UT creates Academic Technology Council to improve coordination of technology, create new technology campus-wide

Joelle DiPaolo, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 30 flipbook. 

UT is looking to improve technology literacy and accessibility campus-wide with a new council it created last month. 

The Academic Technology Council held their first meeting Friday, Nov. 12 to address the need for increased technology coordination on campus, according to an email from council co-chair Art Markman. Additionally, the council is collaborating with other UT faculty to create a new campus-wide badging program that shows proficiency in different skills, such as digital literacy.

“The aim of the new technology council is to really focus on how we build on some of the strengths that we have in place (at the) University, to find new opportunities, and to make it easier for us to develop methods to make use of the latest technologies in what we’re doing,” said Markman, vice provost for continuing professional education and new education ventures.

Through the use of college-specific focus groups,  the council identified that faculty have different proficiency levels with available technology, co-chair Shelly Rodriguez said. 

 “We really wanted to hear from all of the colleges … (and) we wanted to hear from people who weren’t necessarily technophiles,” Rodriguez said. 

Mariana Mijangos, a Plan II and neuroscience sophomore, said education can help professors use technology to aid student learning better. 

“There was a whole week where I didn’t have class because the professor couldn’t figure out the whole Zoom thing,” Mijangos said. 

Markman said incorporating technology into professor’s curricula shouldn’t be a frustrating experience. The goal of the council is to ensure there are available resources to support them.   

This increased communication between colleges resulted in a new badging program where students and faculty receive electronic badges after taking certain classes or training to signify competency in a subject, Markman said. 

The badges are a way for students to develop specific skills and prove mastery of them, said  Cynthia Labrake, a member of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education and Science, which is helping start the badge initiative. Potential employers can see a digital badge and how a student earned it, Labrake said. 

“Badging is a way to tie together what you’re learning and how well you learned it,” Labrake said. “It’s a more precise way to know yourself and to show others what you can do.” 

Texas Inventionworks, a makerspace and open prototyping lab in the Engineering Education and Research Center, is planning on launching a prototype of their introductory-level badges in the spring, director Scott Evans said, and their badges will prove competency in various skills such as 3D-printing.

“Think of it as academic currency,” Evans said. “It’s like Bitcoin, but it’s related to skills and knowledge and academic stuff … eventually you’re going to have a collection of these badges and credentials that you’re going to carry with you.”