ORU Helps Get New Technology Services To Local School Districts

Friday, January 8th 2021, 6:25 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

Technology experts at Oral Roberts University are assisting area school districts in bringing technology services for students to the next level. School administrators said this is education re-imagined and could transform their school systems. 

ORU said the pandemic has disrupted classrooms but has allowed innovative teaching tools to emerge. Staring at a stationary screen for hours on end has been the virtual reality for many students' but Currica Clarke with ORU said it doesn't have to be.  

ORU spent this week offering local school districts insight on how they can use federal money to elevate their technology. 

"We're starting where we are and we're changing the world around us,” said Currica Clarke, admin assistant to VP of Innovation & Technology. “There's no better time to do it than now." 

Immersive learning combines virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. ORU said those three tools combined can increase a students' learning by about 400%. 

"It's easy to say, ‘Oh, just read a book,’ but especially for students who are younger that's something that's harder to do. It's harder to put a picture to the words, and so that's one of the things that technology is able to do,” said Clarke. “It helps students be able to take the information that they're learning and put it in more of a physical sense.” 

VP of Innovation & Technology Michael Mathews said online education can be enjoyable when teaching methods imitate what students are interested in. 

"They're excited about Fortnite, Pokémon Go, but to get excited about education is incredible,” Mathews said. “Technology can be an enabler when it's designed correctly." 

Mathews said it’ll take time for people to buy in and adjust to new technology but said that’s just like any other great invention.  

"Back in the year 2005 faculty were saying, 'We don't want smart phones in the classroom,” only to find out within three years the smart phone became sort of that enabler for education to get grades, to take exams, to take assessments,” Mathews said.  

Broken Arrow Superintendent Dr. Janet Vinson told News On 6 she’s fascinated by what she’s witnessed.  

“It's given us so much to think about as far as how to reach students especially in places that they may not consider learning spaces. At home, while traveling, especially some of our students who have challenging situations to where it's hard to get to the classroom,” said Vinson. “At the same time, it gives our teachers a platform to have students experience the learning instead of just reading about it in a textbook.” 

She said the school district has a lot to discuss going forward. 

"I encourage our community and especially some of our businesses and foundation members and people like that to really start looking into this, because it's a good investment for education,” said Vinson. “We spend a lot of money on things that are archaic when we can spend less money by investing in the things that actually engage students.”  

TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said they’ve already gotten a taste of the technology and are blown away. 

"The work that is happening at Hale High School with our use of virtual reality is definitely an example of the kind of innovation that our district is on the leading edge of,” Dr. Gist said.  

Dr. Gist said students are much more engaged in their personal lives than flipping through a textbook and doing the odd questions off page 265.  

"Our children live in a world where technology is a part of their lives and that's for all of our students really,” said Dr. Gist. "When we use technology as tool not only does it make things available to them in ways that we can't do without it, but it also captures their excitement and their attention.” 

Sasha Townsend with Tulsa Community College believes, with time, this technology could change the landscape of education.  

"I think the technology is there to make online learning even better than what we're doing face to face, but we haven't done it yet and the reason we haven't done it yet is that investment needs to be made,” Townsend said.  

She said it’s not quite there yet, but she said this is just the beginning of something really big.  

"I think in the next 10 years we could be looking at the type of education or the type of classrooms that we see in science fiction," said Townsend, assistant professor of math.