September 10, 2008

The University of Kentucky was selected as one of 39 two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States and Puerto Rico to receive a 2008 HP Technology for Teaching grant, which is designed to transform teaching and improve learning in the classroom through innovative uses of technology.

The UK Department of Forestry, part of the College of Agriculture, will receive an award package of HP products and a faculty cash award valued at more than $77,000.

Each of the HP Technology for Teaching grant recipients will use wireless HP Tablet PCs to enhance learning in engineering, math, science or computer science. At UK, three required undergraduate forestry classes have been redesigned to incorporate the use of the tablet PCs to prepare forestry graduates to be ‘society-ready,' as was stated in the grant proposal developed by a committee comprised of the department chairman Steven Bullard, faculty members Songlin Fei, John Lhotka and Tammy Cushing, post-doctoral scholar Laura Lhotka and Darryl Cremeans, data systems manager.

Fei's title for the grant proposal, "Reviving Traditional Forestry with HP Technology," is very appropriate said Bullard, considering the department's philosophy of balancing hands-on established forestry methods with 21st century technology.

"The idea is traditional forestry," he said. "In forestry, you can't get away from the field, but many universities in forestry have tended to go more and more toward the computer and virtual reality, and that takes away from the real skill."

He said that this grant would support the department's goal to provide students with the well-rounded education they will need for success in a career that demands both technological literacy and hands-on skills.

"We found that a lot of people major in forestry because they want to work outdoors. They do want to use high technology, and they want to make a difference. I think this grant fits all of that," he said.

Initially three courses will use the new equipment, which includes not only the tablet computers, but a large-format printer, digital camera, projector and desktop computer and monitor for the instructor. In a geographic information systems course, taught by Fei, students learn spatial concepts in forestry and in a silviculture course, taught by John Lhotka, students will use the new mobile technology to learn about temporal concepts in forestry management. In the senior-level capstone course, taught by Cushing and John Lhotka, the technology will allow students to apply forestry concepts to real world applications of forest management and use the technology to communicate these concepts to woodland owners.

Bullard said they were surprised to get the funding because of the highly competitive nature of the grant. He believes it was a combination of the forestry committee's innovative thinking and Laura Lhotka's writing ability that convinced the HP selection committee their technology could enhance the educational experience offered by the Department of Forestry.

The HP Technology for Teaching grant was awarded to the University of Kentucky once before, in 2004. That grant was awarded to another department in the College of Agriculture, the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, for the development of a mobile classroom for GIS education.

HP is awarding 149 two- and four-year colleges and universities, and K-12 public schools in the United States and Puerto Rico more than $7 million in mobile technology, cash and professional development as part of the 2008 HP Technology for Teaching grant program. Since 2004, HP has contributed a total of $60 million in HP Technology for Teaching grants to more than 1,000 schools in 41 countries worldwide. During the past 20 years, HP has contributed more than $1 billion in cash and equipment to schools, universities, community organizations and other nonprofit organizations around the world.

"Around the world, HP partners with pioneering professors and schools to discover how technology can improve student success," said Sid Espinosa, director of Global Social Investment programs at HP. "While technology is not the answer to every educational challenge, we have witnessed its incredible and transformative impact in the classroom. This innovation is happening every day as teaching and learning are fundamentally changing."

More information about the 2008 HP Technology for Teaching program and grant recipients is available at http://www.hp.com/go/hpteach.

More information about UK Department of Forestry is available at http://www.ca.uky/forestry.

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