GGC wins TAG's Excalibur Award

Georgia Gwinnett College’s innovative iTouch Chemistry Project took home top honors at the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) 2011 Excalibur Awards Ceremony, held Friday, Oct. 21.

Georgia Gwinnett College’s innovative iTouch Chemistry Project took home top honors at the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) 2011 Excalibur Awards Ceremony, held Friday, Oct. 21.

The prestigious Excalibur Awards program annually recognizes the innovative use of technology in the fields of business and education. This was the first time GGC educators entered the competition, which attracted more than 20 other Georgia colleges and universities.

Several hundred educators and business leaders looked on as a team of GGC faculty were honored for pioneering the iTouch Project. The initiative uses the popular Apple-based technology to provide individualized learning, studying and classroom assistance for the organic chemistry curriculum. Mai Yin Tsoi, assistant professor of chemistry and one of the project’s chief architects, officially accepted the award on behalf of her colleagues.

“I had every confidence that we would be recognized for the iTouch Project,” said Lois Richardson, acting vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. “This project has been making an impact on our students since the day it was launched.”

Inaugurated in 2010, the iTouch Chemistry Project was the brainchild of several GGC faculty members who wanted to improve the retention rate in the college’s chemistry discipline.

“It’s not uncommon at Georgia Gwinnett or any other school, to find that 40 percent of the students who take Organic Chemistry I do not take Organic Chemistry II. The material is very challenging,” said Richard Pennington, associate professor of chemistry and one of the project collaborators. “We wanted to do something to make the material more accessible, and this project made sense.”

Using seed grants furnished by the office of Academic and Student Affairs, the organizers distributed almost 60 iTouch devices to organic chemistry students in the fall of 2010.

Already familiar with iTouch technology, the students used the devices to access specially designed organic chemistry flash cards and podcasts.  These learning modules reinforced basic concepts, allowing faculty to use classroom time for more challenging material.

“You could see their attitude shift,” said Julia Paredes, assistant professor of chemistry. “Students knew the material was hard, but they felt like they could conquer it.”

As word of the iTouch Project spread around campus, students enrolled in GGC’s information technology program began developing new learning software for the iTouch Project.  This unanticipated collaboration has been embraced by the faculty.

Organized by Sonal Dekhane, assistant professor of information technology, the iTouch software project gave the college’s information technology students valuable experience working with actual software clients – organic chemistry students.  Their hard work and creativity allowed the chemistry students to use tailor-made software to learn new material.

All of these benefits favorably influenced the TAG evaluation team, which chose GGC’s iTouch Project from a crowded field of entries.

“We are always looking for a return on investment,” said TAG President Tino Mantella.  “This project had a great return, in terms of the educational benefit to the students.”

The iTouch Chemistry Project has also been supported by staff members David Gabrell and Gautam Saha, as well as faculty members David Pursell, Joseph Sloop, Patrick Coppock and Thomas Mundie, dean of the School of Science and Technology.

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