Psychology Professor Brings Technology, Innovation to Classroom

September 27, 2018 | Kyler Alvord

In the digital age, educators find it increasingly difficult to engage students through traditional teaching methods. The modern classroom is a battlefield for attention, and far too often smartphones take the victory.

At Walla Walla University (WWU), Peter Gleason, associate professor of psychology, makes an effort to win back students’ attention by blending new technologies with his teaching methods. Rather than viewing digital devices as a problem, Gleason sees them as a source of creative potential. “I believe that in order for learning to happen, the educator must first capture attention and inspire curiosity,” he explains. “Something that captures attention is novelty — something new.” To get ahead of the curve, Gleason became an Apple Teacher.

The Apple Teacher program familiarizes educators with various Apple devices and apps and equips them with useful skills. Through practice, teachers discover how to use Apple technology as an avenue for instruction. With this training, Gleason, who has a doctorate in psychology, can spice up the way students interact with course materials.

“With knowledge comes ideas,” he says. “What I have learned about Apple, and technology in general, has enabled me to think differently about how I can make learning happen.”

Apple emphasizes creativity. In his first year of teaching at WWU, Gleason has already implemented creative practices in the School of Education and Psychology. In one class, he assigned a video essay as an alternative to the traditional written essay format. In another, he sent students on a multimedia scavenger hunt. He plans to assign projects in the future in which students work together to create digital magazines related to the lessons.

Whatever the subject matter, Gleason looks for ways to combine his understanding of the human mind with his passion for experimental learning. “Education is more of a practice than a science,” Gleason says. “We do not have one single best practice for education, so educators are forced to be creative as they find effective learning practices.”

Gleason has led faculty workshops in the past with hopes of sharing resources and sparking a shift toward innovative teaching practices. “Apple is not the only answer, nor is technology the final solution,” he says. “However, when leveraged by an educator who cares … This can be a powerful force.”