Faculty Experiences - Tim Tangherlini

Tim Tangherlini - photoTIM TANGHERLINI


Interview Topics

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?


Create closer community
Critical thinking
Organize information
Student motivation
Student presentations


Class web site
Digital archive
Discussion board
Multimedia projects
Video conferencing

Providing an Environment Where Students Can Explore

I think it's important that teachers provide an environment where students feel they can explore. I see the classroom as a partnership between teacher and student where we are engaged in inquiry. I think the classroom is a place to discuss, explore, and develop critical thinking skills, to develop new ways of looking at things.

There's a saying that if you see yourself as a hammer then you see everything else as a nail. With this in mind, I try not use one particular technology but try to figure out what types of technology might open up a particular field of exploration. In my Korean folklore class, for example, we've developed an online archive for the students to do their field work. One of my students, for instance, was doing field work at a PC café and was actually uploading his work in almost real time. In this case the web and the archive system gave students a wonderful way to organize and retrieve data to make very rich presentations. Students were able to see what other students collected and could be motivated by their peers. But more importantly, they could feel like they were contributing to something that could be around for many years to come.

In my bigger classes I've used the web and its discussion boards to create a closer community and also to disseminate materials such as handouts in a more manageable way than before. In my smaller classes, I've used everything from DVDs and CDs to discussion boards which fosters an asynchronous communication for students to continuously learn outside of the classroom. And finally in our language classes we use video conferencing to bring together people from different parts of the state on a daily basis who would not otherwise have access to such things as Danish, Swedish, or Finish language. We bring people together from San Diego to Berkeley. It doesn't make any sense that a student's geographical boundaries should limit them to access these resources. By using the various technology, we can bring things together and make resources more accessible.

Some of my students are very sophisticated. They have a background in Flash and have background in video editing, for example. Generally students are very enthusiastic about multimedia projects because it allows them to blend sound, pictures, and movies because this is the environment they've grown up in. Some of the students really embrace this stuff because it gives them a chance to illustrate their ideas. These tools provide them with a greater degree of precision in addressing certain questions presented to them. They're really visually oriented. Graduate students using multimedia technology in their bodies of work will be a great benefit to researchers down the road.

I think the skies the limit with regard to using technology in education--everything from textual analysis tools to research. We just are seeing the tip of the iceberg. As we gain more and more familiarity and as graduate students have these tools in their back pocket as part of their training we will see some very interesting bodies of work in the future--textual, historical, cultural studies, ethnography, etc.

I've found that for some colleagues technology has helped them out of a teaching bind. At this point computers and multimedia software are far easier to use than ever before. You go back to the early 1980s and most people felt using a computer was a considerable undertaking. Now it's simply "plug and play" and "click and drop". For most professors it's a question of the return of investment in time. Is it really going to be worth it? Some find that what they thought would take a long time to learn did not take as long as they thought. Once they learned how to incorporate technology, it become an instrumental part of not only their instruction but also their research.

I don't think there will be any profound change in the future in the way I teach. But I think a lot of these tools will become easier to use. I think we will have much better content management. I think we're going to have students who are much more capable of embedding technology in their work. What I want to stress is that we have to keep focused on the end product and that is critical thinking--analytical approaches to cultural expression--at least in the fields that I work in. Technology is still a tool. The use of various technologies makes sense in different situations. As trained scholars in the humanities, we want to modify or adapt these tools to stimulate our students' learning.

Oral Interview, April 30, 2003