An Interview with David G. Brown
An Interview with David G. Brown" The Technology Source, July/August 2002. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.
David G. Brown is an economist, a former president and provost of both public and private universities, and a former chair of the American Association of Higher Education and the Higher Education Colloquium. He has a passion for faculty innovation. He founded the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, the Annual Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, and the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. In his current role (since 1999) as vice president and dean of the International Center for Computer Enhanced Learning (ICCEL) at Wake Forest University, he has published five books on technology and learning. He is editor-in-chief of Gallery of Courses Taught With Technology and a member of EDUCAUSE's current issues committee. During the past 2 years, he has consulted with more than 300 colleges and universities regarding their use of technology in the classroom and in administration.
I was able to interview him at the 2001 EDUCAUSE annual meeting in Indianapolis last October.
James L. Morrison [JLM]: Dave, what advice do you have for those educators who want to develop programs that will assist faculty members use information technology tools more effectively in their instruction?
David G. Brown [DGB]: When I was provost at Wake Forest University, I served as the head of a strategic planning committee. In the interest of establishing closer learning links among faculty and students, we recommended that all students and faculty members be equipped with identical laptop computers. In 1995 we launched a campus-wide program whereby all undergraduate students and faculty receive new laptops every two years. The student cost is included in their tuition; upon graduation, students take ownership of the computer they received at the beginning of their third year. Also on a two-year rotation, all Wake Forest faculty and staff members are provided the same laptops and software. This program has been immensely successful because the faculty and the students have embraced it.
For other institutions to have success, their faculty and students must first have access to the technology, which must also be very reliable (e.g., networks cannot break down). There must also be a motivational force that encourages faculty members to experiment with technology. Finally, the institution has to recognize that faculty experimentation with technology takes a significant amount of time. These preconditions are essential in order to have a successful faculty development program.
In addition to these requirements, there are a few basic concepts that define any successful faculty development program. First, we have to believe that faculty members are eager professionals who will adopt the most effective methods available because they want to enable their students to learn more. We must also understand that faculty adoption of technology is very similar to gardening. Even if you garden every year with methods that you know, you may be willing to try new methods in the interest of improving your garden?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùbut only if you do not have to risk the whole year's crop. Similarly, when a faculty member adopts innovations, he/she must maintain two production tracks?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùthe old one, in case the new method does not work, and the new one, in case it works better. That does involve twice as much work, which is an inevitable part of innovation; institutions must therefore develop strategies to accommodate faculty members who are carrying a double workload.
There are a couple of other concepts that are important in faculty development. The first is that it cannot start with the technology. We cannot say, "Because we have a computer, how can we use it?" Instead, we need to ask, "How can I be a more effective teacher?" or "Now that I am in an environment with more resources, more degrees of freedom, and more opportunities because of technology, are there opportunities that did not previously exist that I can use to accomplish specific objectives that are part of my educational philosophy?"
For example, at the International Center for Computer Enhanced Learning (ICCEL) we have experimented with a number of different formats. When we started by teaching specific software programs (e.g. Word and Excel), faculty soon protested that they already knew these programs or that they didn't want to invest effort in learning them until they knew they would be useful in their teaching. When we started with educational philosophy and theory, faculty outside the discipline of education often protested that what they needed most was practical advice, not the conceptual framework of another discipline. Consequently, our most successful workshops start with teaching strategies. We give examples of why and how other professors are actually using technology in their teaching: to enhance the immediacy of feedback, to customize assignments to student interest and capacity, to enable the involvement of adjunct professors, to increase collaboration among students, and to add interest through controversy and debate. When this approach is taken, workshop participants almost always come up with new ideas for their teaching, some involving technology and some not.
To return to my list of conditions that must exist for successful faculty development programs to thrive, the provost has to acknowledge that different disciplines use computer technology in very different ways, because they utilize different educational theories. The art department, for example, will worry about the adequacy of hard drive space to hold high-memory images, while the physics department will ask about a computer's computational speed, and the sociology department will worry about its communication abilities. Clearly, we have to recognize that a faculty development program must include a wide range of purposes.
Finally, we should approach the faculty development program for information technology (IT) in the same way that we think about the faculty development program for library use. For example, we must provide library space and we must provide training programs and consultants that enable faculty to use library resources. At the same time, the library must have a flexible structure so that a faculty member can use it without any assistance. We should view the library as an important teaching tool that is available for those faculty members who wish to use it. Likewise, a faculty development program that focuses on the use of computers should be flexible, readily available, easy to use with or without assistance, and entirely voluntary. Faculty members already have a computer, and they can voluntarily use the program if they think that it will enhance their teaching effectiveness. There are many ways for faculty to stimulate student learning. Computers are one very effective tool. In some instances, however, other approaches may be even more effective. It is important for these decisions to be made by individual faculty members. Some effective faculty members may even choose not to use computers in their instruction.
JLM: How do you provide incentives for faculty members to devote time to learning how to use technology tools in their instruction?
DGB: This issue is quickly disappearing. It is hard to imagine a major college or university that would hire new faculty members and not ask whether they have used technology in their teaching, what they know about using technology in their teaching, and if they have found that technology makes them a more effective teacher. My experience is that the questions that are first asked of new faculty members are, only a few years later, asked of faculty members who receive salary increases, promotions, and tenure. I think that this change in the hiring and promotion process acts as a powerful incentive for educators to learn about technology.
I also think we have attained a level of maturity with computer-enhanced learning in which the main motivator for faculty is colleague affirmation. Special stipends, hand-written notes from deans, discretionary spending accounts, priority in the receipt of new technology, the capacity to acquire needed computer peripherals and software, distinguished teaching awards, citation in presidential speeches, travel support to share teaching experiences at professional meetings, and additional salary increases can all make it easier for faculty members to become involved with technology. In the end, however, all these "add-ons" will have little impact until colleagues within each discipline regard technology as an important part of effective teaching and consider effective teaching an important part of promotion and tenure. Fortunately, in most disciplines at most universities in most parts of the world, this crucial transition has already occurred. Mandates from the dean's office are no longer necessary. Key administrators need simply to recognize, affirm, and applaud the emerging criteria.
Faculty really do not need many other incentives. We do need administrators to acknowledge that faculty members are working extra hours, and deans, provosts, and department chairs need to identify and create procedures that will help faculty members save time. My favorite method is to focus the university's resources on the redesign of curriculum in a single department for a single semester or academic year. If everyone in the department simultaneously attempts to use technology to enhance their instruction, then they help each other immensely and learn much more quickly in this collaborative environment. Moreover, departmental meetings now center on this topic, which also helps the learning process.
JLM: Given your experience at Wake Forest, what lessons have you learned?
DGB: We have found a number of ideas that have worked very well and a few that have not. We have had a difficult time, for instance, in persuading faculty members to use mailing lists. Many sign up initially, but, after about two weeks, they stop opening mailing list communications. The only exception has been the mailing list for faculty who are currently using the campus's course management system (CMS). This list provides technical advice on topics such as how to use the grade book as well as announcements of faculty training opportunities. Discussion also focuses on pedagogysuch as how to build interactive Web sites, how to use the CMS (Wake Forest uses Blackboard) to support meaningful online discussions, and how to involve adjunct professors and alumni in class discussions. Our IT staff and library-based instructors monitor the listserv so that, if a faculty member does not respond to a question within an hour after a colleague has posted it, someone from IT or from the library training staff will research the question and respond to it.
One idea that does not work and that we have not been able to fix is "buying" a faculty member out for a course during a semester. We were spending a lot of money in giving a department funds to hire an adjunct professor so that an associate or full professor could carry a lighter teaching load and use the freed-up time to add technology-based enhancements to other courses that he/she is teaching. What we found was that, if teaching a three-course load takes 70 hours a week, teaching two courses also demands 70 hours a week. In other words, teaching will always take all the time available. Even if you cut the teaching load down to one course, it will still take 70 hours a week. Because of this, we moved these grants to the summer. The faculty members that received the grants met once a week to share their work and held a poster session at the end of the grant period. This approach proved much more successful (descriptions of several faculty projects are available at our Teaching and Learning Center Web site).
Our two greatest successes in faculty development have come in employing students and professional staff to assist faculty members. For example, we have a program called Student Technology Advisors (STARs). As high school seniors, these students win scholarships to come to Wake Forest to work for us at a rate of $9.50/hour. As first-semester college students, they train with us for about 10 hours per week. They may or may not have sophisticated computer knowledge, so they first learn how to construct Web pages and are then introduced to some basic elements of pedagogy (e.g., the importance of interaction, the power of collaboration). For each of the next seven semesters, we assign them to a different faculty member, usually outside their major, and their role is to enhance that faculty member's courses with technology. At the end of the semester, they must have helped a faculty member develop a technological component that the faculty member can maintain after the student has taken another assignment. The student advisors have a faculty-training function as well as a course-building function, and the faculty-training function has turned out to be more important. I had a STAR who taught me Dreamweaver, introduced me to AOL Instant Messenger as a means of creating a chat group within a class, assisted my students in creating their own Web pages, and helped me build an Internet-accessible database for my course.
Our most helpful faculty development resource is a group of full-time professionals who are assigned to and hired by specific academic departments. This is our instructional technology group. Just as many academic libraries hire professional librarians to help faculty members in certain subject areas, almost all of our departments employ instructional technologists with doctorates or masters degrees in their subject area. These instructional technologists have offices within their affiliated department and advise departmental faculty and their students. They devote full time to technology; they do not teach any degree-credit courses themselves. A few departments that have been sharing academic specialists have given up full-time faculty positions in order to hire their own instructional technologists. The technologists work on 12-month contracts, and we have even developed a rank structure?¢‚Ç¨‚Äùa "specialist" can be promoted to "consultant" and then to "analyst."
We have chosen to invest our money in supporting computer-enhanced instruction at all levels: the entire college, individual departments, and individual students. While we have almost no central faculty development force, our librarians conduct small classes on how to use software packages such as Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop, and our course management system. We have found a different way to spend the funds that other institutions have invested in multimedia labs and instructional design groups. For us, this approach has been very successful.
JLM: Many thanks, Dave, for taking time out from the conference to give us the benefit of your experience with assisting faculty members in using information technology tools more effectively in their instruction. In closing, we should note that many of your articles and speeches that extend the thoughts you expressed in this interview are available on your home page. We appreciate your good work in this important area.brick busterword gamesmarble popper gamesdownloadable pc gamessimulation games