Faculty Spotlight: Walter Leal

walterlealheadshotDr. Walter Leal, professor and former chair of UC Davis’ Department of Entomology, and recipient of the International Society of Chemical Ecology’s Silver Medal award, is committed to educational technology.

In addition to PowerPoint and podcast, Leal has been creating “e-reviews” by recording a narrative summary of each of his lectures. In the most recent offering of Insect Physiology, Leal added two new tools: Camtasia and Skype.

“My colleague, James Carey, introduced me to Camtasia,” says Leal, “and now I use this software to generate animated e-reviews.” In place of a verbal narrative, Leal’s students watch videos that review major concepts with animations and illustrations. Leal admits that the e-reviews can be time consuming, but considers this a worthy price for increased student engagement and comprehension. These results are no doubt furthered because Leal waits until after office hours to create the reviews so that he has “a better idea of the questions and points of clarifications students need.” Student evaluations confirm the value of the e-reviews.

Additionally, Leal brings “textbook authors and colleagues who made landmark discoveries in the field” into the classroom via Skype — he and his students conduct live interviews with these scholars during class. Leal reports that it took a few trials before the Skype interviews were functioning properly, but “by the second or third interview we managed the technology and had wonderful interviews. A hint is not to use wireless and ask the interviewee to connect via cable.”

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