Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Ideas of Interaction

One of the major goals in preparing for my Spring semester was to reconsider my syllabi, testing and quizzing activities, and homework in my courses. I was involved in an online faculty workshop in the Fall that was focused on one of the hot topics of recent Professional Development... "Classroom Assessment." Though the course lacked a bit of stylistic sophistication, the material and discussion with colleagues was highly beneficial in reconsidering my approach in the classroom.

I continue to use our in-house digital image system for the majority of class meetings - I find that this helps me to avoid the rut of simply reusing Powerpoint presentations made from last year (and the static quality of PPT as mentioned in an earlier post by my colleague Brian). However, I have also made a conscious effort to include "specialty" lectures that focus on one particular moment, idea, event. And, in these lectures, I try to make sure to use other forms of media - the internet, videos on demand, or highly specialized and more dynamic Powerpoint presentations.

Though Powerpoint may not be ideal as a teaching tool (for me) in the classroom, I find it a very good medium for exams. When I think of my undergraduate exams - the purr of the projector at the back of the room, the nerves that would begin to pulse when you saw the professor head to the machine to advance the slides, and the knowledge that if you missed the exam, the make-up was likely to be a brain-wracking set of essay questions (after all, you can't expect that busy professor to sit with you for an hour and go through all of those slides again!), I realize how much Powerpoint has changed this process. With it's self-timing mode, we no longer have to "watch the clock," we no longer have to worry about burnt out projector bulbs or slide jams, and the rouble of make-up exams is made simple.

For a make-up, we can place a student in front of an office computer and Powerpoint can "administer" for us. There's no concern about the availability of a room with a projector or the dreaded essay make-up. Maybe they're too easy to give?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

next best thing to being there?

As art history instructors we've long been struggling with the shortcomings of using the two-dimensional reproduction to stand in for "the real thing." This was true of optical slides, and remains true of digital slides as well. And it's especially true of photographs of architecture, where it's nearly impossible to get a sense of the space and the scale of the work.

But new technologies, especially those online, can change all this, and offer us and our students new and better views of these places.

Check out this fantastic interactive tour of Sant' Andrea, which offers 360-degree views of the facade, and numerous interior spaces. If this isn't the future of art history, it should be!

How about virtually entering a reproduction of a space, built to scale? The Sistine Chapel on Vassar Island in Second Life does just this. If you're in SL, click on the link to teleport. More on art history in Second Life soon......