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Technically Speaking
Collaborative Training Helps Faculty, Staff
and Students Stay on Top of the Technology Curve

By Neal Burdick ’72

 Sometimes I think Ned Ludd had it right. He and his band of vandals, dubbed “Luddites,” stormed around England in the early 19th century, smashing up machinery in a quixotic attempt to undo the Industrial Revolution. Whenever my computer doesn’t do what I want it to, and I can’t figure out why, I’m tempted to put a sledgehammer through it, Ned-like.
So I’m not the easiest of “tech” students. But when I sat in unannounced at the second of a series of three “Wednesday Workshop” sessions one snowy March morning, Instructional Technology Coordina-tor Jim Forney made me feel welcome as he patiently brought me up to speed. It was clear that his overarching attitude was to make accessible what might seem arcane.

“ Our classes are hands-on,” he said. “You’ll retain things better if you do them yourself than if you watch me do them.” In moments I found myself tapping merrily away on a laptop and zipping my cursor here and there, using Dreamweaver to build a “mini-Web site” for the
St. Lawrence Seaway, complete with tables, maps, Canadian and Ameri-can flags, and pictures. My fellow students were a development officer, a science librarian and a secretary in mathematics, computer science and statistics. I got befuddled only a couple of times—not bad for a neo-Luddite.

“ These workshops are open to faculty, staff and students,” Forney says. “We’re trying to help people keep up with new developments that could affect how they do their work.”
The Wednesday Workshops are but one part of a multi-pronged initiative to provide technical training on campus. It’s a collaborative effort shared by the Division of Instruc-tional Technology’s department of information technology (IT) and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), according to Director of Instructional Technology Sondra Smith. That collaboration, Smith adds, came about at the urging of Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and founding director of the CTL Kim Mooney.

It isn’t just IT staff who do the training, Smith pointed out in prepared remarks to the Academic Affairs Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees in 2002. “We learned early on that the faculty-to-faculty model for technology training could have a tremendous impact on campus,” she said. “We recognized that faculty had something important to say about their experiences with technology in the classroom, and that their colleagues were eager to listen to that voice of experience.”

In fact, records indicate that the first-ever collaborative faculty development event along these lines was a fall 2000 PowerPoint seminar in which several faculty shared ideas about how they apply this technology in class. That was followed in spring 2001 by a Black-board colloquium (the software, not the expanse in the front of the room that professors used to scribble on with chalk) in which faculty in modern languages, psychology, education and English demonstrated how Black-board technology was applicable to their pedagogies. In both cases, presentations by faculty on why they use the technology were followed by training in how to use the technology—the preferred model for a faculty technology development program centered on pedagogy.

Stimulated by the success of these ventures, IT/CTL collaboration has grown so that a look at today’s list of offerings reveals:

* Tuesday TechBreaks, noontime technology demonstrations.

* Wednesday Workshops, office productivity training open to faculty, staff and students.

* Faculty Technology Spotlight Series, highlighting faculty use of technology in teaching, learning or research.

* Faculty Technology Festival, an annual January event.

* Instructional Technology liaison hours (one-on-one consultation).

* Faculty Project Lab, multimedia computer, scanner, and color printer available “24/7” at the CTL.

* Back to Basics Technology Workshops for Faculty.

With this schedule, it’s plain to see that technology training is thriving on the St. Lawrence campus. And with the number of faculty members who are using information technology in a significant way having tripled, from 12% to 36%, in three years—roughly the life of the CTL—it’s plain to see it’s working.