Faculty Interested in Teaching, Learning, and Technology
**The most recent version of this article is now at http://horizon.unc.edu/ts/default.asp?show=article&id=904 **
Several years ago, I converted my paper syllabi, course handouts, and a variety of other materials [could you list a few other materials?]to course Web sites. I added a few other resources I had never had on paper, such as e-mail lists of students, but I still felt I was not fully utilizing the capabilities of the Web. I posed the question: What else should be included on a good course Web site? I could have never guessed where this question would take me.
I began by searching the Web sites of other faculty members in my department. Most either did not have Web sites or had sites less fully developed than my own. I searched the Web for courses similar to mine at other campuses, but found little I could count as new. I then wondered whether faculty members in other disciplines on my campus had ideas I had not yet seen. Administrators I spoke to did not know which faculty members had good course Web sites, so I conducted my own search for Web-based course materials. I looked for creative teaching and learning ideas, especially ones that involved active learning. My search uncovered 21 sites with interesting and unique ideas.
[This next paragraph sets up the meat of your argument. Since it's so crucial to your article, let's expand on it quite a bit. Please see the individual comments & recommendations in red below, and/or expand in any other way you deem worthwhile.]
In the fall of 1998, I contacted the faculty members who created these sites and suggested we form a group. During the first few months, we met in a large conference room with one or two computers connected to the Internet. We discussed what we were doing[this is a little imprecise -- could you reword this, perhaps along the lines of "what kinds of materials and resources we were developing individually"]and talked about on-campus and off-campus resources[what sorts of resources?]. We created our own Web site [to what purpose? for whose use? what was its content? was it a purely "experimental" site where you could test new ideas? could we link to it in this article?]and experimented with different online communication tools, including bulletin boards, chats, e-mail, and whiteboards. We discussed theoretical issues such as when electronic communication tools really help students [please clarify/expand on this a bit], whether to post class lecture notes online, and ways to encourage active learning.
After a few months, the group had shrunk to seven regular members and a couple of occasional attendees. We then decided to meet with staff members involved with technology on campus. We needed to know what was being planned for the growth of technology in teaching and learning, and we wanted to share our viewpoints— that is, the viewpoints of faculty members who truly cared about teaching, learning, and technology. We set up meetings with directors and staff from University Computing Services, the libraries, the campus teleplex (distance education, TV stations, and radio) and other technology offices that served teaching and learning. Staff members were willing and accommodating, giving us more of their time than we might have gotten as individuals. As we built a stronger network with the technology staff, we worked on a variety of Web-based active learning projects. Most were directed by only one of the group, but some have been highly collaborative.
[Please insert an introductory paragraph here that explains that you will now discuss some of the individual projects. The paragraph need not be more than 2-4 sentences. In it, please mention that two of the members of your group (the first two you describe here) and yourself have described their individual projects in this (July/August) issue of The Technology Source. Also, consider linking to each of the highlighted sites.]
Susan Tancock, a professor in the department of elementary education, has developed a Web-based database of information on elementary school reading materials. Her students— preservice elementary school teachers— create Web sites as part of class assignments designed to help them learn how to evaluate elementary school reading material. The database also serves as a resource for professional teachers already employed in schools.
[Suggested rewrite of the above paragraph: Susan Tancock, a professor in the department of elementary education, has developed a Web-based database of literacy training materials for elementary school teachers. Her students, who are preservice teachers, must learn how to teach reading skills to elementary school students. They use the Web to evaluate existing literacy training materials and to create materials of their own. They then build Web pages that describe and illustrate these activities, contributing to a growing, publicly accessible database that serves them during their training and also serves as a resource for professional teachers already employed in schools.]
Bill Bauer, a professor in the school of music, has explored tools that help broaden and develop music education students. He has developed a number of interesting ways to use bulletin boards, on-line testing, and other interactive technologies to accomplish his goals.[Since this concerns the second of two other articles in this issue of TS written by members of your group, please expand on Prof Bauer's accomplishments.]
[It might be worthwhile to restructure this section as follows: first, describe Prof Tancock's and Prof Bauer's sites a bit more thoroughly, listing the *benefits* or real innovations of their work. You've mostly accomplished this already, it just needs a bit more development. Then, have one or two paragraphs that summarize the benefits/innovations of the remaining individual projects, rather than describing what each professor has done. You can, of course, recycle most of the material below, just re-focus it so that the focus is on "things our group accomplished" rather than "this is what individuals' sites look like." Your new paragraph could begin this way: "Other innovations individuals in our group have implemented include improved testing and assessment of both students and courses. Mike O'Hara and William Magrath....." In any event, the things your group has done are *real* innovations, so you can and should trumpet them by expanding more on what the benefits and improvements are.]
Darrell Butler, a professor in the department of psychological science, has used a course Web site to facilitate active learning projects in a large (over 200 students) lecture course. The site helps students select topics, find relevant information, evaluate the information they find, and learn to use various technologies to report their work.
Mike O’Hara, in the department of theater, has studied new ways to test students. He uses a proctored, computer-based testing room outside of the classroom. Students take quizzes on reading material before class, as well as larger, less frequent exams several times each semester.
William Magrath, in the department of classical cultures, has carefully assessed students and his class as he has evolved from lecture, to high-tech multimedia in-class presentations, to Web-based course materials for a class of about 80 students.
Kay Hodson-Carlton, in the department of nursing, has been developing the Web-based components for off-campus courses in the graduate nursing program. Working with library staff on campus, she has developed an interactive module to help students learn to assess Web sites that house nursing information.
Peter McAllister, in the school of music, has been experimenting with student-developed digital videos that demonstrate their teaching abilities. These videos are used as portfolio items and to facilitate students' development as teachers.
In addition to developing active learning projects for our own individual courses, our group has also worked collaboratively. As staff and administrators become aware of our interests and expertise, we have been asked to help with campus-wide projects and events. When the campus was considering purchasing Blackboard, we were asked to review the product and provide a perspective from the point of view of advanced users. The director of the Office of Teaching and Learning Advancement has asked us to hold workshops on active learning, creating course Web sites that encourage active learning, and a number of other topics [you might list one or two of those other topics]. We have also been working to develop a tool to assess course Web sites, which we hope to make available to others soon. It has evolved over the last year. [How has it evolved?] The group is also committed to the scholarship of teaching, and we regularly team up to publish or give conference presentations.
Based on the success of our small group, we decided to facilitate networking among a greater number of faculty and staff interested in technology. In the fall of 1999, we formed a group called ABIT (a bunch interested in technology) and organized five meetings on teaching, learning, and technology. These have been interesting, usually well-attended gatherings. In the spring of 2000, the director and associate directors of University Computing Services offered a panel discussion, with over 100 attendees, entitled "How will computing be different at BSU in the fall of 2000 and beyond?" Summaries of these meetings are provided on a Web site and e-mail is used to keep attendees of ABIT informed of meeting topics, dates, and locations. Occasionally, e-mail is sent to the entire campus to inform all faculty, staff, and administrators about ABIT events.
Our group is now in its third year of existence. We continue to discuss teaching, learning and technology on and off campus, including the projects we are pursuing. We also continue to meet with technology staff to discuss new projects and programs. Because we share interests and a common technical vocabulary, we have come to find that the group serves an important role in our professional growth and development.
[Excellent article. A good model for other institutions.]