CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

May 10, 2001 Teaching in new ways, with a little help from faculty grants




by Marie Valla

With teaching, there’s always room for improvement. That’s why, every year, the office of the Provost and Vice-Rector Research provides Faculty Teaching Development (FTD) grants through the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS).

The grants, worth $2,000 to $8,000, reward faculty members and librarians for coming up with new ways of helping students learn.

Olivia Rovinescu, director of the CTLS, explained. “What the jury is looking for are projects that affect the greatest number of students, that involve teams of faculty members working together, that show interdisciplinarity, and that have technological implications.”

Prior to the current McConnell Project, also called the Pilot Technology Pedagogy project, FTD grants were the only internally available grants for teachers who wanted to develop the delivery of curriculum on the Web, an increasingly popular goal. This year’s jury identified 13 projects, all very different in scope.

Digital images for art lectures

Andrew Dutkevitch teaches a class on contemporary sculpture, and proposes to replace the slides he uses in his lectures with images in digital format. The idea came to him when he realized that an increasing number of his students use laptops and video projectors in their presentations.

Instantaneity and flexibility are two advantages offered by the digital format, he pointed out. Instructors can provide up-to-date material without the wait for slides to be duplicated from exhibition catalogues, and artists and museums can be accessed through their Web sites. The digital format is also better suited to three-dimensional sculpted works, as opposed to slides, which are static images.

Dutkevitch will hire graduate students to research and process the data as this project unfolds in the fall.

Communication over the Net

Cyber-technology is also at the root of Mia Lobel and Professor Randy Swedburg’s project, originating in the Department of Applied Human Resources. They are asking whether we can actually develop interpersonal communication skills over the Internet, where there is no face-to-face communication.

Meeting in real time in a virtual classroom, connected to each other through their computers, teacher and students will identify the skills that allow them to conduct classes online. Online conferencing is already used by major corporations to connect their offices around the world, and Lobel and Swedburg feel that universities can do the same.

The course is scheduled for next fall, but the appropriate software is already being developed. To be able to work with the class in real time, the challenge is to research and analyze the data simultaneously, a task that will be done with the aid of graduate students.

Digital logic construction

Learning by doing and breaking data down into information components are the concepts crucial to Nawwaf Kharma’s Magic Blocks project.

A professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Kharma has designed a prototype construction kit for learning the basics of digital logic construction. His goal is to teach people how to think without preplanning on paper.

“It is really like a Lego construction kit,” he said.

His game provides a way to learn to work with concepts. The kit comprises a board and six configurable blocks equipped with chips that can be connected. Each block represents one conceptual activity, such as “input” or “memory.” The last element of the game is used to package the whole.

This summer, Kharma and two graduate students will build and test the blocks, designing the board, some examples of constructions and the user’s manual. In the fall, he hopes that his students will be able to give feedback on the prototype, and then Kharma will look for industrial support to manufacture it.

Guest lectures on video

Thanks to videos produced by the Journalism Department, Mike Gasher, Peter Downie and Barry Conway plan to “bring the newsroom into the classroom.” Each video, based on interviews with former students and working journalists, will address specific technical aspects of the profession, such as journalism ethics or the art of interviewing.

Videos are a good alternative to inviting guest speakers talk to the class, Gasher explained. Guest speakers often aren’t available when you need them, and there’s no money to pay them.

Two Journalism students will be hired to assist TV veterans Downie and Conway to produce broadcast-quality pieces. The goal is to get one or two 15- to 40-minute-long videos ready for September.

Film lecture on painter Ozias Leduc

Different topic, but the same medium: François-Marc Gagnon, the head of the new Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, and three of his colleagues from Art History will work on the production of a pilot video on Quebec painter Ozias Leduc.

More than a documentary, the film is really a class, with Gagnon acting as the teacher, lecturing on four different aspects of Leduc’s work presented in situ. In addition to the lecture, there will be a document that includes theoretical questions, technical aspects and a bibliography.

The Ozias Leduc episode could be the first of a series of televised lectures on 20th-century Canadian art shown on cable, on Canal Savoir. Gagnon took part to similar projects while teaching at the Université de Montréal. The idea is to create a TV course that could be for credit, but would also be accessible to a broad audience.

Faculty Teaching Development Grant Recipients for 2001:

Philippe Caignon, Diane Sauvé (Études françaises, Library): Création d’un manuel, transferable dans l’environnement WebCT, destiné à la formation des étudiantes et des étudiants d’un cours d’invitation à la recherche

Eusebius Doedel, Pankaj Kamthan (Computer Science): Numerical Analysis Education in XML and Java

Andrew Dutkewych (Studio Arts):
Sculpture in Digital Format

François-Marc Gagnon, Jean Belisle, Brian Foss, Kristina Huneault (Art History): Ozias Leduc: A Modern Quebec Painter

Mike Gasher, Peter Downie, Barry Conway (Journalism):
Bringing Newsroom to the Classroom: Theme-Specific Interviews with Working Journalists

Nawwaf N. Kharma (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Magic Blocks: A Digital Logic Construction Set

Michael Longford et al (Design Art): Mediating the Visual: A Collaborative Assessment of Means to Explore Image-Text Relationships and Graphic Agitation in the Urban Environment

Michael Sampson (Economics):
Preparation for the Electronic Publication of Three Economics Textbooks

Ted Stathopoulos (Building/Civil/Environmental Engineering): Educational Models for the Dynamics Course

Randy Swedberg, Mia Lobel (Applied Human Sciences): Research, Develop and Implement eAHSC/230

Fred Szabo et al (Mathematics/Statistics): Mathematics Appreciation: Visual and Interactive Resources for Teaching and Learning

Hal Thwaites (Communications Studies): Introduction to Digital Communication: Upgrade to a Web-based Version 2.0

Catherine Vallejo, Luis Ochoa, Luz Janeth Ospina (Classics/Modern Languages/Linguistics): You Have to Know the Lab to Use the Lab