Monday, November 05, 2007

Professor Touts Computer Technology to Advance Education

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. Kathleen Burns admits that her penmanship is so awful, her students used to complain good-naturedly they couldn't read her writing on the chalkboard.

That is why, she jokes, she was forced to become an expert on computer technology as a means of teaching and learning in the classroom.

Burns, a professor in the college of Education and Human Services, is new to UIS this fall. She obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees in education, forever knowing that being a teacher was her calling.

"I always wanted to be a teacher; that was my heart's desire ever since I can remember," she said. "I just didn’t realize I would end up being a professor of education."

But Burns had a great mentor while she was working on her master's degree, who encouraged her to pursue a Ph.D., from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and go on to teach at the college level.

The decision to join the UIS community, Burns said, was an easy one. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay and says that the underground tunnels at Wisconsin and at UIS are extremely similar, which she loves. While visiting from her previous position at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Burns was taken with UIS.

"The very first time I came on this campus, I said 'I am going to work here'," she said. "It was really easy for me to say that's where I want to be."

Burns is currently teaching her first class that is completely online, called Technology in Education, which she is thrilled about. She also teaches Social Studies Methods and Teaching, Learning and Assessment for elementary majors.

Online learning and computer technology have been special interests of Burns in her professional work since the beginning. She became intrigued at the concept while she was working as administrator in high school setting. When technology began to come around, the school needed someone to "take charge" as the coordinator between technology and education.

"I ended up being the mediator, the person on campus who could do little fixes to the computer and the network, and it just got more and more evolved, to the point where I was doing the technology end of things more than other things," she said.

Burns then landed a part-time stint assisting fellow teachers with using computers within their teaching curriculum and classroom education. She ended up writing her Ph.D. dissertation on the subject.

Burns said over the years, she has become so closely associated with technology in the classroom that she has seen firsthand the benefits that computer technology does play and could potentially affect in the classroom setting. She is excited about what is progressing.

"I can honestly say that I think there won't be classrooms at some point," she said. "Imagine how online learning and computer technology could benefit high school students who want to take a more advanced class, like a college course. Or challenge alternative students, most of whom are so smart, but just bored with the day-to-day in-class schedules."

"I’ve been there since it began to be implemented," she added, "and I think it just keeps getting better and better."