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August 30, 2007

   

Blankenship, Reese Win NITLE Fellowships
In Instructional Technologies

Marc Diamond
Laura Blankenship

Two Bryn Mawr staff members — Senior Instructional Technologist Laura Blankenship and GIS Coordinator and Map Curator Betsy Reese — are among the first recipients of a new fellowship offered by the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE).

The NITLE Technology Fellows are selected for their expertise in the pedagogical application of one of several technologies the organization is developing as teaching tools. They receive intensive advanced training in their chosen technologies and are charged with bringing their new knowledge back to their own institutions and with passing it on to other schools by leading workshops that are open to the faculties and staffs of the 133 NITLE member institutions, mostly liberal-arts colleges.

Blankenship joined the first cohort of four NITLE fellows, who were appointed and trained in April. Reese was appointed to the second cohort of three fellows, which returned from its training session last week.

"At our training sessions, we looked carefully at our own teaching styles and methods using videotape and group critiques," Blankenship explains. By the end of the session, we had developed several 'workshops to go,' which we are now prepared to offer on request to members of other NITLE schools. "There are only three people on NITLE's training staff, so the fellowship program is a way for them to expand their reach significantly. The workshops last a day or a day and a half, so they go into considerable depth."

Marc Diamond
Betsy Reese

Reese, whose technical specialty is GIS, or Geographic Information Science, says she is eager to teach professors and students not only to use the technology, but to use it thoughtfully and to raise critical awareness of its implications.

"GIS is a powerful technology that ties data to maps, and the applications of it are practically limitless. But we need to be careful about how we use these maps and about how we read them," she says. "A map has a kind of authoritative status that tends to deflect questions. But often there's more to a map than meets the eye; for instance, maps can look very different at different levels of resolution. An example is the maps that divided the United States into red and blue states immediately after the last presidential election. They made the electorate look quite polarized, but when we began to get data at the precinct level, we saw that the nation was mostly shades of purple."

Blankenship's focus is social software and computer-mediated communication and their integration into the classroom, with an emphasis on technology-related issues such as copyright, the open-source movement and its implications for higher education, and plagiarism. A longtime blogger who maintains the blog for Bryn Mawr's Educational Technology Center and co-produces an instructional-technology podcast titled "Click and Double-Click," she has taught two College Seminar courses that integrated blogging into the learning experience; the first of those classes served as the basis for her Ph.D. dissertation on the use of blogs in the teaching of writing.

Blankenship has helped faculty members discover and implement pedagogical uses for Web-development applications, course-management tools, instant messaging, video editing and many other technologies. She also has experience with podcasting, wikis and other social-software tools such as Facebook, Flickr and Google Docs.

As Bryn Mawr's map curator, Reese has digitized a valuable collection of maps created by early Bryn Mawr geologists from the department's founding in 1896 to about 1920. She has worked closely with faculty members and students in the Geology, Biology and Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology Departments as well as the Program in Growth and Structure of Cities. GIS, she says, can be applied to any location-based data.

"I've seen it used to map the locations visited by a character in a narrative," she says. "You could even use it with an imaginary landscape." Reese is collaborating with Staff Education Coordinator Darla Attardi on a GIS project that maps diversity on the Bryn Mawr campus. Through an open-ended survey, they discovered "a lot of data that isn't represented by a census," Reese says.

Both NITLE Fellows stress that Bryn Mawr faculty and staff members are eligible for NITLE workshops, since the College is a member institution. For more information, contact Blankenship or Reese.

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