By: Araina Bond, TLS freelance writer

Professor Peggy Hartwick calls on students in class who have their hands raised.When SLaLS professor Peggy Hartwick received an unexpected nighttime phone call from a colleague recently, she worried something had gone wrong at work. But the call brought much happier news: Hartwick was announced as the recipient of a 2015 Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning.

The award recognizes post-secondary educators from around the world for their innovative approaches that promote student-centered teaching and learning.

Hartwick, who teaches English as a Second Language at Carleton, says she was surprised and caught off guard by the call.

“I felt very grateful and fortunate to have the support of colleagues at all levels of the university,” she says. “I was really happy, but am pretty shy about the whole thing.”

But Hartwick doesn’t shy away from experimenting with new technologies in the classroom. A few years ago, she was approached to use Carleton’s 3D virtual learning environment as part of a pilot project, and now the tool has now become an integral part of her courses.

Through the 3D environment, students can explore any outdoor or indoor space on campus and communicate in a variety of ways – from talking on headsets to using a webcam to typing instant messages. Hartwick says it’s an ideal place for students to improve their language skills and experience learning in different contexts.

“I am always inspired by my students and that’s why I like my job so much,” she says. “In the 3D environment, the most impressive moment was when one particularly shy female student in the face-to-face classroom just blossomed in the online space.”

In addition to the 3D environment, Hartwick recently introduced another educational technology tool into her courses: cuPortfolio, Carleton’s ePortfolio software. The student-centered learning tool provides a venue for students to collect artifacts, including assignments, images, text and multimedia, to showcase and reflect upon their work. It can also act as an assessment tool for professors.

Hartwick has long been a proponent of using technology in the classroom. She’s become known across campus for her creative technology-based teaching methods, which earned her a Carleton Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award in 2013.

“[Technology] enhances the dynamics of the classroom and the level of engagement,” she says. “The technology I use is a tool to leverage levels of engagement and interest with the content.”

And while the awards are exciting, at the end of the day Hartwick says it’s her students that make it all worthwhile.

“I have had some very rewarding teaching moments, but it is really all about the students,” she says.

Hartwick, along with the four other Brightspace award winners, will be celebrated on June 18 in Vancouver at a special ceremony during the 2015 STLHE Annual Conference. Each winner will receive a two-year membership in STLHE, as well as $2,200 toward travel and registration costs for Brightspace’s annual users’ conference, FUSION 2015, and STLHE’s Annual Conference.