“Technology is changing the landscape of higher education. I am thankful for those Stonehill faculty who have fearlessly integrated digital and new media into their teaching. They will help us all to understand the limits and possibilities of technology for student learning.”
Joseph Favazza, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Communication technology has always inspired utopian rhetoric. Johannes Gutenberg thought of his printing press as a divine medium: “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams...Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.” The inexhaustible streams flowing from Gutenberg’s press have taken many forms, among them the 140 character tweet, and our faith in technological progress seems as powerful today as it was in the fifteenth century. At Stonehill the spirit of technological innovation is alive and well in the form of blended learning, a pedagogical strategy that combines face-to-face and online approaches to engage the hearts and minds of a digital generation.
Dr. Kristen Bennett, a Teaching Fellow in the English Department, offers students in her course, “Subversion and Scandal in Early Modern Print Culture,” the opportunity to explore the evolution of communication technology through a combination digital and material archives. Some of the sources are 450 years old, and yet students are asked to consider their own place in the evolution through close content study and the creation of digital web resources. By placing traditional literary content at the center of a dynamic virtual culture experienced through multiple platforms, Bennett helps students to think critically and historically about the medium as well as the message.
Dr. Juan Carlos Martin, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages, integrates technology into his classes in a variety of ways. An early adopter of online learning, Martin invites his student to explore virtual worlds and online learning spaces, using a flipped classroom strategy to foster learning outside of the classroom. Through his own curiosity and enthusiasm, Martin conveys a spirit of technological experimentation and playfulness, but instructional technology and the flipped classroom has a very practical side as well. Students are able to review captured lessons, lectures, and course materials online in an engaging and interactive format, freeing Martin to make the most of face-to-face time in class.
Dr. Todd Gernes, Associate Professor of History, incorporates a variety of digital technologies into “The Electric Guitar in American Culture,” a popular course that explores the history and literature of the electric guitar as instrument, symbol, popular-culture artifact, technology, and window into mid-twentieth century America. In addition to making extensive use of a multimedia blog, GuitarText, to share student writing, Gernes has experimented with iPad ensembles, a form of collaborative digital music creation that allows beginning and even non-musicians to participate in ensemble work and experience live performance. The networked iPads become a mini sound production lab or an ensemble of live instruments, encouraging all students to make music a part of their lives. Importantly, students are encouraged to think outside the box with technology and to use it creatively and dynamically.
A common theme in these innovative and engaging approaches to instructional technology is that students become makers as well as consumers of knowledge and culture and that the traditional boundaries between inside and outside the classroom are blurred. Often we associate online learning with distance and separation. However, these professors leverage technology to build community, foster interactivity, and bring the world closer. Blended learning through intelligent course design is all about connection, engagement, and innovation. Gutenberg would approve!