Michigan State University

Michigan State University Designs New Teaching Techniques with Prysm Technology

As the country’s first university to offer coursework on how to generate technology breakthroughs in applied fields, Michigan State University (MSU) has an impressive 160-year track record for bringing innovation to classrooms. Building on that record, MSU’s College of Education has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 program for elementary and secondary teacher education for 24 consecutive years because of its methodological and technological innovations. Founded in 1855 as a public research institution, MSU has become one of the top ten largest universities in the United States in terms of enrollment. True to its motto – ‘advancing knowledge and transforming lives’ – MSU partnered with Prysm, Inc. to expand the boundaries of teaching and technology in classrooms worldwide.

The first time I saw what was possible with a Prysm display, I just about fell off my chair. I couldn't believe that I could pull together so many different media sources into one space and then organize them so they are usable.

Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow

With the integration of Prysm’s digital workplace, MSU has introduced a new era of teaching and learning: One that facilitates leading-edge collaboration and communication – virtual and physical – that makes accessible new areas of research and development for the classroom. 

Dr. Douglas Hartman, professor of technology and human learning at MSU, explained, “We use Prysm’s digital workplace in graduate-level coursework, where students leverage the technology to collaborate on projects.”

He continued, “The first time I saw what was possible with a Prysm display, I just about fell off my chair. I couldn't believe that I could pull together so many different media sources into one space and then organize them so they are usable.”

One such example is a course hosted entirely online that is comprised of graduate students from all over the world, that are classroom teachers by profession. “The course examines how to use a range of digital technologies to teach a variety of subject matter areas. While many of the digital tools teachers learn about are commonplace, their use on Prysm’s digital canvas is very cutting-edge,” observed Dr. Hartman. “Teachers are blown away when they see the potential of using familiar tools on a large digital canvas. They have a jaw-dropping experience when they see how they can pull things together.”

Teachers in the course familiarize themselves with the attributes of Prysm’s digital workplace and then design a lesson or project for their classroom. “Teachers identify content and design how to teach with it before uploading materials to the platform,” Dr. Hartman described. “It’s remarkable to see how different subject areas, grade-levels, and activities can become more engaging using the digital environment.”

In another project, teachers reimagine what one subject area would look like in the curriculum if Prysm were ubiquitous in classrooms. “Teachers use the properties of the digital workspace to leverage the unique learning possibilities of a large-screen, multimodal, touch-screen technology,” explained Dr. Hartman, “For example, one affordance of the large Prysm screen is ‘adjacency,’ where many information sources can be displayed in close proximity to each other, all at once. There’s no toggling among tabs, clicking among windows, or opening and closing of applications. Every source of information – whether print, video, photo, numeric, graphic, or audio – is immediately visible and ready for use. With a pinch any source can be resized from a postage stamp to a large poster, then back again. This is not possible on smaller screens or traditional ‘bookware.’”

He continued, “Affordances like ‘adjacency’ enable our research and development team to push the boundaries of teaching and technology in many ways and then examine the impact. For instance, by displaying versions of the Declaration of Independence side-by-side on Prysm’s large digital canvas, and then asking students to analyze how the versions were edited over time, our team can examine how to better design high-level strategies for analysis and synthesis of important information sources. It may seem like a simple thing, but the simplicity of the digital workplace opens up sophisticated new ways for students to learn what took place during the summer of 1776 when delegates negotiated draft after draft of the document in Philadelphia.”

Considering most teachers and professors today have limited screen-space available in their classrooms, MSU’s commitment to bringing technologies like Prysm into education is unique. “This course,” Hartman reflected, “tangibly demonstrates the potential for using large-screen, multimodal, touch-screen workplaces like Prysm to engage and excite students, and elevate the effectiveness of the teachers who work with them.” 


Preparing Students for Their Future

Research and development with Prysm’s digital workplace has resulted in new relationships for MSU: “The best use cases we’ve designed have come about because of our partnership with North Branch Elementary School,” Dr. Hartman shared. “It’s one of the most innovative-minded, technology-leveraging districts I’ve known.”

A research and development team from the Design Studio in MSU’s College of Education has integrated Prysm technology into a laboratory-style classroom at North Branch Elementary School, enabling teachers to iterate lessons and projects using the large display with students in grades two through four. “Elementary teachers use attributes like ‘adjacency’ in lessons to compare multiple sources on the large screen so students can analyze information, synthesize it with other information, and then evaluate it with other materials,” noted Dr. Hartman. “For a deeper dive into source materials, teachers and students can use the large touch-enabled screen to reduce or expand source material, pull up more files, or search online for supporting information – all on the same king-sized screen with whatever apps they need to use.”

Using the laboratory-style classroom, the MSU team studies the effectiveness of these new teaching and learning approaches under real-school conditions. Dr. Hartman outlined, “A big benefit of MSU’s collaboration with North Branch Elementary School is the ongoing design of Prysm-enabled activities that can enhance and accelerate student learning.”

He added, “When working on the Prysm display, instead of having to mentally keep track of numerous elements – things like images, relationships, constructs and chronologies – students are now able to lighten the loading on their working memory; freeing up space in their mind to take on higher-level analysis and evaluation.”

The teachers’ use of Prysm’s digital workplace in their elementary school pushes the boundaries of traditional teaching and learning. The affordances of the workplace meet the diverse learning styles and backgrounds represented in their classroom that have often been overlooked. Dr. Hartman concluded, “Our MSU team is relentlessly designing strategies with North Branch teachers. These strategies have the potential to facilitate enhanced teaching and deepen learning so students are better prepared for their future. Prysm’s innovative digital workplace creates a whole new arena for us to think about the way humans can teach and learn information. We’re pushing into areas that have not yet been explored and that is what makes the partnership with North Branch Elementary and Prysm so exciting for us.”

Institution: Michigan State University
Industry: Education
Headquarters: East Lansing, Michigan
Endowment: $3 billion