Language Learning Center Director Christine Boyland has become the third Bryn Mawr staff member to be selected as a technology fellow 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 that are of interest to liberal-arts colleges. After receiving intensive advanced training in their chosen technologies, they bring their new knowledge back to their own institutions and also lead workshops at the 142 NITLE member institutions.
Boyland plans to focus her training on learning about collaborative tools for language teaching and on best practices for the use of course-management software. She recently participated in an online video conference about best practices in designing language centers.
"The physical arrangement of the lab and classroom can maximize the effectiveness of technological tools by promoting flexibility and mobility that make collaboration easier," she observes.
Boyland sees great promise in Web-based technologies that foster collaboration among users—the interactive approach generally labeled "Web 2.0." Examples she cites are blogs, which give ordinary users access to Web publishing, and wikis, Web documents to which a number of users can contribute, each with the ability to edit others' work (the most famous example is Wikipedia). She'll also spend some time exploring social software and Web-based communications tools.
The latest versions of Blackboard, the course-management software Bryn Mawr uses, include the ability to create class blogs and wikis, and Boyland says that she has seen some Bryn Mawr professors use these tools to excellent effect.
In language courses, students have used wikis to create class projects on various topics.
"In elementary language courses, a wiki might be about current events in a country that speaks the language being studied," she explains.
"As students progress, they might do projects on a work of literature, for instance, or a historical figure.
"One student can begin writing an entry; another student can step in and edit it, and it really becomes focused on the information much more than a blog, which is about one person's opinion. It can end up creating a very sophisticated product," Boyland says.
Another relatively new feature of Blackboard, called "Blackboard Scholar," is a social bookmarking tool. "Members of a class can use it to share online bibliographic sources for their research. It really helps to create a sense of community as well as shared knowledge of resources that weren't explicitly included in the course syllabus," Boyland says.
Boyland, who will celebrate her second anniversary as a Bryn Mawr staff member at the end of May, began her academic career as faculty member in Russian at the College of William and Mary.
"I started incorporating more instructional technology into my own teaching and became very interested in it," says Boyland. "I decided after five years of teaching that I wanted to spend more time exploring the possibilities of the technology."
Her next position, at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, was split between teaching and coaching other faculty members in instructional technologies; now Boyland is a full-time technology consultant to members of the Bryn Mawr faculty. Although her focus is on language departments, she supports other departments as needed. Boyland also works with Senior Instructional Technologist Laura Blankenship to supervise the College's Summer Multimedia Development Institute, an internship program for undergraduates.
Her top tip for faculty members: take advantage of NITLE's resources.
"Bryn Mawr is a founding member of NITLE, so our faculty is entitled to attend their events, and I really encourage them to do so—to go to www.nitle.org, look at their upcoming events, and see if there's anything there that interests them.
"NITLE fellows from other institutions led two workshops at Bryn Mawr this spring, and we'll have two more next Fall Break—one on general instructional technology and one specifically on using technology to improve students' writing. It's a great opportunity to get some intensive training right on our campus," Boyland says.
Posted 5/13/2008 by Claudia Ginanni