In the fall of 1999, the Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) began a two-year project, "Advancing the Humanities through Technology at Community Colleges," to enhance the teaching with technology in community colleges. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) provided funding.
In recent years, technology has dramatically changed the nature of the learning experience in higher education and how faculty teach, but the rapid pace of technology change has left many college faculty struggling with the issue of what can and should be done with the new technology. What are the pedagogical and curricular uses of the new technological infrastructure for the humanities? How does one improve the effectiveness of electronic resources and shape them into sophisticated, creative and engaging approaches to learning?
The CCHA undertook this project to address these, and other, questions that have emerged with regard to the impact of the new technologies on humanities research and instruction. In particular, the CCHA wished to support those community colleges that had already begun to install their own technology infrastructure and that were now struggling with the question of how best to use that technology to promote the study of the humanities.
The project provided support to seventeen college teams as they developed and implemented action plans for integrating technology, and the newest approaches to the study of the humanities, into humanities courses and programs. Each community college team consisted of two faculty members and one college administrator who had on-line budget authority capable of committing funds to anticipated project activities. Successful applicants received funds for the faculty members to attend a national conference and for the team to have access to mentoring and technology expertise.
The teams began their work at an initial national conference on "Advancing the Humanities Through Technology at Community Colleges," held at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA on 2-5 December 1999. After the conference, the teams returned to their colleges to implement their action plans. They were supported in their work by assigned mentors who had already successfully carried out innovative technology projects.
At the national conference, participants were exposed to some new approaches to the study and teaching of the humanities as several noted scholars of the humanities presented model projects. Among them were Roy Rosenzweig, senior scholar for the project and director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University; Jack Censer, co-creator of the multimedia project "Images of the French Revolution" and chairman of the department of history at George Mason University; Randall Bass, director of the American Studies Crossroads Project and associate professor of English at Georgetown University; William Thomas, collaborator on the "Valley of the Shadow" project and director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia; Stephen Murray, creator of the "Amiens Cathedral web" project and executive director of the Media Center for Art History at Columbia University; and Stephen Brier, director of the American Social History Project and assistant provost for technology and Instructional media at the City University of New York.
The conference also provided the teams with an opportunity to discuss ideas and approaches about integrating technology into their humanities curriculums and to develop action plans for developing new pedagogical techniques, courses and resources. The teams worked intensively over the three and one-half days of the conference with their pre-assigned mentors.
Following the conference, the teams returned to their colleges to work on implementing their project action plans, with the continuing assistance of their assigned mentor. The teams also continued to have access throughout the spring semester of 2000 to the presenting scholars from the conference through e-mail.
Mentors made one site visit to each of their assigned colleges. These visits allowed the mentor to address the concerns of the other personnel at the college and to serve as an important advocate for the project. The follow-up mentoring also helped the project team retain its original sense of purpose and enthusiasm, kept the team on course to meet deadlines and offered the team an opportunity to secure the support of other faculty and staff members at the school.
As teams progressed with implementation of their projects, they were encouraged to use their work actively in their humanities classes and to also share their work on a larger, regional or national, scale with interested colleagues. During the fall of 2000, a number of teams presented reports at the divisional conferences of the CCHA and at meetings of other professional associations. More importantly, from a student perspective, most of the projects described in this special issue have had a marked impact on teaching styles, goals, objectives and content of the faculty participants in their humanities courses.
Northern Virginia Community College
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