Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Sharing Techno-Tales

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Sharing Techno-Tales

Article excerpt

FACULTY CLUB: Sharing Techno-Tales

NORFOLK, VA.

These days, most people's digital focus is on the NASDAQ's plummet. But while media pundits uttered grim prognostications about the future of the technology sector, everyone at the recent HBCU Faculty Development Network Symposium was bullish on technology.

The symposium drew a diverse array of scholars, from junior faculty juggling 4-and-4 loads, to department heads laden with committee work and faculty development directors looking for a roadmap through the maze of IT products and acronyms. There were the expected sessions on grant-seeking and -writing. And there were several sessions on service learning -- an area in which HBCUs are traditional leaders -- and learning communities -- the putative theme of the conference. But far more sessions focused on technology. They ranged from the highly advanced to the most basic.

The title of one session was "Instructional Technology Infusion Strategies for Faculty," so, of course, the technology refused to cooperate.

The presenter, Dr. Mercy Fapojuwo of Shaw University, stood patiently by, as did the capacity crowd of teaching faculty and faculty development directors who had gathered to hear her talk at the Norfolk, Va., symposium. At the front of the room, three troubleshooters were checking every connection, jiggling every plug on the laptop-projector setup and clicking every icon on the screen in an effort to discover why the souped-up PowerPoint program had sputtered to a halt.

"I really want to learn more about this stuff, but my department only has one laptop," sighed a woman from a small Midwestern school. "Ours, too," noted the woman sitting beside her, from a Virginia school. "I had to take it home and play with it to really get comfortable with it. And now I'm the only one who uses it." An entire row of faculty traded knowing smiles at the exchange.

Finally, 20 minutes into the session, the IT experts declared victory. The source of the problem? "The power strip wasn't turned on," says the youngest of the techies, sparking groans and chuckles from the audience.

Fapojuwo merely shook her head and gave a rueful smile as she fired up the introductory slide, admitting she had committed a cardinal sin. The conference schedule was so tight that it allowed her only five minutes to set up and test the unfamiliar equipment. "You should always allow at least half an hour," she says.

Such technology glitches weren't enough to discourage the crowd. Dr. Stephen L. Rozman, dean of Social Sciences at Tougaloo University and a co-founder and co-director of the HBCU Faculty Development Network, says, "People from majority institutions are often amazed when they come here and see how creative and dynamic our faculty are, how wide-ranging their interests are. …

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