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BYU professor takes innovative curriculum to China

A Brigham Young University information technology professor will travel to mainland China next week to teach more than 200 university computer science leaders about an innovative technology curriculum he helped develop.

“I’m thrilled to bring my work to China at a time when so many are interested in technology and American teaching styles,” said Barry Lunt, who departs for China Wednesday, Oct. 12, and returns Oct. 19.

Lunt has been the chair of two national committees whose task it was to draft the model curriculum for a new academic technology discipline called information technology. The discipline differs from other computing disciplines in that instead of focusing on just one aspect of computers, it combines a variety of technologies. Students learn to use computers, software and the Internet to solve problems for individuals and organizations. Faculty and students at BYU are currently working on projects aimed at preventing data decay on CDs and improving computer security.

Lunt’s work developing the new discipline caught the attention of Chinese educators, prompting them to invite him to present the new curriculum to them.

Karen Hyer, an expert in educational psychology who has taught at four Chinese universities, said she is not surprised with China’s interest in Lunt’s work.

“Many Chinese universities are still transitioning from traditional teaching methods, which rely upon rote and testing,” Hyer said. “They are fascinated with our problem-solving approaches and how we teach students to think, question and reason out problems, especially in the sciences. We are also seen as the ‘one to beat.’ Young academic Chinese want to know how we do it so that they can beat us at our own game.”

Hyer’s husband, Paul, is a China expert who taught at BYU. He said BYU is even more respected in China than in the United States.

“Along with Harvard, Berkeley and Columbia, BYU is one of the most widely known universities in China,” Paul Hyer said. “The many BYU performing arts groups that have traveled there, the school’s large teacher exchange program and the university’s safe, conservative image have helped establish BYU as a premier university to the Chinese. So it is not surprising China is interested in BYU’s information technology program.”

BYU created its IT program in 2001. Since then, according to department chair Richard Helps, BYU has played an important role in developing the discipline at universities throughout the nation.

“We helped start an IT education society which is now a national organization and we have helped the national accreditation board as it has developed its standards," said Helps. "In November, we hope to become one of the first universities to be accredited for IT.”

Writer: Spencer Deery

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