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Instructional Technology at UC Davis: Embracing Challenges and Opportunities

Windows 2000: W2K Replaces Y2K as Campus Issue

Where Are We Going? The (Near) Future of Information Technology

Where Have We Been? UC Davis Information Technology Statistics

How a Sandbox and a Computer May Supercharge Social Science

Not with a Bang, but a Whimper: Y2K Came and Went

UC Davis Faculty on Technology

UC Davis Technology Highlights, 1972-1999

More Modems Save the Day

Volume 8, Number 4
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UC Davis Faculty on Technology

by Donna Justice

For this special issue, we asked a number of UC Davis faculty to comment on how and why they use information technology for instruction. We also asked them to identify some of the challenges and opportunities associated with incorporating information technology in teaching. Special thanks to Joseph Coulombe, of the Arbor (a unit in IT providing support to faculty in the use of instructional technology), for identifying faculty and collecting their comments. The faculty members listed below provided comments in response to the following questions:

Q1: How have you used information technology for instruction? Why?

Q2: What do you see as the future challenges and opportunities for the use of information technology in education?

Charlayne Allan Lecturer, Classics
Antonella Bassi Lecturer, French and Italian
Robert J. Blake Professor of Spanish Linguistics, Director of the SLA Institute
Katharine P. Burnett Assistant Professor, Art and Art History, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Norma Lopez-Burton Supervisor, First-Year Spanish
Simone M. Clay Professor and French Language Coordinator
Margherita Heyer-Caput Lecturer, French and Italian
Laurie Lippin, Lecturer Human and Community Development
Cristina Martinez-Carazo Lecturer, Spanish and Classics
Karl Menges Professor & Graduate Advisor, German
Lynn E. Roller Professor and Program Director, Classics
Blake Stimson Assistant Professor, Art History
Ellen Sutter Professor, Pomology
John Stenzel Lecturer, English


Q1. How have you used information technology for instruction? Why?

"I'm using automated class lists to distribute information and as discussion forum. The Web sites complement class instruction and keep some information available to the students the whole quarter. I use this technology because it helps me provide more information to the students in an organized and effective manner."
      - Antonella Bassi

"I download rosters from the Web.... I had problems trying to submit grades electronically, so didn't do it. I would if I could. I actively use listserves for all my courses; I require it of my students. I love that messages are archived. Debbie [Edwards], the postmistress, has been extremely helpful. I send out messages all the time to students when 1) they ask a question that I feel everyone would benefit from, especially around exam time; 2) I have announcements of special events/opportunities, etc. I also use Web sites. Leah Theis has developed my course Web sites, often getting input from Joseph Coulombe (IT-Arbor). They are beautiful. The students loved them. Very, very successful. I aim to continue these, with Leah's help."
      - Katharine Burnett

"We have been testing two programs to complement or enhance language communication. Both require the use of e-mail. One is a murder mystery called Homicidio en Toluca. Students must check the game's Web site for clues and check each other's mail for discussion. The other is through RTA or Remote Technical Assistance. One test section of Spanish 2 communicated with a group in UC Santa Cruz using this program to carry out a series of tasks."
      - Norma Lopez-Burton

"The use of technology is usually fun, it breaks monotony and helps the student use the language for something other than doing exercises in class."
      - Norma Lopez-Burton

"I routinely use web pages in all my lecture courses. I have also used an automated class list, and I make regular use of automated class rosters, both for enrollment purposes and also to record grades and send grades to the registrar at the end of the quarter. Email is probably my most frequently used communication tool with the students. Web pages have proved extremely useful in recording and transmitting information to the students, such as the syllabus, reading assignments, class notes, writing assignments, study guides for exams, etc. I used to use handouts more frequently, but students were always losing those. The Web is easier, and it makes the student responsible for keeping track of the assignment. Class rosters are much easier to access via the Web; they are more up-to-date than paper copies and can be downloaded easily. They also can be put into a spreadsheet on my computer for calculating grades, which can then be sent to the registrar, saving time and also reducing the possibility of errors. Email is the easiest and fastest means of communication and cuts down on the number of student visits to my office hours."
      - Lynn E. Roller

"Art history students appreciate having access to study images on class Web sites rather than straining their eyes looking at 1"x1.5" images in a slide case."
      - Blake Stimson

"During the past year, I have profited immensely from the services offered by IT. Thanks to the knowledgeable expertise and helpful assistance of the IT staff, I was able to design three Web sites for two courses on Italian literature and cinema and for an Italian language class. Moreover, I attended a workshop on establishing automated class lists and class rosters. In my experience, course-related Web sites represent a very useful didactic tool to connect better with students, convey information aimed at broadening cultural frames at various levels, foster independent research and enhance the intertwining between literature and visual arts in a multi-media environment."
      - Margherita Heyer-Caput

"Information technology has greatly enhanced instruction in my large lecture course on mythology. The automated class list makes it possible for me to communicate announcements, corrections, changes in the schedule, review questions, etc., to everyone. During exam weeks, the list is especially busy. The Web site for the course enables me to post review sheets much earlier than I can prepare and hand out hard copies; I can also post slides and lecture outlines promptly. Many of the students in the fall quarter evaluations commented on the benefits of the website and the mailing list. I have found the availability of class rosters on the Web extremely helpful in managing the wait lists for students in all my classes. I am much better able to advise students on their chances of enrolling in classes. In my Latin language classes, the class website is especially helpful in directing students to online drill materials, vocabulary quizzes, and listening tapes. The class mailing list takes some pressure off me in that students' requests for missed homework assignments at night and over the weekend are promptly answered by other students in the class."
      - Charlayne Allan

"I have only used IT for a webpage thus far but have hopes of much more. The webpage not only gives the necessary information to my students on demand, but in my case, it has been able to assist in the mission of my diversity class on this multicultural campus. I have been able to feature the pictures of my students and brief bio's about them as a more personalized way to share that the course is about dealing with "whiteness" and with still existing systemic inequities around ethnic and racial differences."
      - Laurie Lippin

"I have used email, listservs, newsgroups, and prepared web sites in my classes over the past 10 years. Of all these tools, I have found e-mail (perhaps the least 'techie') to be the most useful. I have communicated with students who otherwise were shy in class and never spoke to me, yet they not only sent me email, but joked as well. Email also allowed me to get messages out to students quickly as well as enable students to let me know when they were not coming to class or lab. I believe that email also let students feel more comfortable with me since the e-mails were not formal, as hard copy messages would be. With the introduction of Eudora as the e-mail tool of preference, I have been able to send out formatted material and receive it as well. This has made a tremendous difference. I might add that over the years students have become more sophisticated in the use of computers and this has improved using computers in teaching. Whereas I started years ago teaching students how to use Pine and helping them get email accounts, now all students have email accounts and most are comfortable with Eudora at the beginning of the quarter. Using PowerPoint outlines in my lectures has improved the organization of my delivery. I have not yet gotten my Web sites to the point I would like them to be. I had envisioned them as a resource of images of procedures and field trips that I do not have time to cover in depth in class. I started implementing this last year but it is a very time-consuming process and requires a great deal more work."
      - Ellen Sutter

"I have used Web sites (I now have two), email, and automated class lists. On one Website,, I post the syllabi for the entire French language program and for the courses I teach. This allows potential students to view what we offer in the language program and triggers dialogue with other campuses on how French is taught at the UC Davis campus. I also post daily class presentations, grammar presentations, and suggestions on how to introduce students to literature. This information has resulted in worldwide comments from other instructors who seem delighted to find this type of information available on the Web, and this has also generated discussions on teaching styles. One Web site still under construction is aimed specifically at the UC Davis students, and on this site, I provide the students with exercises which allow them to review the material covered in class. These exercises are self-testing and provide instant feedback. The purpose of the exercises is to reinforce the material covered in class. Students can challenge themselves by doing the exercises at a time which is convenient to them, they can do the exercises as many time as they wish, and the feedback reinforces the grammar information they are studying. I hope that this type of self-testing will lead to a weekly lab hour mandatory for each student enrolled in the language program. The goal is to improve the quality of learning and to provide the students with a way to learn which is adaptable to their personal schedule. Email and automated classlists have allowed me to communicate in a very practical manner with the majority of students enrolled in the language program: I can send them information about the program (this has saved a lot on Xeroxed material), and it also allows students to contact me whenever it is convenient to them."
      - Simone Clay

"Much of what I do is pretty low-tech, and I stick to what works reliably. For people who teach writing and thinking, computers allow us to do things we couldn't ordinarily do. For example, in a computer classroom I can run written discussions where everyone participates, even the shy students, and everyone sees how everyone else attacked a particular problem or issue. Then I save a transcript to upload to the class Web page; that transcript can become the basis for another assignment. I often do demos in real time on the projection screen, and then have students try the same editing techniques on their own computers. Information technology serves also as the subject of my Technical Writing/Business Reports classes: my classes become consulting groups that investigate an IT-related problem, like student modem access, library electronic reserves, or the proposed computer ownership requirement, and they write reports to campus advisory committees compiling their findings. I always include a software-documentation unit too, challenging students to write troubleshooting tips or how-to's for computer-classroom procedures; one of these student pieces appears in my Computer Classroom Instructor's Guide. When I teach lecture classes I have students email me short prospectuses in advance of the due date, and I personally comment and direct them; this way they get started earlier and can avoid some pitfalls. Though I experimented with class newsgroups and list discussions, I've moved away from them -- I saw diminishing pedagogical returns and a fair amount of noise. I haven't embraced PowerPoint yet, though I can see how it could be useful."
      - John Stenzel

"I have used the information technology for my SPA 141 class (Spanish Culture). The Arbor help me creating a Web page with images of Spanish monuments that would be discussed in the lectures. Before having the Web page, I was using slides and the students only had access to the images one time during the lecture. Now they can observe and analyze these images has many times as they need because they have permanent access to them. All this material is part of the midterm and final exams. The degree of knowledge of the students has improved a lot. The Web page is easily accessible, very well designed and also very pedagogical. The use of technology when dealing with art adds a whole new dimension to the subject. It is not only fashionable resource but a needed tool. I am very thankful to all the experts in the Arbor that made possible this Web page for me. I am also in the process of putting together another webpage for a new course in History of Spanish Art. Again the Arbor is making this new project possible. One of the language courses that I am teaching now, Spanish 21 coordinated by Prof. Robert Blake has excellent material from the Web incorporated on each chapter. Also the students email me their homework and I correct it via email. There is very positive response from the students when using interactive material for their classes. The efforts of UC Davis to incorporate technology into education are generating very satisfactory results and great enthusiasm among the students."
      - Cristina Martinez-Carazo

"I have used IT to have students access authentic materials written in Spanish from the 20 Spanish-speaking countries around the world. I have also had students do synchronous chatting with each other in pairs in order to solve a series of assigned tasks. In the process of solving the tasks, they help improve each other's Spanish-language knowledge."
      - Robert Blake

"Except for our departmental Web site, I have not yet used the Internet for instruction but I plan on doing so next year with the assistance of Rick Falk, who is the obvious expert on this. "
      - Karl Menges

Q2. What do you see as the future challenges and opportunities for the use of information technology in education?

"One challenge is to keep the role of IT in perspective, i.e., to use as much technology as one needs in order to achieve one's goals without having the technology drive the curriculum/pedagogy. The opportunities are those that come without a broader access to information for education (e.g., long-distance education)."
      - Antonella Bassi

"Challenges: finding the time to learn to use technology and make Web sites. I attended two workshops this year: Navigator and downloading rosters. Probably I can handle about one per term, given my other responsibilities. This is my second year here, and despite the best of intentions and strong desire to learn this stuff, I have yet to work in something that is longer or more demanding than these two. It is just too overwhelming when you are new here; there's just too much to do, especially as junior now am I starting to feel like "maybe" I could make the next step and think about Web sites myself. So far, if it weren't for Leah, it would not be happening. And if it weren't for Leah Theis and the Arbor staff, I would not even be thinking about it as a 'maybe'."
      - Katharine Burnett

"Still some students (about a quarter or a fifth of the group) are not too familiar with computers and the activities have the opposite effect in them. It stresses and frustrates them. That blocks learning. I wonder if the university could offer basic computer use workshops the summer before the students start class."
      - Norma Lopez-Burton

"Probably the biggest challenge is to make it easily accessible so that the technology can be learned easily. Also, keep it simple; faculty don't have time to learn a lot of complex software. Make sure there are accessible and knowledgeable support people."
      - Lynn E. Roller

"Future challenges that art historians and other students of visual culture face include the technical and legal (copyright) problems of posting visual resources on the web."
      - Blake Stimson

"The use of information technology in education could provide the fundamental link between a technologically oriented society and the widening of humanistic horizons."
      - Margherita Heyer-Caput

"I think the greatest immediate challenge is providing accessibility to all students. Off-campus students still report difficulties in accessing materials and information, and space in campus labs is still limited. A long term challenge is ensuring that technology will be used to enhance learning and the educational experience and not as a substitute for human contact and interaction."
      - Charlayne Allan

"The future challenges include staying personal, with more communication between faculty and students as well as students with other students rather than less, bringing all faculty up to speed, as well as all of our classrooms, and keeping our focus on enhancement of the curriculum."
      - Laurie Lippin

"My one complaint is that using computer technology is an incredibly labor intensive process that often cannot be delegated to others. I am looking forward, however, to incorporating more use of computers in teaching. My new project is to produce a CD-ROM with video and audio that gives students 'virtual fieldtrips' as well as shows specific techniques used in plant tissue culture. There is a great deal of new technology that is only beginning to appear, but it portends a very optimistic future for incorporating computers in teaching."
      - Ellen Sutter

"I guess the bottom line is, just as word processing didn't make bad writers into good writers, IT innovations don't turn professors with no teaching ability into good teachers! We need to think harder about appropriate technology, and not fall into what I call the "technismo" trap -- "mine is faster than yours, I can't believe you still use that old doorstop of a machine," etc. I think the biggest single challenge lies in the increasing gap between the technological haves and the have-nots, and in the needless ratcheting of hardware and software standards. There's a lot of wasted computer power and bandwidth out there, and people are forced to upgrade to bloatware so they can keep connected. Users waste a lot of time getting the hang of a new system only to have it go obsolete because someone else dictates they have to use the next year's model. From the student perspective, professors and administrators need to think about the typical student, not the exceptional ones: yes there are incredibly savvy folks out there, but the mass of students lead lives of quiet desperation when it comes to finding the computing power and the connections to do what they need to do. We don't do a very good job teaching students real computer literacy tools--we expect them to pick it up from the nerd down the hall. Training for faculty isn't much better, despite some useful initiatives. All this cool stuff takes time to learn, time to optimize and feel comfortable with, and I don't think the message has gotten through to the people who control the purse strings that something has to give. More disturbingly, I fear that users of IT rarely consider the time investment they are demanding or offloading. For example, if the teacher of a 500-student class decides "I'll just put this handout on the Web instead of running the departmental photocopier," sure the department saves bucks but the students get stuck. Say it takes ten minutes to find a computer, download the page, and print it (and that's incredibly optimistic), that prof just offloaded 5,000 student-minutes onto the class--more than 80 hours of time. And those printouts are being made on somebody's printer, in the home or in the labs, with toner and paper offloaded away. When you start doing the math that way, some innovations make more sense than others."
      - John Stenzel

"In the area of foreign language instruction, the students need to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible for contact with the target language. Technology can provide additional sources of target-language contact both in and outside of class. The potential for learning outside of the classroom becomes very exciting."
      - Robert Blake

"Clearly, computer-assisted instruction will be the way of the future, be it through the dissemination of texts (replacing readers, for example) or, in my field, through visual reproductions of paintings, sculptures, or films. In any event, I am looking forward to the exciting innovations ahead."
      - Karl Menges