Scholarship, Technology, |
and the Faculty at Large
Elements of a development model for broad integration of new technologies
Monday, February 24, 1997
There are three primary elements in the current model for promoting the use of new technologies in teaching: faculty development; dissemination; and classroom improvement. Faculty development involves two components: developing collections of materials, and developing knowledge. Collections of computer-based media are currently developed as course-specific collections. These collections are developed through the Teaching and Technology Initiative (TTI), the Multimedia Resource Center (MRC), the Digital Image Center (DIC), and other resources.
Knowledge involves two basic categories: purely technological knowledge (such as learning a particular software package) and teaching-related knowledge concerning the pedagogically effective use of a technology. The development of faculty knowledge has been pursued primarily through TTI, and there has been a variety of approaches. A common pattern is for technical knowledge to be acquired by student assistants rather than directly by the faculty member. The model of dissemination is not yet clearly established in the TTI program. Faculty members can disseminate their teaching-related knowledge through presentations and workshops, but technical knowledge disseminates less effectively, since it is often in the heads of student assistants.
The current approach to classroom improvement is characterized by the projects awarded in the 1996-99 Classroom proposals where four clusters of three to eight classrooms are specially equipped to support lecture, lab, or seminar activities.
Although the current approach has produced significant benefits, there are also areas where there is room for improvement. The following analysis identifies some of the important areas:
There is no clear model for dissemination of knowledge and materials generated by TTI fellowships
Reliable, low-maintenance, zoom-capable projectors will eventually be available, but they are not here yet.
The development of new technologies must be conceived as integrated with conventional technologies so that faculty can adopt the new technology to a degree that is appropriate
A common theme among these points is the ability to scale. TTI selects twelve
fellows each year, from a full-time faculty of nearly 1,800. At that rate it
will take fifteen years to reach ten percent of the faculty. Similarly, the
1996-99 set of technology-related classroom improvements involves four
precincts (Wilson, Ruffner, Engineering, and Carr's Hill) with a total of
nineteen rooms, a very small fraction of the total number of classrooms.
Although this approach may be appropriate for getting things started, it will
not be suitable for wide adoption: only a small percentage of faculty will be
willing or able to access the knowledge, materials, and facilities required to
effectively use the technologies. It is one thing to reach the top 5% of
faculty who are most eager and able to use the new technologies, and it is
another to bring the potential benefits of new technologies to the top 50%. To
bring those benefits to the faculty at large rather than an elite few, there
must be clear mechanisms for dissemination of knowledge and materials;
investment in relatively stable technologies; and integration of new and
conventional technologies that supports adoption by degree.|
It is one thing to reach the top 5% of faculty who are most eager and able to use the new technologies, and it is another to bring the potential benefits of new technologies to the top 50%
Having successfully initiated a start-up strategy promoting the progress of a
select group of faculty, the University now needs to consider approaches that
will support wide adoption with reasonable resources. Such an approach clearly
cannot be achieved by scaling the start-up approach; that would be too slow and
expensive. The approach needs to be fundamentally different. The following
discussion outlines elements that I think are important in developing
broad-based growth with a realistic commitment of resources.
The resources committed to the TTI program reflect the University's commitment to incorporating new technologies into teaching, but it is clear that effectively disseminating the resulting knowledge and materials will require a more deliberate dissemination mechanism: a mechanism that is fundamental to the structure of the program.
In its current organization, the University-wide benefits of the TTI program are proportional to the number of fellows; supporting twelve fellows provides approximately twice the benefit that supporting six would. However, the program could be restructured so that half its resources supported six fellows, and the other half went into developing a University-wide infrastructure to disseminate the knowledge and materials generated by the smaller group. This infrastructure could also disseminate knowledge and materials developed at IATH, the DIC, the MRC, and other centers as well. I believe that supporting six fellows and a central infrastructure will achieve far than the double benefits that supporting twelve fellows would produce. Supporting a smaller group of fellows would also allow for the additional technical effort required to make materials and approaches general and reusable, in contrast to the current approach where the pressure to deliver materials on time frequently dictates ad hoc methods.
|In addition to achieving broader impact, I believe this restructuring of the TTI program would improve the quality of the fellowship experience and the work emerging from it. Having been both a Lilly fellow and a TTI fellow, I found that the smaller group of six fellows in the Lilly program produced a much stronger sense of collegiality and common purpose. The notion of "fellowship" involves a shared experience among a group of people where they develop a sense of group trust that fosters discussions at a deep level. When people know one another well, there are more intellectual sparks in their interaction and those sparks are more likely to catch fire. This kind of dynamic is difficult to create with six people (Marva Barnett does it extremely well), but it's nearly impossible with twelve. That dynamic would produce a richer exchange of interdisciplinary ideas and approaches, fostering work more likely to serve as a model for the faculty at large. A smaller group of fellows would produce less work, but it would be more pedagogically compelling and technically portable.|
A smaller group of fellows would produce less work, but it would be more pedagogically compelling and technically portable
Irrespective of how many fellows there are, there is no doubt that a central infrastructure is essential to achieve dissemination to the faculty at large. One of the important elements of such infrastructure would be a central database incorporating a comprehensive catalog and collection of materials encompassing digital images, slides, video, and paper-based representations of images, maps, and text. I will call this resource a full-media database, in contrast to the term "multi-media" which has taken the connotation of solely computer-based media. This database would be a dissemination center for digital materials developed under TTI and would also coordinate the various versions of an item represented in different media. The following discussion outlines the role the database would play in addressing the three concerns identified in the analysis of the current approach: dissemination, transitional technologies, and adoption by degree.
Although I envision the full-media database incorporating a wide variety of media, I have done most of my thinking in terms of photographic slides and digital images, and will address those media in the discussion, keeping in mind that a broader range of media is intended.
The key to the database is that it would integrate conventional and digital
representations, and it would include non-circulating archival versions along
with circulating stock. The archival slides would be original photographic
film, kept in appropriate cool dark storage. The archival digital images would
be very high resolution files stored in a lossless file format. These high
resolution files would be used to make slides for circulation using a
high-quality film recorder. If a circulating slide were lost or damaged, it
could be easily replaced. Circulating digital images would be screen-resolution
highly compressed files suitable for Internet distribution.|
The key to the database is that it would integrate conventional and digital representations
This arrangement achieves two key advantages.
Protect the collection: Original slides do not circulate and are not handled by patrons, saving wear and tear and the risk of loss or damage. Circulating images could be easily replaced.
Take advantage of appropriate technologies: Digital images and conventional slides each have strengths. Digital images are excellent for searching and cataloging and out-of-class access, but slides are excellent for delivery of images in the classroom, producing very high-quality images with low-cost equipment that is already installed in hundreds of rooms. The dual strategy makes is possible to take advantage of the strengths of each without suffering the weaknesses of either.
The arrangement also addresses the following points identified in the analysis of the current approach:
Dissemination: The database would include materials developed under TTI; part of the fellowship would include granting permission to use materials produced under the fellowship in instruction at UVa. Anyone at the University would be able to search the database to find images, possibly incorporating digital versions in web documents or other course materials, and then obtain slides for delivery in the classroom. Consider the following example: TTI fellow Michael Levenson of the English Department has digitized a collection of images of the Crystal Palace, which he uses in discussing important landmarks and events in Victorian London. Tom Baber, a non-TTI fellow in Civil Engineering, finds the images in the central database, and decides to use them in teaching about pre-fabricated structural systems; he puts digital versions in a web document for his students to view outside of class and he obtains the slides for presentation in a lecture. In that transaction, Tom has received significant benefit from the TTI program without receiving a dollar of TTI support, or requiring a dollar of classroom improvement money. He is using new technologies in his teaching, but he is not using new technologies in the classroom.
Teaching with technology does not necessarily mean using computers in the classroom
Transitional Technologies: As described previously, high-quality computer projection is currently a transition technology. It is certainly necessary to purchase some of the three-gun units, but I think it would be an unwise investment to buy them in large numbers. The full media database makes it possible to sidestep this problem by investing now in the digital infrastructure of managing and maintaining the comprehensive collection, but using slide projectors for classroom delivery. When a stable projector technology emerges, then everything will be in place to take advantage of digital delivery in the classroom.
Adoption by Degree: Since the full-media approach supports both slides and digital images, a faculty member may combine the two in a variety of proportions. A likely scenario would be to continue to use slide projectors to deliver images in lectures, but to supplement lectures with out-of-class access or laboratory sessions using digital images. This pattern of use has already emerged in several Art and Architectural History courses supported by the Digital Image Center, and in Ben Ray's TTI project. This approach allows faculty to adopt and learn gradually. I expect many faculty would expand their use of technology year-to-year as they saw more benefits, but the degree of adoption would ultimately be a matter of their choice, as it should be.
The full-media database will clearly be part of the library, and will represent
a departure for current directions there. The library currently has several
electronic collections, but these collections are not always integrated with
the conventional collections; for example, the Digital Image Center is in the
same building as the Fine Arts Slide Collection, and there are many images
common to both collections, but there is no cross referencing even though it
would be extremely useful for both teaching and research. In the full-media
approach, digital materials would be integrated into the general collection
rather than isolated in special centers.|
In the full-media approach, digital materials would be integrated into the general collection rather than isolated in special centers
The full-media database addresses the dissemination of materials, but not the
more difficult question of disseminating knowledge. The Teaching Resource
Center is a key player in disseminating teaching-related knowledge; TRC
workshops on new technologies are increasing in number and popularity. But
disseminating technical knowledge is more difficult. As discussed above, much
of this knowledge resides with student assistants. Disseminating their
technical knowledge requires a mechanism for the student "worker bees" to cross
pollinate among faculty. In the process, these students would probably also be
able to disseminate some teaching-related knowledge as well.|
Much of the technical knowledge resides with student assistants. Disseminating that knowledge requires a mechanism for the student "worker bees" to cross pollinate among faculty
In the current organization of TTI, projects are envisioned as a one-year
development effort, with an unclear model for continuing support. I think it
would benefit the TTI program and the University to envision TTI projects as
multi-year efforts, where the first year would involve intensive support and
production, with following years including student support only. This
continuing support would not be solely for the TTI fellow but would be a
departmental resource; it would be understood that the fellow would have
priority, but the chair would be able to allocate the trained student
assistants as appropriate. This financial issue of providing such support is
more manageable when the number of fellows is six each year, rather than
In addition to providing a mechanism for disseminating technical knowledge, and developing upcoming generations of student assistants, this approach would give department chairs an incentive to encourage faculty members to apply for TTI: a TTI fellowship would bring resources not only to an individual faculty member, but also to that faculty member's department. There are many bean-counting issues to work out in this approach, and it would need to be stated in a very flexible way to adapt to a variety of situations in different departments. The continuing support might come in the form of matching support between TTI and the department, or it could be phased from TTI to the department over a few years. This issue ultimately needs to be coordinated with other initiatives concerning departmental support. The key point is that allowing TTI to serve as a sort of seed program for providing departmental support would help with the dissemination of knowledge, the eagerness of chairs and deans to support faculty participation in TTI, and the effective allocation of support resources.
In order to bring the benefits of information technology to the faculty at large rather than a select few, it is essential to identify cost-effective strategies that allow faculty to adopt by degree. The following are recommendations for such a strategy:
Dissemination is also essential in achieving broad adoption; it involves three key elements: materials, technical knowledge, and teaching-related knowledge. For each of these elements, there is a key organization: the Library, ITC, and the TRC. Their work on issues of faculty training, departmental support, and library collections are closely related and cannot be considered in isolation. Any discussion of new technologies in scholarship, and I expect there will be many, must consider all these elements in a coordinated approach to meeting the needs of the faculty and students.