Annual Institute Serves Up Technology to Eager Instructors
There's a recurring joke that SITT's week-long crash course is something like a computer boot camp for teachers.
But when the Teaching Resources Center held its 8th annual Summer Institute on Technology in Teaching (SITT), many participants took issue with this crude analogy. Joan Chandler, a participant and a lecturer in textiles/clothing explains, "I've been to a real boot camp with the Air Force, and SITT was nothing like it. At the very least, the food at SITT was much much better."
In between continental breakfasts, mid-day pastries, and informal lunches, 60 SITT participants feasted on a smorgasbord of new technological resources during the week of July 23-27.
The ProgramSITT seeks to offer teaching resources on pace with the changing technology landscape. In planning for each summer's Institute, SITT organizers ask participants about the kinds of teaching technologies they are hungry for. In response to the diversity of technical skill levels among faculty, SITT offers a variety of presentations and hands-on learning opportunities.
In the short week, participants—regardless of their initial skill level—can attend sessions on everything from setting up course email lists to using animated imagery in PowerPoint presentations, or accessing remote machinery for computer-based experimental research.
If the exchange of ideas holds the intensity of a boot camp, the environment is anything but militant. Participants attend presentations taught by fellow faculty and IET-Mediaworks or TRC staff. Thus, the camaraderie and spirit of collaborative learning is high. The organizers of SITT take care to maintain the esprit de corps with food and food for thought.
Before lunch, participants are treated to presentations by fellow faculty and Mediaworks' multimedia artists; the afternoons are spent in a variety of hands-on labs. This hands-on experience allows them to cook up their own teaching technologies in the form of software, such as Flash (creates and manipulates interactive animations for web sites), PhotoShop (acquires and manipulates imagery), iMovie (allows the use of digital video files in PowerPoint presentations), Dreamweaver (allows beginners to create and manage a web site), and Director (creates presentations with sound and animation).
The compact one-week training is considerate of teachers' busy schedules, while exposing them to a number of technology resources. "What I found exciting about SITT was the exposure to resources that I didn't know I was missing out on," Chandler explains.
Michael Taylor, a Professor Emeritus in civil engineering agrees, "Before SITT, I never realized the technology and the people who were available right here on campus to help me—and all free of charge."
SITT Grads Head to Arbor and MediaworksWe caught up with Taylor in the Arbor, a walk-in technology assistance facility he learned about at SITT. IET's Mediaworks runs the Arbor, whose staff look forward to the surge of faculty drop-ins during that crucial month after SITT and before classes begin.
In all of its eight years, SITT has always been a truly collaborative effort between IET and the TRC, with the Arbor always pitching in people and resources; but this year the collaboration was particularly exciting since IET's new department, Mediaworks was able to lend its specialists and artists for a number of the presentations and learning labs.
Joseph Coulombe, faculty consultant at the Arbor, reflects on the value added through Mediaworks' participation: "IET has always participated in SITT by volunteering to train and give presentations along with faculty, but now the Teaching Resources Center has invited us to integrate even more technology workshops." This year participants praise especially the Mediaworks presentations on Flash, PhotoShop, iMovie, and Dreamweaver.
Keeping the Technological Tail from Wagging the Dog...SITT is innovative and useful not just for its practical training, but also for the pedagogical considerations it stimulates. UC Davis instructors do not apply technology for the sake of technology itself. Rather, they use it to enhance or evolve their personal pedagogical ideals.
"The best instructors I have seen use a range of technology - from chalk to Web pages, " remarks Victoria Cross, TRC coordinator and SITT co-organizer. "The SITT experience exposes instructors to different technical tools and, more importantly, to effective teaching uses of those tools."
Barbara Sommer, a co-organizer, adds that "incorporating technology allows teachers to reconsider their teaching goals."
For instance, Chandler is using the Web to connect her UC Davis students with the students she teaches at another university. Maintaining the Web-based connection between the two classes enhances the dialogue between the fashion design students on the two campuses and, Chandler explains, "better prepares them for the kind of networking and creative exchange vital to the fashion industry."
It is exactly this practical and wise application of technology with which the TRC guides SITT participants. Instructors at all levels increasingly find themselves in a learning environment which continues to change via the implementation of constantly advancing technology and the hyper-technical student body they serve (see the student computer ownership Web site for more information).
"Part of our goal with SITT is to keep the tail from wagging the dog," says Sommer. "We aim to begin a cross-discipline dialogue about the sophisticated application of technology, and the wisdom to be selective when faced with the growing amount of technology." Mediaworks, Sommer explains, "provides the appropriate technical expertise for this."
Collaboration is KeyIndeed, the collaboration behind SITT stands as one of its remarkable achievements. The TRC, Mediaworks, and additional volunteering faculty combine efforts to create what Mediaworks Director Harry Matthews calls "a community of faculty interested in educational technology that reaches across all our schools and colleges [forming] the nucleus for IET's push to bring educational technology to the majority of faculty."
Beyond SITT: Empowering Instructors Year-RoundMatthews' enthusiasm for empowering a budding technically savvy community is shared by SITT participants, such as Taylor: "We faculty don't normally get time for joining together. It was nice to get an idea of what others are doing with technology in their classes."
This collaboration proved particularly nurturing and useful to Taylor who plans to use PhotoShop to animate his PowerPoint presentations for lectures. Despite his initial intimidation, he was able to begin creating a piece with PhotoShop after the first 10 minutes of a session at SITT.
The campuswide collaboration continues throughout the year as faculty are able to follow up on technology resources and questions at both the Arbor and through presentations offered year-round through the TRC.
For more information about technology resources on campus or about attending next year's Institute, contact the Teaching Resources Center, Mediaworks, or the Arbor.If you missed out on the event, you can obtain printed versions of some SITT presentations on the Web.