Digital Images in the Liberal Arts

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Here’s a summary of, and links to, a report on the use of digital images:

The following study, “Using Digital Images in Teaching and Learning,” was commissioned by Wesleyan University in collaboration with the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).

The study focuses on the pedagogical implications of the widespread use of the digital format. However, while changes in the teaching-learning dynamic and the teacher-student relationship were at the core of the study, related issues concerning supply, support and infrastructure rapidly became part of its fabric. These topics include the quality of image resources, image functionality, management, deployment and the skills required for optimum use (digital and image “literacies”).

Read more…

Study of Online Learning Released

David Glenn at the Chronicle of Higher Ed has an article about, and link to, a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, about online learning.

The report is 93 pages with an executive summary.  Here’s the abstract:

A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes—measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation—was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face. Analysts noted that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions. This finding suggests that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se. An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).

The central research questions are the following:

  1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?
  2. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?
  3. What practices are associated with more effective online learning?
  4. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?

There’s a good deal of technical info in the study, but the primary text is reasonably accessible.

MIT – Visualizing Cultures

Here’s a link to a web-based project in visual studies developed together with a course at MIT entitled Visualizing Cultures.  The following is a brief excerpt from the website:

What is Visualizing Cultures?

Using new technologies, Visualizing Cultures weds images and commentary to illuminate social and cultural history in innovative ways. A narrative “Core Exhibit” not only gives the historical significance of the images, but also addresses issues such as genre and medium. Each unit comes with a comprehensive curriculum and carefully annotated digital archive of images from public and private sources.

The current units address topics relating to modern Japan; future units will deal with other countries and cultures as well.

Visualizing Cultures is published on MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW), which makes MIT course materials freely and openly available on the web. All materials on OCW have been cleared for copyright, so both the images and narratives may be used in and out of the classroom.

NYTimes’ “Knowledge Network”

From the Wired Campus blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

September 6, 2007

New York Times Develops Online Course Content

The New York Times today began to pair its articles, multimedia offerings, and even its reporters with faculty-created course material from about a dozen institutions, letting professors use the new resource for both credit-bearing and continuing-education courses.
The project puts the newspaper’s Knowledge Network on an interactive Web platform called Epsilen Environment, developed at Purdue and Indiana Universities. Epsilen works like an academic version of Facebook, says Felice Nudelman, director of education at the newspaper. “Faculty members can put up profiles, including résumés and important papers, and work they would like reviewed by their peers,” she says. “They can form working groups around topics of common interest.”

They can also develop courses around those topics, and students at different universities will have the chance to participate. Mount Holyoke College, for instance, is developing course work around the art and craft of film; Northern Kentucky University is creating a series of studies on women and entrepeneurship.

The cost for universities to participate varies, Ms. Nudelman says, but can be as low as $1 per student per year.­—Josh Fischman

Outing Your Blackboard Syllabi

Ingenious programmers at UNC have found a way to make accessible on the web all those course materials tucked away securely in the Blackboard environment. That’s a welcome move.

When I began using BB this year, I stopped putting all my syllabi and course handouts on my website simply because it was another step in addition to putting all those materials into BB.  If bFree can do the job for me, I’m interested. I benefit tremendously from seeing and often adapting materials posted to the web by colleagues at other institutions. I’ve been posting mine for several years and have always made them available with only a thin Creative Commons string attached.

As MIT and others have demonstrated, we have a lot to gain by providing free access to our course materials.

bFree may solve one problem.  But we’re all still waiting for the innovation that will make the discussion area of Blackboard both easier to read and use.  Who’s working on that? Not BB, it seems.

Here’s a brief report on bFree from our friends over at Academic Commons.

Institute for the Future of the Book

While this website is becoming more and more visible to a general academic audience, it continues to develop in a number of interesting ways.  Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Avi Santo have been working on the Media Commons project.  Here’s a brief “about”:

MediaCommons, a project-in-development with support from the Institute for the Future of the Book (part of the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC) and the MacArthur Foundation, will be a network in which scholars, students, and other interested members of the public can help to shift the focus of scholarship back to the circulation of discourse. This network will be community-driven, responding flexibly to the needs and desires of its users. It will also be multi-nodal, providing access to a wide range of intellectual writing and media production, including forms such as blogs, wikis, and journals, as well as digitally networked scholarly monographs. Larger-scale publishing projects will be developed with an editorial board that will also function as stewards of the larger network.

“Scholarly Publishing in the Age of the Internet”, an article on the IFB website, is a report on — and a nice example of — the work in progress by Fitzpatrick and her colleagues.  While it focuses on the problems and prospects for change in academic publishing and the traditional tenure review process, it places these issues in relation to those of the public sector, media, and communication.

University of Manitoba’s LTC Wiki

The University of Manitoba’s Learning Technologies Centre is hosting a wiki devoted to “New Technologies for Teaching and Learning.”  It has basic information for faculty on using blogs, wikis, audio, video, webconferencing, flickr, and social bookmarking. I’m adding to the list of resources on the right panel.

Centers for Teaching and Learning

I was asked by a colleague if there are centers for teaching and learning comparable to CNDLS at Georgetown.  A quick and dirty search of the web reveals a range of centers from the community college level at Maricopa to the large and “homey” university sites such as UNC-Chapel Hill.

A few others are at Stanford (and a second site here), Univ. of Chicago, Univ. of Minnesota, Minnesota State, Harvard, and Cornell.