Connections Made Possible in Interactive Classroom
October, Thomas Wartenberg, MHC professor of philosophy,
brought philosopher Matthew Lipman to campus via the College's
interactive video classroom. Installed in April in Library
619, the equipment uses computer cables or phone lines to
give face-to-face and voice-to-voice contact with classrooms
at the Five Colleges or with similarly equipped facilities
around the world.
university distinguished scholar of philosophy at Montclair State
University, has authored dozens of books, articles, and workshops
on the importance and practice of teaching philosophy to children
to encourage critical and creative thinking. Among his fans is
Mount Holyoke's Thomas Wartenberg, professor of philosophy and
chair of the Film Studies Program, who has been using Lipman's
written work and videos this semester in his course Teaching Children
Philosophy. This fall, as he prepares MHC students to teach philosophy
at Northampton's Jackson Street Elementary School, Wartenberg
went one step further in sharing Lipman's knowledge and experience;
he brought the philosopher to the MHC campus October 1 via an
interactive video classroom.
in April in Library 619, the equipment uses computer cables or
phone lines to give face-to-face and voice-to-voice contact with
classrooms at the Five Colleges or with similarly equipped facilities
around the world. Connection to Montclair State or to any compatible
site requires only that an operator "dial" a number
on a touch screen, then adjust volume levels and cameras. It was
Wartenberg's first videoconferencing experience, and he is sure
it won't be his last. "The technology is really great,"
he said. "Previously we were limited in terms of the number
of guests we could bring in. This is an efficient way to have
more speakers interact with your class."
equipment performed perfectly for Wartenberg. Lipman's words and
lip movements stayed in sync, and students watched him intently
(perhaps aware that he could see them too). Coughs, paper shufflings,
and varying voices were accommodated by six small, self-adjusting
microphones suspended from the ceiling. A VCR recorded the entire
exchange without a single click or whir. All worked as it should
have to focus attention on Lipman, rather than on the technology.
were so excited about this meeting!" Christina Blair '03
told Lipman at the conclusion of the hour-long question-and-answer
session. "After reading Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery, I
thought, Wow! We get to meet the man who wrote this book."
heard similar comments from his other students. "They seemed
really thrilled that they got to meet the professor whose book
they had just read," he said. "It gave them a real sense
of sharing in an important project with its founder."
Supported with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the
Five College videoconferencing classrooms are an outcome of the
external review of Five Colleges in June of 2000. The board of
directors outlined its hopes for using new technology this way:
"As part of the long-standing commitment of the consortium
to improving teaching and learning among our institutions, Five
Colleges, Incorporated, will seek to establish itself as a laboratory
of national prominence for exploring how technology can enhance
learning and the creation of new knowledge."
in using Mount Holyoke's videoconferencing classroom in creative
ways is coming from departments all across campus. At a May open
house, Library, Information, and Technology Services (LITS) training
coordinator Susan Fliss welcomed thirty faculty and staff members
to Library 619. At a three-day training session in July, she was
pleased to see representatives from departments as diverse as
LITS, religion, music, and physics. Language students are using
the classroom now and throughout the fall term to meet with peers
and instructors at Hampshire and Amherst Colleges. Like Wartenberg's
students, they are finding the technology to be unobtrusive and
uncomplicated, said Tamra Hjermstad, LITS technology consultant
for foreign languages. "The technology doesn't get in their
way," she said. "They come in, dial up, and start practicing
the conversation skills so critical in language classes."
'02 is one of those students. Enrolled in a Japanese language
course with Lecturer Mariko Yamamura of Amherst College's Department
of Asian Languages and Civilizations, Huang is thrilled to avoid
a time-consuming commute several times a week. "The videoconferencing
classroom really saves us a lot of time, and so far it works really
well," Huang said. "I don't have to speak any differently.
It's just like taking a normal class."
to hosting occasional lectures by off-site guests and regular
Five College courses, the classroom will be used for occasional
class-to-class discussions, such as a dialogue about dance history
between MHC dance professor Charles Flachs's students and students
from South Carolina's Columbia College. In the future, the room
might even be used for team teaching, student mentoring, interviewing
candidates for positions at Mount Holyoke, or interviewing potential
MHC interns. "The possibilities are endless, and we're encouraging
professors to come to us with their ideas," Fliss said. "We
want to help faculty investigate how this technology can enhance
their teaching and give them easier access to Five College resources."
that LITS offers training on the classroom's equipment, ongoing
classroom support, and tips on managing discussions that involve
people at multiple sites. It also plans to offer seminars and
forums at which faculty may share pilot project experiences with
one another and with faculty from other institutions, or discuss
such broad topics as incorporating interactive video into teaching
styles and philosophies, using videoconferencing technology to
help students meet established learning goals, deciding which
technologies and pedagogies add value to course material, and
designing a technologically mediated course that reflects the
needs of a diversity of learners. The first of these discussion
opportunities is scheduled for January Term. For more information
or to reserve Library 619, contact Sue Fliss at x3034.