“Gallatin is ideally situated to incorporate new educational technology into its academic mission,” says Gallatin faculty member Ali Mirsepassi, “because we are open to connecting across multiple disciplines to create communities of faculty and students who seem to be working on very different kinds of projects and ideas.”
When he recently served as Gallatin’s interim dean, Mirsepassi was a driving force behind finding ways to bring technology into Gallatin’s classrooms and how students and faculty alike could use technology as a space for intellectual exploration and reflection. With these goals in mind, Gallatin hired Educational Technologist Jenny Kijowski in 2015 to work with faculty to identify the tools that can help them develop pedagogically driven, technology-enhanced teaching practices.
At Gallatin, faculty actively seek to use technology in the classroom to engage not only with the technology-saturated world in which we all find ourselves but also with the enormous creative and interdisciplinary possibilities that technology offers. Says Kijowski, “Our faculty sometimes have grand ideas and can feel they’re impossible to realize. I show them ways to make those ideas come to life.” Kijowski offers her tech expertise to bring faculty and students into a dialogue about the kinds of technology that offer dynamic spaces for learning. By folding technology into the curriculum, faculty empower students to bring their ideas and experiences into a collaborative forum in which they work alongside each other and their professors.
For recent courses, faculty members Lauren Walsh, Gregory Erickson, and Hallie Franks all turned to Kijowski—and to technology— for ideas and advice about how to expand ongoing classroom conversations.
Course: “Photography through the Lens of Magnum and VII” Faculty: Lauren Walsh
For Lauren Walsh’s spring 2016 course “Photography through the Lens of Magnum and VII,” which explores the history of 20th- and 21st-century photography through location and time, Kijowski suggested that Walsh’s students use the site TimeMapper. Finished geo-timelines on the site can include photographs, videos, text, and audio. When a completed TimeMap is accessed, a viewer selects where to move around in the display, both in terms of location and historical period. In contrast with a traditional printed map, TimeMapper not only incorporates a variety of media, it is also able to be updated to reeflct new information.
The site offered Walsh’s students an interactive framework for the texts and images being investigated in the course—and a means of working together to create a dynamic timeline of historically significant photographs. Using data collected on Google spreadsheets, students created a site for the course and a resource to which they could return throughout the semester.
“While this is billed as a course about photography,” says Walsh, “in the end, it’s also an intensive look at the social, political, and economic conditions of specific times and places covered through the lenses of various photographers.”
For example, when considering Gilles Peress’s seminal photo book Telex Iran: In the Name of Revolution, which documents life under the Iranian regime during the late 1970s, including the American Embassy hostage crisis, students learned about the historical and social underpinnings of the Iranian Revolution and how Peress’s photographs reflected these.
Using TimeMapper, students could click on the Iranian capital of Tehran and bring up extensive information about both Peress’s book—from the history of its publication and reception to the style of imagery, Peress’s biography and his own photographic influences, and the history of the Iranian Revolution. It is a 360-degree view of the time and place in which the work was created.
Walsh plans to build on the TimeMapper site begun by this group of students to create a visual and geo-located history of global photography.
Gregory Erickson plans to use the digital, user-generated archiving site HistoryPin that he and his students created for his “James Joyce and Interdisciplinary Modernism” travel course to Ireland as a growing online document of historical photos, videos, and audio recordings of Dublin then and now.
“Each student had to choose one location from one of Joyce’s novels that they were responsible for,” says Erickson, “so they chose storefronts, bookstores, and addresses related to the text. They then had to trace the history of the location from 1904 to 2016.”
This assignment got students talking to shopkeepers and other Dublin residents as well as searching archives, all while using the location as the anchor for their textual explorations of Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.
The individual project became collaborative as the students aggregated the information and images they found onto the site. In the process, they created a mapped network of literary touchstones that would be sure to please any Modernist. Along the way, students in this travel course did something that even seasoned travelers struggle with: they stopped and considered one spot carefully.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a tool that helped the students connect to literature, history, and place as well as this,” says Erickson. “What was most surprising to me was how much the project pushed students to interact. At least half of them ended up having an interesting conversation with a local to explain why they were at a particular location and why they were taking notes and pictures.”
Through their research, students were able to supplement many of the published guidebooks to reading Ulysses, and, in at least one case, a student was able to show why the guidebooks were wrong about a particular location. In constructing a Joycean map of Dublin, students were better able to understand the role of the city in Joyce’s work and to see why it is often considered as much of a character as is Leopold Bloom. The technology inspired students to think more about practices of collaborative reading that are central to works like Ulysses.
Course: “Reading the Faces of Ancient Cultures” Faculty: Hallie Franks
Rather than simply presenting an image and discussing it in her course, Franks took Kijowski’s suggestion and asked her students to use the site ThingLink to consider images from ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, and Rome, inviting them to interact with them dynamically by annotating the images with comments, as well as Web links, video, and audio. These online explorations informed the students’s understanding of the works under consideration and
Through the use of this technology, students engaged with the fundamental question of what makes a portrait a portrait and were asked to consider and confront the variety of problems of how the individual is represented in art.
“In the past,” says Franks, “I have found that, while we spend a great deal of time looking at images in the classroom, students often do not look carefully at images while they read about them. The ThingLink tool asked them to respond to a reading or to another student’s comments or questions, but in direct reference to the image itself.”
For instance, when students read Giorgio Vasari’s description of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with just a vague image of the painting in mind, the description may have seemed apt. However, when they were asked to apply Vasari’s description to the painting directly, students felt as if a different image were being described. Says Franks, “This is not just a strange (if famous) anomaly: it leads to serious questions—questions that go to the core of this class—about the weight that we give literary sources and historical authorities in our understanding of images from previous cultures.”