Expanding Knowledge

Harnessing Technology to Enhance Learning

by Jacqueline Frost

Most faculty will never replace regular office hours with online chat sessions, but it would be hard to find a corner of the Berkeley campus that hasn't been touched by technology.

Peek into a math classroom and see students working out problems using interactive CD ROMs.

Sit in on an art history class and hear a guest lecturer visiting via a teleconference monitor.

Type in the address for a campus web site and sit back and hear an in-depth interview with an international figure.

No longer solely the domain of computer science, technology has found its way into a wide range of classrooms, from medieval studies to the history of humanities.

"You would expect it from the 'techies,'" said Diane Harley, CyberSemester coordinator and the academic coordinator at the Center for Studies in High Education. "But where you are seeing a lot of changes are in the social sciences and the humanities."

Just how technology is changing the mission of teaching is yet to be seen. "The key is enhancement and not replacement of old models," said Harley. "It can't be everything. Technology can't replace the professor-student relationship or face-to-face student interaction."

What it can do is encourage experimentation in teaching, research and outreach and create new models for communicating within the university, said Harley. For instance, some humanities professors discovered that the quality of writing went up after they began publishing students' term papers on the web.

"When the writing became public, students felt more pressure to write better," said Harley. Other studies have indicated that students who may be shy to speak up in class have no problems voicing their opinions online.

"In essence, new media forces all of us on campus to rethink how the university does business," said Harley.

Interaction in the Humanities

In Randall Packer's history of multi-media class, students not only learn about technology, they experience it firsthand.

The new course called "From Wagner to Virtual Reality A History of Multi-Media" uses state-of-the-art instructional technology to, well, teach students about state-of-the-art instructional technology.

"What we are doing is as advanced as what is going on in any university in the country," says Packer, who recently served as director of the Multi-Media Program at San Francisco State University and is a visiting lecturer at Berkeley this spring. "The classroom in Dwinelle Hall (Room 127) is as high tech as you will find anywhere."

Packer doesn't deliver his talks from creased and yellowed lecture notes. Rather, students learn about such concepts as the "human computer interactivity" by interacting with a computer.

The classroom is equipped with two large presentation monitors linked both to a video component and a computer generated slide program. Packer also uses CD-ROM technology and the Internet to present graphics, images and information.

Later this semester, special guests will deliver lectures via the classroom's video-conferencing hookup.

The 15-week course, offered through art practice, satisfies an art history requirement. It covers the history of the Internet and the development of technology and the personal computer, and explores the impact of multi-media's effect on various art forms, including music, visual arts, film and video.

Randall also leads students through discussions on the future of technology and how it will effect education, the arts and sciences.

The Web as a Teaching Too

Perhaps no other technological advance has the power to revolutionize teaching as dramatically as the World Wide Web, said Randy Katz, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.

"It's the new publication method and it is just taking off. For the first time in my career, I have been getting email from students on the other side of the world who have read our home page: http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/."

While textbooks are still required for most courses, Katz said more and more faculty are using the web to reach their students and colleagues. "We're seeing everything on the web now -- research papers, lecture notes, course descriptions, handouts, presentations and class assignments," said Katz.

For the first time, the computer sciences department this semester is putting all course materials for a new freshman history class on the web.

Instead of a textbook, students enrolled in "History of Communications and Computing -- From Smoke Signals to the Internet" will be given pointer sheets on how to search the web for faculty notes and reading assignments.

And faculty are using the computer not only as a database, but as a teaching tool.

Students in Professor Edward Lee's freshman class called "Introduction to Signal Processing" will learn how to adjust the color on a photographic print and master the concepts of softening and sharpening by learning to use a software program called Adobe Photoshop.

"The students will actually see how signal processing works by using a software program like Photoshop," says Katz. "It's really an effective way to teach these concepts."

Visiting World Leaders On the Internet

Interested in hearing what lessons the mayor of Seoul learned from the Free Speech Movement or reading about the vision of Hong Kong's future from that country's chief secretary?

You can download a video interview with Seoul Mayor Cho Soon or read one with Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan. They are both on the Institute of International Studies' web site: http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu

"This (technology) brings the richness of the Berkeley experience to the community," said Harry Kreisler, executive director of the institute. "Now, people can experience these visits from distinguished academics, journalists, high government officials and Nobel laureates."

The interviews are included in the institute's "Conversations With History" series. Berkeley students, faculty and staff can download the video interviews thanks to a joint effort of the institute and the Berkeley Multi-Media Center.

The most recent interview is with Chan, recently designated as one of the 10 most powerful women in the world by The Times (of London) Magazine.

Chan was on campus Jan. 27 visiting Chancellor Tien and others when Kreisler interviewed her. The transcript, titled "Shaping Hong Kong's Future," was on the institute's award-winning web site seven days later.

The complete text of dozens of other interviews also can be read on the institute's web page.


Copyright 1997, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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