Notes from initial meeting of the Humanities Group

Humanities Advisory Group Meeting Notes (recorded by Shel Sax ; reviewed by Andy Wentink and Holly Allen)

The Humanities Advisory Group met on Tuesday, March 3, 2009.  The agenda included  Introductions, a review of the LIS Advisory Group Mission, an update on Departmental Technology Reviews, a brainstorming session on topics/issues to discuss in this group and prioritize topics for future discussion, and, time allowing, initial discussion of topics.

Attending: Co-conveners Andy Wentink (LIS) and  Holly Allen (American Studies), Megan Battey (History of Art & Architecture), Shel Sax (CTLR/LIS), Cynthia Watters (LIS), Jennifer Ponder (Dance), Stephen Donadio (Literary Studies), Jean Simmons (LIS), Stefano Mula (Literature Program), Randy Ganiban (Classics/Classical Studies), MaryEllen Bertolini (CTLR/Writing Program) , Pieter Broucke (History of Art & Architecture), and Heidi Graswick (Philosophy). Unable to attend were: Brett Millier (English & American Literatures), Robert Schine (Jewish Studies), Jacob Tropp (History), Larry Yarborough (Religion/Middle east Studies), and Amy Morsman (History/FLAC representative).


Everyone present, including late arrivals, were asked to introduce themselves.

Andy reviewed the LIS Advisory Group Mission: a means to provide a representative from each department and program in the Humanities Division which a regular opportunity to identify current and merging needs, float new ideas, etc. Andy reiterated what has been emphasized in earlier group meetings, that Advisory Groups are not intended to replace the existing LIS liaison program but rather via peer-to-peer contact among departmental faculty to provide another means of strengthening communication between faculty and LIS that will better serve the Humanities.

Update on Departmental Technology Reviews

With the exception of HARC (History of Art & Architecture), it appears that no other tech assessments have been done for the departments represented by the ‘Humanities.’

Brainstorm Session and Indentification of Action Items

If there was one consistent theme voiced in this initial session, it is faculty concern with their teaching environment, the reliability not only of instructional technology, including hardware and software (an LIS responsibility), but the impact of the spaces in which they teach — classroom size, design, and physical layout, etc. (beyond the purview of LIS ) — on their ability to teach effectively. It became clear that the fundamental concern of faculty to be assured, whenever possible, an optimal teaching and learning environment transcends in very signifcant ways even the need for a steady stream of new curricular resources.  A close second in importance is a call for faculty workshops directly related to technological currency and innovation directly related to pedagogy, e.g., how effectively to implement media technology in the classroom.

Perhaps the most exciting outcome of the session was the suggestion that a blog component be added to the Facilities Descriptions page in Course Scheduling. In this blog, faculty would describe their experiences of teaching in particular classrooms and share with their colleagues helpful hints, caveats, and benefits of  surviving an already familiar or unfamiliar teaching space. The desired outcome of this shared knowledge would be to alert not only the LIS Helpdesk, Media Services and Librarians, but the Scheduling Office, departmental chairs and coordinators, etc., to these faculty concerns and propose and implement viable solutions.

Discussion Issues

  • Megan Battey brought up issue of projection, laptops, reliability – spends a lot of time fixing projections setups in Johnson
  • MaryEllen Bertolini thinks that we should have computers in the classrooms with projection as having faculty bring laptops is not a workable proposition for a variety of reasons
  • Randy Ganiban finds that equipment is not working reliably, particularly Twilight 201 – has to go to class early in order to get PowerPoint presentations to work – also has had difficulty with television sets, dvd players, vhs players
  • Stephen Donadio asked about the process by which approval is given to recommendations and requests generated from the advisory board meetings
  • Andy suggested that the results of the five advisory group meetings would be reviewed, assessed and prioritized, based on consistency of concern and/or urgent needs of particular departments or divisions, provided that resources are available 
  • Shel explained the new organization of LIS and how the area directors and the Dean meet weekly to discuss these types of issues
  • Jean saw the function of this advisory board as one of sharing of ideas that are being generated within various departments
  • MaryEllen (MEB) notes that the unreliability of smart classrooms and labs is an ongoing issue for instructors, so much so that some faculty will not take the risk of using them, particularly if under review, etc.
  • MEB would like a better degree of reliability but Pieter Broucke noted that, from his perspective, things have improved dramatically
  • There was consensus among faculty who teach in both buildings that Twilight apparently is less reliable than Johnson

LIS action item: discuss with Operations what exactly are the routine for preventive maintenance and make this information publicly available to our user community

  • Megan described some classrooms where new computers have required adjusting the video settings and aspect ration to get proper projection
  • BiHall (didn’t get the number of the room – 219 or 224?)– trick the touchpad by pushing VHS to get video projection
  • Instruction manuals are not consistent in our classrooms and in a number of cases are out of date — how can instruction manuals be kept current?
  • Andy mentioned that in Axinn 229, the control panel is around the corner from the screen so that you can’t use the touchpad and see the screen at the same time! 

LIS action item: fix the setup in Axinn 229 so one can see the screen when pushing the control buttons

  • some faculty noted the need to prepare and check the classroom beforehand, but often the classroom is in use by the preceding class
  • Stefano suggested that we link a blog from the facilities page so that we can have a running conversation about the issues in each particular

LIS acton item: revisit the facilities page, particularly in light of new web makeover and incorporate some interactivity – whether it is a blog, wiki, form, email, etc. is yet to be determined

  • Andy asked how many people regularly employ media in their teaching, everyone in the room responded positively so this stuff is vitally important
  • Holly noted that LIS workshops don’t fit particularly well, e.g. links between media resources, PowerPoint, video i.e. teaching oriented workshops – she thought that we need some workshops that are not tool-oriented but rather focus on teaching with these tools

LIS action item: investigate the opportunities to offer workshops that are curricularly focused – should we recommend particular brands with a standard feature set, should we buy some and have them available from the Circ Desk?

  • Randy Ganiban noted that fixed podia are not conducive to creating connections between the students and the instructo
  • Stefano mentioned that his department purchased his remote control via departmental funds

LIS action item: investigate supplying remotes to faculty – this could make use of smart classrooms more popular

  • Andy asked the issue of lack of writing surfaces in smart classroom because the screen is superimposed in front of the writing boards — a concern frequently expressed by faculty in earlier advisory group meetings
  • Everyone agreed that this was an issue – LaForce classroom was cited as an example that had a writing surface across the room from the projection screen
  • Stephen Donadio noted the ease with which one could write on the screen with a black marker
  • MaryEllen criticized the screen placement in Axinn 105 and the number of obstructed views
  • Jen Ponder from Dance noted the difficulty in scheduling a video editing lab with 18 seats and the same video editing software (Final Cut Pro was the application in question)
  • Andy asked if anyone knew whether, when scheduling classes, the Scheduling Office  is aware of the different capabilities of our smart classrooms and depending on what activity the instructor wants to undertake, the needs for rooms may be quite different
  • Megan suggested involving the faculty in the design of classroom renovations to optimize configurations and make good decisions

LIS acton item: identify classroom renovations and faculty who most frequently teach in them, then confer during the planning and implementation process of renovation

As a meeting wrap-up, Andy asked faculty participants for a final statement of issues/concerns or other comments that would help formulate the agenda for the next meeting.

  • Holly Allen – appreciates the work that the Help Desk does, notes problems with Axinn and that faculty were involved in decisions and that LIS response has been good BUT classrooms are idiosyncratic and the opportunity to discuss solutions to problems with other faculty using the facility would be good. Also, more workshops on teaching with media

LIS acton item: investigate possibility of a ‘classroom blog’ to accomplish what Holly suggested – it’s unlikely that if we had a meeting to discuss a classroom that many faculty would show up, although it might be worth a try (Shel’s 2 cents)

  • Megan Battey: high regard for Media Services folks have been very responsive and get there fast!
  • MaryEllen: good response to crises but wants to have a model that is more proactive and avoids problems that could be anticipated – would like more simplified setup – pet peeve: computer in Library 140 set to go to sleep after 5 minutes and this disrupts the class

LIS acton item: fix Library 140

  • Heidi Graswick has been very satisfied with the Help Desk but also agreed with Holly about the need for workshops on teaching with media
  • Stefano – would like interaction with faculty who have used a classroom in the recent past to learn from experience – faculty should be more proactive and have a place to discuss and identify the concerns of faculty teaching with technology
  • Randy Ganiban – happy with Help Desk and wonders if people from the Help Desk could familiarize themselves with the classrooms – they should try themselves to hook up a laptop

LIS action item: implement Randy’s suggestion

  • Randy also likes the idea of a classroom blog and would find it useful when scheduled in another classroom with which he’s not familiar
  • Suggestion to enable faculty to rate classrooms online – this would be very useful when selecting a space and also help LIS identify unpopular spaces for further investigation and possible improvement
LIS action item: investigate an online rating system for faculty with new web makeover
  • Stephen Donadio: raises the issue that a faculty member has to ‘study’ the classroom and prepare to use the room – he wonders about the fundamental difficulty of the assumption that anyone can use any classroom (which was true when one only need desks, chairs, blackboard and chalk) – notes that Art History faculty can easily identify their needs, learn the setup in Johnson and know how to proceed – but not true for other faculty and wonders if it is possible to identity classroom for certain types of uses so that people with different needs do not end up in rooms that are unsatisfactory to their needs – could lessen this phenomenon if faculty were more familiar with the classrooms they typically use
LIS action item: investigate proactive workshops for specific classrooms before semester starts
  • Jen: more real time digital media in performances, senior work, classrooms, so students need to know how to shoot, edit and compress, etc. – the Dance department wants to use Final Cut Pro and there are different versions on campus which create compatibility issues – storage space is another issue for video – use a lot of Macs and video cable dongles are problematic
  • Issues with files saved in Office2007 format are not backward compatible
  • Peter Broucke: – has run into Word documents that he can’t open because of the aforementioned incompatibility issues.
  • Pieter noted that most faculty in HAARC, have now converted to digital formats – have good procedures for dealing with problems (call Meagan) – wants to have architectural expression associated with department or program but that this is fading
  • PB: identity of programs and/or departments are diluted by lack of appropriate meeting spaces – architecture is a term that is increasingly applied to virtual spaces than physical spaces – currently students don’t really connect programmatic themes with physical spaces – would like to reverse this process to gain solutions to problems that we’ve discussed today

The meeting adjourned at 5:35 p.m., with thanks to faculty and attending LIS liaisons from the co-conveners.



1 Response

  1. Nice productive list of ideas – I definitely think a blog/wiki with a comment thread on each classroom would be great. And note that the problem in AXN 229 (the control panel is behind screen) is true about AXN 109 as well, so the solution should address both rooms.

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