Services of the CFT: Teaching with Technology Mini-Grants

This article was originally published in the Fall 2002 issue of the CFT's newsletter, Teaching Forum.

by Derek Bruff

For the past two years, the CFT has awarded mini-grants to faculty to support their work to integrate the uses of new technologies in teaching. The grants are intended to fund a specific revision or enhancement of a particular course. Grant recipients meet during the year to discuss the challenges and successes of their uses of technology in teaching, and they present the results of and reflections on their work to faculty colleagues in the late spring semester. While any faculty member is eligible to apply for funding under this program, the CFT is especially interested in receiving applications from faculty members who have not yet made extensive use of new technologies in their teaching.

This year the CFT awarded grants of $1000 each to the following faculty members: Tracy Barrett (French and Italian), Kathy Gaca (Classical Studies), Kevin Leander (Teaching and Learning), Deandra Little (English), and Holly Tucker (French and Italian).

The following is the view of a past recipient of the technology mini-grants on how his teaching has changed as a result of use of new technologies.

Gregory Barz, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, Blair School of Music

One of the greatest frustrations (as well as one of the greatest sources of pleasure) of teaching a course such as "African Music" is that there is a wealth of recorded sound materials presented daily to the class, materials that are generally "consumed" by the students only once-in class. Another frustration is the availability of supplementary recordings available in Vanderbilt's Music Library that could easily be tapped into for collateral learning, but that are thought to be all but inaccessible to students in the course. Well, I took the leap, and with the direction of the music librarian at Vanderbilt, Mr. Dennis Clark, we ran a test pilot program for online, electronic streaming listening reserves for the African Music class during the spring of 2002. This was a path-breaking experience for many of us at Vanderbilt-faculty, staff, and students.

Students enrolled in the African Music class during the Spring semester had access privileges (by use of a password) to enter into a EReserves website that contained RealAudio links to all musical examples that had been played in any given class, required listening assignments for projects and papers, preparation examples for quizzes and examination, as well as examples of my own personal field tapes. Thus, students could engage sound recording from anywhere on campus - in their dorm rooms, in a computer lab, in a library, from their homes during break. Students had the opportunity to coordinate their reading with their listening, and had access to a wealth of collateral materials that would have been inaccessible to them otherwise.

The funds that I requested with this technology mini-grant contributed to the purchase of my laptop computer, which allowed me to edit and input digital copies of my field recordings, to access EReserves from home, and to check on the status of daily streamed listening assignments.

To say that the project was successful is understating the results. The EReserve page assigned to African Music was, according to librarian Dennis Clark, the second most "hit" site on the EReserve website. Students experienced an initial learning curve that was quickly surmounted (downloading RealAudio, "finding" EReserves, remembering the class password, simple stuff such as this), and ultimately they felt empowered to follow up on ideas, case studies, and cultural contexts presented in class. I felt that students were engaging both their written materials and their sound materials at a much higher level than in previous semesters. Such access encouraged much greater interaction in the classroom, as students had questions and felt in control of the materials. It was a fantastic experience!



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