teacher, who implemented the use of electronic devices applied to teaching in the classroom and developed a virtual classroom where he organized materials, applications, books and simulations related to the contents and objectives of the course.

The event also featured a conference by Dr. Raúl Santiago, Director of the Master’s degree program “Emerging Methodologies and Technologies applied to Education” from the University of La Rioja (Spain) and expert in the “Flipped Learning” methodology.

Innovative teachers

The CIIE Award was first granted in 2017. The winner, then, was Prof. Oscar Bruno.

Eng. Uriel Cukierman, CIIE Director, stated that through this award “we want to distinguish the work of teachers who go one step further, who innovate and try to find ways for students to learn better. Most of our teachers do a little more, they care about doing research and about learning, so we want to send the signal to everyone that this School of Engineering cares about that and we want to encourage teachers to make that extra effort to innovate and do things a little better.”

Fifty percent of the finalist projects were presented by teachers of first and second year classes. “I’m glad about that because most dropouts are from the first and second years so the fact that there are teachers in those years trying to do something to improve the quality of learning which results in the retention of those students is vital for the future of education, Engineering and our University in particular,” Cukierman stated.

The finalists

Prof. Sergio Silvestri, Physics I teacher, works on the integration of the mobile phone in the classroom; “we try to adapt to the new technologies used by students, like the mobile phone. A few years ago it was a problem for teaching, a problem that bothered teachers and made them nervous, -Silvestri mentioned-. We found a way to make them find something related to the class when they check on their mobile phones.”

Silvestri thus started working with the Telegram application: “For each course, I have a group and a channel that I use to send information; it is a single fast and simple means of communication which gives some orientation to the student. In addition, I use a group in which all students participate and pass on information; for example about lessons missed and, if necessary, I also participate since I am the group administrator. It is also useful to send them exam scores. There are also some other tools which are helpful to sound out whether students are learning or not, following up or not, and to help them to keep pace with the course.”

In addition, this method provides information about group and individual performance long before each term exam, “and allows me to give feedback on time in order to improve learning results.”

In this work, Silvestri included an application developed at UTNBA, created with other teachers and students from the Information Systems Engineering area: “We developed the contents and the students made the necessary programming so that they could be visualized on a mobile phone. We were thus able to present one topic in the Physics I syllabus through mobile phones. In this way, we were able to repurpose the mobile phone into a tool at our service,” he explained.

The professor admits that his students’ first reaction is surprise: “then, there is immediate approval. Watching them work in class with their mobile phones is shocking because before we thought that the students were doing something else and now we see that they are checking university notes, trying to solve a problem that was sent to the group, making an inquiry or sending information to students who missed the lesson, all of this during the class. Surely, at some point they might check Facebook or a message, but most of the time, they use it for these other activities. If they need data which is not in the problem guide, they can look it up on Wikipedia, which is also used in the classroom, –Silvestri explained-. As regards students’ performance results, this is more difficult to evaluate because each one is different. We should have some previous statistical data. But at least, they are more comfortable and that improves their attention span in relation to the teacher and the course.”

To conclude, Silvestri stated that he has been a teacher for the past 38 years (for the last 6 at UTN) “and I have always introduced innovations when I was allowed to or when it was possible, -he explained-. Teachers should not get bored in the classroom. If the lesson is boring it is because the teacher is bored. I teach physics, specifically classic mechanics, whose contents have been the same for the past 500 years, so it is not very likely for new ideas or discoveries to occur. But there are changes as regards methodologies. I cannot repeat the same things for 38 years. That should never happen. We should know about new technologies and methodological changes appropriate for the students we have today, who are very different from what we were like then and from the first students I ever had. At this point, I think that teachers with so many years of experience should support young teachers and the institutions. They should have a different role. It is not that they should not work, but there’s a time when the teacher, while not reaching the point of retiring, should not be in the classroom all the time.” And, to conclude, he further stated: “Innovating in education does not mean buying new technology and using it in any way, but smartly integrating it in the classroom. In this approach, the teacher guides the student in their own learning process.”

Leonardo Costucica, Mechanical Engineering I teacher, submitted a project which “consists in organizing a university first-year course as if it was a productive organization. We invite the students to thoroughly design a machine. The goal is for the whole class to work integratively and cooperatively, -the teacher explained-. We use a task-division methodology, with four large groups, simulating the tasks done in different company areas or departments, with their own leaders. The first group works on the design. We have a brainstorming session in which every student makes contributions to the design of the machine. Then, the Quality area writes periodic reports on the tasks being carried out and performs the relevant controls. Then it meets with the Process area, in charge of developing flowcharts, as well as defining the technology and deadlines. And, finally, the production area is the one responsible for working at the School’s mechanical lab to make the parts.”

Costucica stated that “in this way we got the students motivated with the development of a specific project. The results of this work have led to the Innovation Day Event, which has been held for the past two years.”

The Mechanical Engineering I teacher reflected that: “We realized that the way we were teaching was not good any more. That the world had changed and that we needed to adapt to the new age, -he stated-. There is also a change in the teacher’s role; we are no longer the transmitters of knowledge; we have become orientation guides capable of solving inquiries. The idea is to propose something that motivates the student. We ground our actions on the constructionism model in pedagogy, a learning theory developed by Seymour Papert, MIT professor, who stresses the importance of action. He argues that, by building with their hands, people are building knowledge. Learning stops being abstract and becomes concrete.”

The results of this methodology “have surprised us, both teacher and students, very much. In 2017, we proposed making a conventional, reduced-scale shaper machine. Each class had to face the challenge. The positive aspect is that it is cooperative work, not competitive, -Costucica stated-. Unlike the case of mathematical problems, there are multiple possible solutions to engineering problems; there may be several valid solutions. Starting from the same premise, you may arrive at different results.”

Finally, Costucica expressed that this change in methodology has also had an impact on teachers. “It has changed the way our teaching team is organized and it has strengthened the interaction among teachers. Our relationship has improved as well as the view that both departmental authorities and other teachers in our Institution have about this teaching team,” he summarized.

Julian Drangosch, Physics II teacher, introduced some innovations in the summer course, where he has been teaching for the last few years: “I implemented two strategies. The first one, Bring your own device, proposes that students should bring their electronic devices to the classroom in order to interact with all the contents of the course. The second strategy is that of the Flipped Classroom, through which students devote most of their time actively engaged in their learning process. This methodology requires the teacher to abandon their typical expository role in order to let the students develop through self-education and autonomous learning, with the teacher acting as a guide or tutor in that process,” Drangosch explained.

With that purpose, this year he built a classroom on the Trello platform: “there they can find a card with the work to be done each day. Each card has the objectives and contents on which students should work on each day, and the concepts they should have learned at the end. That is why we include bibliography, videos, strategies to solve problems, exercises, simulators and computer tasks, as well as additional content such as study skills or history,” the teacher stated.

The changes started a few years ago: “I had already started a University Teaching Master’s program. I devoted quite some time to thinking what I wanted to do as a teacher and I no longer felt comfortable with the expository role, because I did not believe in it,” he explained.

Although the teacher admitted that “there is a lot of room for improvement”, he pointed out that “I have had very positive feedback. I always run into former students and all of them thank me for the way the course was taught, because they realize that they must be actively engaged in their learning process. They tell me that this way is easier and more enjoyable.”

The results, in addition, provide the evidence. “In 2017, 17% of the students in the Physics I class qualified to take the final exam and 13% passed the class with a final exam exemption. If we compared this with the summer course, we observed that 44% qualified to take the final exam and 4% passed it with a final exam exemption,” Drangosch pointed out.

In addition, he stated that “we reached a passing rate of 80% and 90% among those students who completed the course, compared to the average 35% of other Basic Sciences courses.”