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Another Pedagogical Tool

As technology invades every aspect of our lives, it’s sure to follow that it’ll affect our approach to teaching. The novelty of using overhead projectors, televisions, and video players in our classrooms has worn off and become common place. Currently, the fervor of multimedia education is demanding our attention and requiring us to enhance our computer skills. According to the 1997 National Survey of Information Technology in Higher Education, little over 13 percent of all college classes use multimedia instruction as compared to just under 4 percent in 1994. These percentages are increasing and one growing trend lies in faculty homepages. What are the benefits of faculty homepages and how do you get started?

To some instructors the benefits of faculty homepages are clear. Several instructors from various campuses relay their discoveries about homepages. They claim several benefits lie in creating a homepage. Among those benefits are extra handouts, pre-lab notes, and chapter summaries. In addition to the material you distribute in class, students can access extra class material on your homepage should they need it. Providing this material online doesn’t waste precious class time, or paper. Chapter summaries operate in the same way and reinforce the material covered in class. Should a student miss a class, he/she can always access that material online. And if the students don’t ask any questions about the material in class, they can certainly do it later by e-mail.

Another benefit lies in refocusing and enlarging the educational circle. One instructor likes to display his formers students’ work and uses it as an example for his current students. Posting students’ work on a homepage "publishes" their work and exemplifies student potential. Students can also submit information to your site, and thus work on projects collaboratively. Chats and class e-mail aliases provide students the opportunity to post questions and problems that others may be able to answer. This de-centers the classroom and allows the students the opportunity to be responsible for their and their peers’ learning.

Contributing to one’s discipline has always been an instructor’s responsibility. Homepages provide exceptional opportunities to do just that. You can write articles about your discipline and display them on your site. You can ask colleagues and other related institutions to link your site to theirs. This will further expose you to other professionals in your field. To further bring your field to your students, you can place field related links on your site and then create class-required "cyber assignments." Doing so will expose your students to the current academic and professional developments in your discipline.

Because faculty homepages are in their infancy, getting started poses a challenge. Although brief bio pages are certainly a start, they should by no means be your final product. One instructor calls these bios "vanity pages." That is, they include your picture, office hour, class syllabus, hobbies, and where you received you masters or doctorate. These "vanity pages" have limitations and more seasoned, homepage creators suggest you include the information mentioned above.

Acquiring web-creating information is another step. The best and only way to start is just plain web surf. As you do this, look for relevant links you can use. Be sure to "bookmark" them so you can promptly return later as you create your site. Also, look for different designs and graphics you can use to structure your page. A million ideas exist out there so create a site based only on the ideas you like.

As for the technical support you’ll need, take advantage of your college’s Faculty Development Department. Most campuses should have one and they are there to help you. But self-reliance is probably your most important tool. Learn as much as you can by yourself. Homepages are living entities and need to be updated often, and since it’s your page don’t expect others to create it or update it for you. One instructor went so far as to learn HTML script on his own and updates his page, by hand-typed code, at least every other day.

But for those "anti-technology" individuals, there is good news. Online education will never replace "class time." Instructors don’t design homepages to substitute teacher-student contact time. Homepages compliment the class, not supersede it. Humans will always benefit from human contact and that is something technology can never replace. However, technology is relentlessly advancing nonetheless and as instructors our approach to teaching ought to reflect that. As we enter the 21st century, homepages will inevitably become another pedagogical tool.

For more information about this article consult the following sources.

Anthony Halderman is a Cuesta College instructor who can be contacted at http://anthonyhalderman.com/


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