Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 21, 1996 Form

Faculty Plant

Technology: Provost's
grants helping to get
courses on-line.

Mike Field
Staff Writer

It was a song that captured the heart, captivated the ear and soon catapulted to international favor throughout Europe. Now one of the greatest hits of the 16th century has become the stepping-off point for an adventurous experiment in harnessing the latest information technology to enrich pedagogy across the university.

At the Peabody Institute, students studying the history of medieval and Renaissance music can learn more about the period by taking a computer tour of French composer Claudin de Sermisy's "Jouissance vous Donneray." A song for four voices in the style of the Italian madrigal, it reflects--and was sometimes reflected in--the art, architecture, history and social mores of the mid-1500s.

"The song is very representative of the era. It was a kind of music that the growing bourgeoisie could perform, most often on the lute, which was the most popular instrument of the time," said Peabody faculty member Susan Weiss, who conceived and designed the tour. By clicking on various icons that appear on screen, students can look at representative examples of art and architecture, follow a time line for the period, read text relating to historical developments and even watch and hear Peabody faculty and students perform various renditions of the song.

The software package that contains all this information was created by Weiss and colleagues at the Peabody to enhance classroom teaching through new computer technologies. It brings together examples of the music, artwork, thoughts, dress and manners of the period--all of which Weiss used to lug to class in bags of books, slides and photographs--in one compact source.

It can also be used as a template, of sorts, to guide similar projects in virtually any subject taught at the university. Startup funding for the project, titled "Early Music on CD-ROM," came from a special minigrant program, sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

One of 10 such projects to be highlighted at a university-wide symposium to be held Oct. 24 on the Homewood campus, "Early Music on CD-ROM" demonstrates the remarkable opportunities--and some of the challenges--inherent in new computer technologies that are fast becoming an everyday part of academic life. It also highlights just how quickly things are changing.

"Despite the name, this software may never actually appear on CD-ROM," said Peabody faculty member Ichiro Fujinaga, associate director for the institute's informational technology and one of the three principal investigators in the project. "We don't like to be driven by available technology, we like to push it," he said, alluding to the developing perception that CD-ROMs are now yesterday's technology.

According to Charles Kim, Peabody webmaster and head of communications, the next generation of CD-ROMs, called DVDs, will hold significantly more information, thus enabling even more sophisticated programs. As a graduate student, Kim helped design and create most of the "Early Music on CD-ROM" graphics.

"Computer speed is still a problem when creating a project like this," he said. "I would literally go and have dinner while waiting for a rendering to be completed. Designing and installing the graphics, and in particular the video of the musicians playing, is an incredibly time-consuming process."

One of the purposes of the minigrant program is to identify areas where existing technologies or special resources can be exploited most effectively to enable faculty to experiment with emerging technologies to enhance teaching.

"Our goal is to foster a university-wide appreciation of what resources are out there and which can be accessed for a reasonable fee," said Candice Dalrymple, associate dean for external programs in the Whiting School of Engineering.

Dalrymple heads the university's Subcommittee on Electronic and Distance Education, part of the Information Systems Coordinating Council. It was created in 1994 in response to the report of the Committee for the 21st Century, which called, in part, for an improvement in the university-wide information infrastructure. SEDE administered the minigrant program, and will host the Oct. 24 symposium as a way of publicizing grant winners' accomplishments.

"The symposium offers full- and part-time faculty a chance to see how others have harnessed information technology to enhance instruction and learning," Dalrymple said. The half-day event will be held in the Schafler Auditorium of the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy on the Homewood campus. It will include presentations by all 10 minigrant recipients, welcoming remarks by Provost Steven Knapp and President William Brody, and electronic poster sessions demonstrating the 10 minigrant projects and 18 additional electronic education projects under development around the university.

Kenneth Green, director of two national research projects focusing on higher education's use of information technology, will deliver the keynote address. A nationally recognized expert in the potentials and pitfalls of electronic technology in the classroom, Green will speak about the new ubiquity of information technology and how it is currently being assimilated into higher education settings. The entire symposium is free and open to the Hopkins university community.

Dalrymple said SEDE will use the symposium as an appropriate vehicle to announce this year's minigrant program, to which applications must be submitted no later than Dec. 15. Last year, the Provost's Office provided $42,000 in grants, awarded in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $8,000.

"One of the things we achieved this time out was to enable faculty to leverage relatively small amounts of money to create very large and successful projects," Dalrymple said. "With the early music project, for instance, Susan Weiss was able to tap into resources such as student and faculty computing and performing expertise within the Peabody as well as considerable resources outside Peabody."

One of the goals of the SEDE effort is to estimate the costs involved in producing pedagogical enhancements using information technology.

"By surveying our grant recipients and analyzing the non-minigrant resources they devoted to their projects, we hope to get a sense of the real number of dollars needed to create projects like "Early Music on CD-ROM," Dalrymple said. She estimates the $42,000 in last year's seed money helped produce at least $500,000 in real activity.

The advantage of the SEDE grants, said Weiss, is they help cover the cost of development, easily the most difficult part of any project.

"The early music project is easily replicable," she said. "Once we spent the time and effort to invent the form, so to speak, the rest becomes a matter of filling in the blanks. When we started, we had no models to show us where we were going. Now we could go back and fairly easily do other periods of music history. It is the initial project that requires the bulk of the work."

Thursday's symposium is intended to be a suitable forum for Weiss and other investigators to share the fruits of their labor so others will not have to go back and reinvent the wheel.

"We'll have all 10 winners explaining how they used their money, including what went right and what went wrong, with projects from almost every division," Dalrymple said. "Any faculty member interested in using information technology in the classroom will probably find these presentations very helpful."

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