The new Director of Academic Technology Services, David Levin, joined our staff a few weeks ago, and kindly consented to the below interview. Welcome to the team, David!
What is your professional background?
After completing my PhD in Philosophy at Cornell University, I spent 15 years as a professor at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. I had a pretty traditional academic career, but then I got interested in technology. What began as a research interest led me back to school for graduate study in computer science, and ended in a focus on how technology can benefit teaching and learning.
It wasn’t too long before I left Wisconsin to become the Director of Distance Learning at DePaul University. DePaul had opened campuses all over the Chicago area to make their program accessible to working adult learners. Their use of interactive video conferencing to deliver courses across campuses (and the popularity of their competency-based model for adult learning) made them realize that they could expand beyond Chicago. Doing so would require online courses, and that’s where I came in.
In 2004, I moved to California to become the Director of Academic Technology for Cal Poly Pomona, and a few years later I joined Cal State Northridge, where I spent the last several years building their Faculty Technology Center.
What kinds of educational technology implementations do you envision at Davis?
I see online instruction as a broad field that involves online courses, but also the integration of technology into face-to-face and hybrid delivery formats. This breadth is especially important because the field of educational technology has separated face-to-face and online learning into discrete categories, but now they are blending. Technology is present in the classroom, and the interactivity of face-to-face is happening online with synchronous tools like video conferencing and webinars.
Specific to Davis, I see the STEM disciplines’ large classes and labs as a good opportunity for integrating technology. I’d like to see us redesign our teaching and learning in these environments so that we are making better use of the time spent in the physical classroom. This might mean having students complete a learning activity and assessment online, which will allow the instructor to more appropriately focus class time on the content with which the students are struggling.
I’m also interested in enhancing the physical spaces around campus so that they better support collaboration and interactivity. I see students all over campus studying in groups, and they’re often huddled around a laptop. We need rooms where they can bring their laptops, but also practice presentations and work together on documents that are projected.
Furthermore, I’m excited about the potential of using technology to connect the UC campuses. Every week there are 600 seminars happening at 10 campuses – this is still a ways off, but how great would it be to capture these and put them in a searchable database? The other side of this is that we can bring experts from across the country into our classrooms. Why wait for a specialist to come to town when we can bring them to class via AdobeConnect or Skype?
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our faculty readers?
During the interview process, I was very impressed with the talented staff at ATS; Davis has an exciting group of professionals doing interesting things with technology, as well as faculty who are actively expanding teaching and learning beyond the campus. I’m excited to be here!
What do you do for fun?
I love being outside. I like biking, walking, and hiking; I even used to do a good bit of bird watching. I also love film and movies – I’m currently on the look-out for a good indie theater around here.
I grew up in a small college town, so coming to Davis is like coming home.