Are new digital technologies compatible with the aims and traditions of “liberal education?” Or do instructional technologies pose an inexorable threat to higher education understood as anything more than vocational training? For Jo Ellen Parker, the answers to these much debated questions are yes and yes; it all depends on how the aims and traditions of “liberal education” are understood. Her thoughtful essay examines the wide range of sometimes-conflicting definitions of a liberal education, and how these different views also affect the perception of instructional technolgoy. She writes, “…the discussion of technology and liberal education is entwined in debates about broader educational priorities and value…Faculty and administrators who express concern about the impact of technology on liberal education are sometimes dismissed by technologists and CIOs as simply resisting change or failing in imagination. However, campus resistance to new technologies is often a matter of defending perceived threats to important educational…commitments. “
Three Stars and a Chili Pepper: Social Software, Folksonomy, and User Reviews in the College Context
Joe Ugoretz discusses how a new group of internet tools–Google, Wikis, Flickr and others included in the family of social software”–provide new methods of creating, sharing, categorizing, accessing and critiquing content, while lacking a central authority or a hierarchy of editorial control. Joe presents some suggestions “for how we, in the academic world, the college context, can use these tools to the advantage of our teaching and our students’ learning.”
Notes & Ideas: What Are You Implying About My First Life? Real Students, Virtual Space and Second Life
Christopher Watts cannot quite decide how he feels about Second Life. But he thinks it has potential for liberal arts. Meanwhile, he strives to be cool as his avatar.
Spatial literacy is an important ingredient of a holistic education; however, ways of instilling spatial thinking into the curriculum through effective technologies remain unclear. GIS would seem to be a successful tool for increasing spatial literacy in our students, and Newcomb agrees. It can also be argued that another effective tool for nurturing spatial awareness is the use of tablet PCs combined with GIS software.
Sue Sipple shares her experience with providing digitized audio commentary; she says, “The results have convinced me that audio instructor commentary on student writing is received more positively by college composition students and leads them toward more substantive revision of their essays.
Asking students to create podcasts for literature classes opens up a whole new realm of learning for Professor Peter Schmidt and his students: “Students found that the readings brought the passages and the novels to life—and that when they heard passages aloud, they noticed many more things than when they just read an assignment before class. In addition, students could respond to the interpretations of the selections that the podcasts made—adding their own collaborative insights, arguing with the interpretation, etc. With literature, this new technology encourages close reading, thoughtful interpretation, and student involvement.”
In the field of educational technology, there have always been “emerging trends.” But after attending one of this year’s NERCOMP workshops on the topic, Gail came away with the feeling that right now, the range of possibilities on the horizon is particularly rich. She highlights for us some of the main ideas discussed and provides a list of links to technologies that were referenced during each presentation.
Valerie Gillispie reports in about an event that brought together faculty, information technology specialists, librarians, and others who work with images to discuss the impact of digital images on the liberal arts curriculum. The conference was inspired by David Green’s recent survey and interviews with 35 institutions about their use of digital images. She writes, “It seems clear that digital images are becoming a standard component of curricula, and the ability to interpret and critically analyze these images is becoming a required skill for students and faculty.”
Review of “Connecting Technology & Liberal Education: Theories and Case Studies” A NERCOMP event (4/5/06)
Shel offers this take on a workshop looking at a very broad topic which offered a slight twist as far as NERCOMP workshops go: all of the presenters came from an academic background rather than a technological one. Says Shel, “My interest in the interaction of technology and pedagogy was well met by presentations combining strategic thinking about what constitutes and shapes a liberal arts education and examples of technology being used in the classroom in a traditionally ‘liberal’ manner.”
At the October 27, 2005 NERCOMP meeting entitled “Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished,” Leo Hill, Leslie Hitch, and Glenn Pierce from Northeastern University gave a presentation about how they planned for and implemented a university computer cluster that serves the research agendas of a wide array of Northeastern’s faculty. At the October 27, 2005 NERCOMP meeting entitled “Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished,” Leo Hill, Leslie Hitch and Glenn Pierce from Northeastern University gave a presentation about how they planned for and implemented a university computer cluster that serves the research agendas of a wide array of Northeastern’s faculty. Mike Roy attended the meeting and lets us know about some some of the exciting outcomes–and repercussions–of a campus-wide (and perhaps nationwide) change in attitudes and support for the idea that IT-supported research can fundamentally change for the better how we conduct research and eventually how we educate our students.
The Learning Commons at the University of Calgary has worked with the Glenbow museum to create Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, an extensive, interactive website that introduces the legendary tales and colorful personalities who shaped and defined Alberta’s history, and are the predecessors of Alberta’s maverick nature.