Notes for presentation, June 15, 1999
Workshop for Faculty in the Humanities, VFIC DPont Faculty Technology Institute

On the verge of a revolution in teaching?
From Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace by James J. O'Donnell, University of Pennsylvania

"The real roles of the professor in an information-rich world will be not to provide information but to advise, guide, and encourage students wading through the deep waters of the information flood. Professors in this environment will thrive as mentors, tutors, backseat drivers, and coaches. They will use the best skills they have now to nudge, push, and sometimes pull students through the educationally crucial tasks of processing information: analysis, problem-solving, and synthesis of ideas....

The power of the World Wide Web is a tiny fraction of what networked information will bring. But a well-structured homepage can already be a place where the students finds everything from a course syllabus to an extended reading list to the handouts that used to litter the classroom floor after a lecture to sophisticated research archives. Such a resource can entice each student to go just so far as they can, and perhaps quite a bit farther than either student or teacher thought possible. Boundaries fall and blur, and the capacity of the curious is the only limit. When the professor is available online through email or real time conferencing (and no longer only when the door is open for limited and busy office hours), the electronic interface will sharply improve the personal dimension of education as well."     (pp. 156-7)

Why go to all this trouble? Problems with student learning...
Frustrations of a mid-career pedagogical burnout!
--students too passive, not engaged, dependent, couldn't deal with texts on their own
--lost opportunities for learning (missing class, couldn't review, no collaboration, paper tradition)
--needed ways to know what they didn't "get"(response papers showed gaps)
--not enough students talking, and my agenda kept me from listening well
--needed new ideas to deal with (saw limits of my readings)
--students needed to know how to think through texts, not repeat what I say
--student learning styles: students learn at different rates, many need ability to review materials, may not be good listeners, don't take notes well, bring widely different backgrounds of knowledge and skills, often welcome challenges of exploring more deeply
How do you get them to think? reading==writing=thinking process

Jump start. Been doing this 11 years. As my abilities (and connections) increased, the software improved greatly as did student abilities and access. Now, finally, can say that the tools are ready to be used, by faculty and students, with relatively short learning curves. Time can be spent more on thinking through pedagogy than on learning html.

Hints for faculty:
Timely learning--do it in bits, with friends to help (Epiphany, e-mail, tip of the day), cumulative
Need clear goals, keep checking to see if they are being met better by computer means (easy to get carried away, try something because you've figured it out)--lots of feedback.
Use student talents (finding web sites and evaluating them, sharing tips, teaching each other) [Todd]
Support: grants, etc. for hardware, software. ASK and share.

Focus on pedagogy. Take time to develop, don't experiment too much right away (positive side--on cutting edge), borrow liberally, keep checking for success.
Keep asking: What needs improving? How can my students learn better? How can the course fit different learning styles? How do students learn best the disciplinary skills and content you are teaching?

Base questions: What are your pedagogical objectives? How can your students learn your disciplinary skills and content better? What needs improving? How can your course fit different student learning styles? How do you envision your "classroom"? How does all this relate to the Web?

    The extended classroom Faculty want additional reading and study materials available--extension of the usual lecture format. Perhaps use Power Point in lectures, then put on the Web; others may record lectures for Web posting. May even encourage Web research (will happen--how to evaluate and document?). Cover more territory in more depth than can in class, students can review. May even include interactive quizzes for students to check on learning.
    The interactive classroom Want students to be able to talk freely with you and with other students; react to each other's ideas, on-line discussions which can stretch beyond the 50 minutes, finding out what students need to learn.
    The collaborative workshop classroom Model here is composition, creative writing courses. Pre-writing, revision of on-line work, collaborative projects, on-line study groups.
CAN do it all, of course

Goals and examples of how to use Web tools to meet them

Goals and examples of how to use Web tools to meet them


My goal: flexible, multi-voiced class which develops negotiated interpretations of literature, working through the process of critical reading and web resources
  • READ & INTERACT WITH EXTENSIVE MATERIALS ON-LINE (explore & research authors, context)
  • WRITE FOR "REAL" GROUP OF READERS ("publishing")
  • Specific discipline related activities:
    Learning how to study through a text: study hypertexts
    Learning about the process of reading: Norton's LITWEB
    Interactive Writing: CONNECT (demo of Nature Writing course)

    Web Course Presentations:ENG 385: Nature Writing, Nelson's Sociology Online, Forsyth's Psychology 101

    Resources on the Web: Web Sites, Twigg's Learning Links, Forsyth's Web Links
           [Find the goodies with Google, Northern Light]
    Lectures: Forsyth's On-Line Lecture Hall, Nelson's audio
    Readings: Readings
    Model Papers: Model Papers
    On-line Study groups: lists, forums
    Learning Aids: Forsyth's Final Exam Information
    Extending with Audio: Nelson's Project, Mangum lecture

    Book and Web Source Reviews
    Class Reviews
    Web Projects
    Nelson's Message Board

    Assorted Sample Resources in Humanities
    Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research
    Jack Lynch's Literary Resources
    Paul Reuben's Handbook of American Literature
    Wired for Books
     Student's Guide to the Study of History
    Classical Origins of Western LIterature

    The student perspective on Web learning
    Access and computer literacy no longer the biggest problem. Situation varies by school, but many have computers, knowledgeable friends. Majority have surfed, done word processing, used e-mail. Support also a problem--need good assistance available and good instructions for all levels of ability. Hand-holding up front often necessary (e-mail helps), but situation improving constantly.
    Students expect to use computers now, but may be burned out by previous experiences. Will be using Web for research, but need to learn how to evaluate and document web resources. (less likely to use them irresponsibly if they think you know!)

    All Web work must be apparently useful and rewarded, especially at beginning before they see the learning values. Does require more work, so need payoff. They respond well to humor, personalizing touches. Also, you have to be very clear up front.

    "It's hard to learn but I love this way of learning." Biggest payoffs = expressing their own ideas, learning from each other, their work being valued, guidance for searching for information, chance to re-read and explore, personal touches.