THE COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION COMMITTEE (CMC)
AND TEACHER TRAINING AND SUPPORT
Chair: Roberta Binkley
As part of the ongoing program in Computer-Mediated Communication, the CMC Committee serves several important purposes in the English Department and particularly for Writing Programs that offers courses to more than 16,000 students a year. The primary purpose of the Committee has been to provide yearly training in technology teaching for Teaching Assistants and Faculty Associates.
On average, about 20 percent of Writing Programs classes are held in computer-mediated classrooms. In addition, over the past few years this has grown to encompass hybrid (1-2 weekly meetings in the classroom and 1 on-line) and fully on-line classes.
Certainly the largest and most time-consuming work this committee does is to train and mentor all of those teachers who want to teach in a computerized environment. To date this has been an ongoing process, over an entire semester. This requires a considerable amount of time, planning, and effort.
CMC’s responsibilities have grown enormously. In the beginning, around 1994, there were only 12 computerized sections of composition offered. In the past five years the number of computer-mediated classes has grown by 26% in contrast to a program growth of 17%. The growth is primarily constrained by resources and available teachers. However, this upcoming semester, spring, 2003, The Writing Programs will be offering 80 courses in three different venues: computer-mediated classrooms, hybrid , and completely on-line classes. Each type of classroom/venue demands different teaching techniques. Because of space issues (rapidly increasing enrollment, fewer classrooms), the Board of Regents and other concerned parties are encouraging all colleges and campuses to offer more and more hybrid and online courses. This makes the need for training each year crucial; we need more folks willing and able to teach computer-mediated courses.
The movement toward offering computer-mediated instruction, hybrid, and online courses has accelerated nationwide in the past few years. In response ASU has accelerated the support for technology and teaching with the goal that students become not only computer literate but sophisticated and knowledgeable users of the technology. Also, students increasingly demand more flexible class schedules, a demand more easily accommodate by alternatives to traditional “face-to-face” classrooms. Increasing enrollments also place demands on “brick-and-mortar” classroom space. Teachers find that the pedagogy models they have previously utilized in a traditional classroom no longer work when they enter a digitized classroom. The ground has shifted under their feet and the differences between what they have done before and the computerized, and/or hybrid and online classes are daunting. Many teachers are reluctant to enter this realm, correctly perceiving that it requires much more work and many time-consuming hours.
The training initially entailed six weeks of lecture, theory, practice, six observations of experienced CMC teachers, and three workshops. As the workload for the committee has continued to expand and given the fact that few teachers have the luxury of the time required for this type of intensive teaching (and since more and more teachers are increasingly technically knowledgeable), training became “trimmed down.”
Present Training and Support
The present program involves three basic components:
a) theoretical readings that discuss why we teach with technology, and the rhetorical implications of using technology, that is, the WHY of doing/using technology.
b) mentoring (mentees are paired up with experienced mentors). Last spring semester, Spring ‘02, the committee paired up twelve mentees with eight mentors (several folk assisted more than one new teacher).
c) workshops (these are provided by the CMC Committee, and by the two English department computer specialists and by CLTE and IT). Currently, the requirements are three-to-five meetings with a mentor (including time actually observing the mentor working with technology in a classroom setting), presenting a unit using technology, a packet of readings provided by the committee, and two to three workshops involving the teaching of composition with technology. Finally, the perspective teacher must write a statement in which they discuss their teaching philosophy as it is impacted by technology.
Up until now, all of this work as been taken on as a voluntary overload by the instructors, lecturers, and the teachers who participate in the instruction. In the fall of 2003 two proposals were submitted to ABOR, one for upgraded training in a one- week workshop and seminar accommodating 10-12 instructors, to meet for 5 days. The second, proposal was to update and upgrade the CMC web site to make it both student and instructor friendly. The first was granted for what is now known as the Athena project.
It is the policy of the English Department and Writing Programs to offer workshops to our own faculty to encourage continuing education among the faculty, lecturers, instructors, teaching assistants, and faculty associates (The Writing Programs faculty alone is comprised of 160 people). IT and CLTE’s programs are also crucial to the on-going education effort and support of teachers in computer classrooms. Budget cuts have forced a reduction in these efforts.
The CMC Committee has two Lecturers who serve on it. Recently, for budget reasons, the department eliminated the WPA’s two “Assistant Directors,” one of whom served to help the CMC committee with its ongoing training and mentoring program. This has increased the work load of the Lecturers on this committee. Among their duties are:
• Develop attendance policy for online and hybrid classes
• Coordinate information on the Web for hybrid courses
• Help the WPA work with the Secretary and the Administration in the department on footnotes scheduling, etc. of online and hybrid classes
• Serve as mentors to all those teaching in CMC classrooms–that is, as a sounding board for new ideas and a place to go with questions and problems
• Responsible for training of new teachers
• Continued support for new teachers
• Maintain the listserv which connects to pedagogical information, timely articles, and resources on the Web
• Look for outside sources of funding including grants for teacher-training and support
• Research and propose innovative programs to help teachers move into learner-centered digital classrooms
• Encourage the use of learner-centered computerized strategies
• Encourage faculty networks including use of the listserv, the web site, face-to-face formal meetings and informal daily contacts.
• Increase student and teacher interaction, familiarity and critical use of technology.