Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Technology ... It's Not Just for Science Departments Anymore

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Technology ... It's Not Just for Science Departments Anymore

Article excerpt

As a graduate student at Ohio State University in the early 1990s, Dr. Leslie Fenwick had grown accustomed to having access to computers and to using her own campus-issued computer. "They were part of the landscape. Computers were just part of the university setting," Fenwick said.

But when she joined the faculty at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) in Atlanta, Georgia four years ago, Fenwick, an assistant professor in CAU's School of Education, was left to fend for herself as far as computers were concerned.

Though surprised that CAU lacked the resources to provide her the equipment she deems critical to her position as a college professor, Fenwick resorted to using a computer she already owned. She finally received a computer for her office this summer when another faculty member in the CAU school of education, Dr. James Young, purchased several computers through a grant he had obtained. Fenwick's boss, Dr. Trevor Turner, dean of the CAU education school, said it's common for faculty members, such as Dr. Fenwick, to use their own personal computers to perform their duties as college teachers. He estimates that fewer than ten of thirty-five faculty members in his department have a computer in their offices. Dr. Turner added that the school of education has not had the funding to provide its faculty members individual computers, but the department has maintained a student computer laboratory that is open to faculty members.

"It's a resource problem. We're still very much a poor HBCU," Turner said.

Though committed to equipping itself with the latest information technology, institutions such as Clark Atlanta University have traditionally faced tremendous disadvantages in making technology a widely available resource for faculty members and students. Among faculty, the experience of working in colleges and universities with meager resources has led to grassroots efforts by teachers using grants and personal resources to purchase equipment.

According to Fenwick, faculty members who are interested in acquiring technology for their classrooms often seek grants and support from organizations outside of their schools. But the practice of individual faculty members obtaining technology from sources outside their respective colleges and universities has often led to a haphazard collection of computers and multi-media equipment, say a number of faculty and administrative officials. To alleviate the problem, Fenwick suggests that faculty members and administrative officials form committees to develop consensus around technology plans.

Playing Catch-Up With Public Schools

A fervent advocate of using information technology in the office and classroom, Fenwick says the lack of funding in colleges and universities represents the greatest threat to integrating computers into administration and teaching. "One of the concerns I have is our ability to prepare prospective teachers for grades K through 12," she laments. "Computers are widely used in school systems, and our students, who are becoming teachers and administrators in those systems, should have the training to use technology in their future jobs."

Turner says the Clark Atlanta University administration is currently adding computer equipment to his department for its faculty members. He says that faculty not having computers and other information technology hurts his department's ability to train teachers who are getting jobs in public school districts heavily equipped with technology. "We're playing catch up with the public schools. It's a necessity that we get computers because we're prepping future teachers," Turner said.

Dr. Jacquelyn Madry-Taylor, director of education programs/services at the United Negro College Fund, believes that among the UNCF member schools there is strong faculty interest in computers and other information technology as a resource for teaching and learning. …

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