Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

Improving Teaching and Learning in Art History Courses Through the Use of Digital Images in myWPI

M. David Samson, Associate Professor of Art History in the Humanities and Arts

"Putting digital images online in myWPI has made me much more conscious of the visual resources I can make available to my students. I am not limited to what I can say and show in a class meeting."

A few years ago, M. David Samson, Associate Professor of Art History in the Humanities and Arts department, was teaching his classes primarily with the use of traditional 35mm slides loaded into a slide carousel. In order to tell stories about the art and give his students visual representations, he found himself using a number of slides that were not in the textbooks he was using for the class. He considered handing out photocopies of the images, but the time and trouble of putting the sheets together were daunting. For one course Dave tried taking his classes to the movie lab in the library and having the students access digital images from a networked CD-ROM, which had been made for him by the ATC in an early humanities and technology pilot program. However, he found it cumbersome to get his class to the lab. It occurred to Dave that he needed to find a way to make the images available to students to review on their own.

Dave noticed that a colleague was using myWPI for the posting of his syllabi and supplemental course materials. It occurred to him that he could use myWPI for making images available to his students. Dave worked with the Academic Technology Center (ATC) to make this happen. The ATC initially scanned the slides to disk and put them in myWPI for him. Dave has now learned to do this himself.

Dave now uses myWPI for all of his courses, using it for posting syllabi, electronic reserves of relevant articles and chapters, lists of the images shown in class, and the posting of images themselves. He has made the most extensive use of digital images in myWPI in AR 2113, Topics in 19th and 20th Century Architecture.

Having the images on myWPI really helped. Sometimes in class we would fly through the material, so after class I could review the slides. It was also interesting to see all of the different slides together as a whole, rather than broken up between classes.
Robert Accosta, Mechanical Engineering 2008

One concern of Dave's when putting the images and resources online was copyright infringement. He has worked with the ATC to determine how many images he can use from a copyrighted source under the fair use guidelines. He frequently uses Google, AlltheWeb, and other search engines to search the Internet for images on sites that allow for the use of the images for educational purposes. He also scans many of his own slides to turn them into a digital format.

The use of myWPI, and particularly the digital images in myWPI, has had a positive impact on Dave’s teaching. In myWPI he can post different views of a building than what he showed in class, which allows the students to get different perspectives of the buildings. He also uses the online images in conjunction with his traditional slides or other types of media. For example, he may show a physical object under the document camera in one of the electronic classrooms and at the same time show online images of other objects for comparison. Using search engines he can find images that in the past took him a great deal of time to locate in texts and museums, making the materials he uses in class easier to access and more elegant to display.

With the limitations of physical copies of images (slides, photocopies, etc.) gone, Dave can give more attention to teaching what he wants to teach. He now has confidence in knowing he has the visuals he needs to tell the story he wants to tell in class. He says that having the images online "makes it more fun to teach and easier to be a performer in the classroom."

Putting the images in myWPI has had a positive impact on student learning as well. Dave says, "The students are much happier than they used to be. They used to complain that I used too many slides in class, which made it hard for them to remember the images. Now they feel more confident having the visual resources to refer back to." Dave also says that term papers have had higher quality and that the students seem to be able to work faster.

There is no better or quicker way to study or look up the materials discussed in a class that requires careful examination of numerous images/slides than in a centralized, organized and easily accessible web site. It is much easier than flipping through multiple books and invaluable when writing reports. I think Professor Samson provided us with the best possible means of studying the material he presented.
Branko Zugic, Chemical Engineering 2006
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Last modified: Oct 12, 2005, 13:10 EDT
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