Slavic Languages & Literatures
What matters most to you in your teaching?
How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?
How have your students responded to your use of technology?
What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?
How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?
Focus on the learning process
Give students choices
Use authentic materials
Thinking like a researcher
Class web site
Using the Internet to Teach Critical Thinking Skills
I try to show students how to learn about substantive materials and also how to use the Internet as a tool to do research.
I designed my course web site with the idea that if students had access to materials outside of the course which they could choose to explore, this choice would involve them more in the subject matter. Providing a course web site with resource options meant that a broader range of students could take the course. I saw the class web site as a tool to accommodate different kinds of interests and preparation. The course is not only a GE, or general education course, it is a pre-requisite to one of my department’s majors. My course site links to some bilingual sites. I thought it would be interesting for students who had never seen Russian to see new things up there. I know that the Russian alphabet by itself sometimes alarms people, so a web site with bilingual resources allows students to realize Russian is not just a funny alphabet. The Russian alphabet communicates a rich culture.
Because students can see information in English or in Russian from the course web site, I thought this might motivate them to become more involved in their studies. One of the areas of Russian art that I think isn’t always covered all that well is the visual. A lot of Russian art is absolutely world class stuff! I knew there were some really good web sites and really good digitalization projects illustrating Russian art. Some of these have been funded cooperatively between some of Russia’s best museums and big American corporations. For example, The State Hermitage Museum, which is the museum in St. Petersberg, actually cooperated with IBM to produce some amazing digital material.
The Hermitage has a website which lets you get closer to artifacts than I have ever been able to in the museum. It’s very, very impressive. It gets more impressive in that respect all of the time. During my student days, Russia was a little behind in adopting some aspects of technology, partly because the Soviet Union did not like the public to have access to a lot of information. In those days, even the copy machine was very subversive! You can imagine how exciting it is to see these web sites coming out of Russia! Some people were very excited about web-based technology and computing in Russia, but, at the same time, the facilities for it were not part of the standards that we had in the west. Because Russia has wonderful applied mathematicians, but little materials, people built their own computers in very interesting ways. Now that, of course, has changed. You have these wonderful mathematicians and you have the art—you have people there who are putting this all together.
For example, one of my favorite links on the course web site takes you to a site about Russian architecture. If you click on this link, you go to a site built by Russian architecture historians with a catalog of Russian monuments. (Look for external link to this) This is wonderful for American students who have no chance of going to a little town in the middle of Russia. Because of web technology, they can see these fantastic 12th century works of art. There is nothing that could introduce students to Russian culture as well as a good site with a lot of external links that are well-done. I thought the student selection of these links could be part of an educational process where they could focus on learning about Russian art and culture—because I know that all students surf the web. Every undergraduate surfs away. I thought that one of the things I could do for students in a GE course is teach them how to use Internet sources in a responsible way, just as they do print sources. I want students to look at who the authority is behind a particular source, why they like a particular source. I received cooperation from the Hermitage, for example, to use some of their images, and I have them as links on my web site.
Oral Interview, February 2006