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Dr. Jennifer L. Penland writes chapter for teaching textbook

ISSUED: 15 January 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The director of Shepherd University’s School of Education contributed a chapter to the newly released “Handbook of Research on Literacy and Digital Technology Integration in Teacher Education” with IGI Global. Dr. Jennifer L. Penland co-wrote the chapter “Perceptions of New Realities for the 21st Century Learner” with Dr. Kennard Laviers, assistant professor of computer science at Sul Ross State University in Texas. The chapter explores the use of virtual and mixed realities in the classroom.

“With virtual reality, you give students information, but you also give them an immersive experience,” Penland said. “A good example is the Freedom Riders. I wasn’t there during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, but I wanted students to feel that, to understand, and to empathize. They can get the experience of immersion using virtual reality headsets. It’s like watching a TV monitor, but your vision is totally encapsulated so you’re not distracted. For a 10 or 12 minute clip, you get to feel how those people felt being oppressed and abused, hearing harsh words, and being discriminated against.”

Penland has been reimagining teacher preparation programs and experimenting with techniques in the classroom that take learning beyond reading books, taking tests, and writing papers to giving students an experience where they can see and feel what happened.

“Students learn differently today,” she said. “They’re walking around with their phones. A lot of them have laptops and tablets with them. They’re plugged in most of the time. It’s not that they aren’t paying attention, they’re just learning differently. I think we need to reach all types of learners—auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. We have to look at where we’re losing students and try to engage them.”

Penland said she and Laviers talked to college students and asked them their perceptions about how teaching has evolved and how they learn best.

“We’ve come to the point of engaging students when they are interested, when they are challenged, and when it benefits them with a career,” she said. “I’m looking at career-focused skill sets for students. That’s what I’ve been moving toward these last few years in publishing.”

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