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1999 Culpeper Final Reports
Previous Years:  1998 , 1997

Economics | German | History | Sociology | Spanish



Jeffrey Parker, Economics

Red Spots Link

Objective

     The primary objective of my project was to develop a set of Web-based instructional modules to teach basic concepts of econometrics to students outside the context of econometrics courses. The main audience for these modules is students in other economics courses, where econometric research papers are studied but where little or no attention can be devoted to the research methods that are used.

Accomplishments

     During the summer I accomplished a significant fraction of this objective. Most of the basic core modules are complete, but many of the "related topics" modules remain to be written. Since the completed package of modules is central to my teaching of Economics 314 (macroeconomic theory) in the spring semester, I plan to devote considerable time during the January break to finishing up the remaining sections so that a complete set of modules will be available on the Web on January 24.

     When the complete set is up and running, I will be able to direct students to specific pages that cover methods used in papers we are studying in class. This should help them understand more of the methodology being used, whereas in the past they have largely ignored methodology and focused exclusively on final results. Since macroeconomics, like other sub-disciplines of economics, is largely empirical in nature, this will significantly enhance the relevance of the macroeconomics course.

Sharing

     The setup of the basic modules were presented to a mixed group of faculty in November 1999. All tenure-track members of the Economics Department faculty were present. These materials should be useful in other courses as well as macroeconomics, so I hope that others may be able to implement the final set of modules in the spring semester and beyond.

Extensions

     Although these were not part of the original Culpeper grant project, I hope also to develop pages covering more sophisticated time-series techniques that are used increasingly in macroeconomics. To the extent that these modules can provide an intuitive explanation that demystifies vector autoregressions, stationarity questions, and cointegration models, they will greatly assist students in understanding modern macroeconomic research.



Douglas Fix, History

Objectives

     In January of this year, I applied for funding from the Culpepper monies to develop a digital library of 19th-century European and North American textual, cartographic, and textual representations of Taiwan. At that time, I listed several of my own (anticipated) expectations:

  1. "to use this digital library in my classes here at Reed . . . as well as encourage colleagues at other institutions to employ this for their own research."
  2. to encourage students and researchers to "analyz[e] these materials in a radically new way with the aid of web-based applications."
  3. "to develop my knowledge (and facility with) the software programs necessary to digitizing, searching, and supplementing these research materials."
  4. "includ[e] Reed students at every level of the project [to] provide opportunities for several students to learn much more from a multifaceted web-based project."
Though the year's funding could not possibly support all the work necessary for each of those goals -- "3," in particular, would demand much more of my time than I had to give -- the technical and monetary support that your office has provided has been instrumental in helping me produce a pilot version of the digital library I originally had in mind.

Accomplishments

     The introduction to this digital library, "Formosa: 19th-century images" (http://web.reed.edu/academic/departments/history/formosa/index.html), best describes the contents of this pilot version:

This digital library gathers together a disparate body of (primarily) European and American images of the island of Taiwan -- called "Formosa" by foreign visitors in the 19th Century -- and its various peoples. These woodcuts, maps and textual representations were originally published in European and North American books and journals during the 19th Century but are not easily accessible to those interested in the history of Taiwan. Users are encouraged to examine the woodcuts, etchings and sketches of landscapes, people, architecture, boats and implements by selecting increasing magnifications of those Images included in the library. Full texts of travelogues, reports, and ethnographies can be accessed from the Texts component of the library or selectively analyzed with the Search engine. Geographers will find the regional and island-wide Maps useful for exploring topographical, ethnological, geological or other questions or locating obscure place names. A small sampling of Linguistic Data on the various aboriginal languages may interest the student of Austronesian.

It is the product of a collaborative effort: students, faculty and staff were involved in all components of the library, from design stage to final evaluation. (Please see the "Credits" page of the site for specific information on those who helped me.) Students in my spring 2000 class, "Chinese frontiers," will be the first group of Reed students to use the library, but students in Taiwan and researchers across the world have already begun to employ the texts, maps and images in their research and teaching. I truly learned a great deal about digital library design and now have a beginner's understanding of some of the applications that created (and help manage) this particular site. Several students gained experience (and monetary compensation in some cases, e.g., Christian Buss for his German translation) directly from this project. In those terms, the pilot project was a success.

     My major contributions to the digital library were perhaps those related to original design, as well as later revisions to the structure and content of the library. In these areas, I have gained some valuable insights from the pilot project:

a. Conceptual limitations: After using the site myself over the last few weeks, I'm aware of several important limitations of the original design: inappropriate magnifications of the images and maps; no database component to facilitate searching the content of the visual material; limited manipulation of the data beyond linking it together and providing a means to search some of it; and imited reference tools for the beginning user. However, I must note here that I intended to create a library and not a single course exercise. I think it's important to not over-structure the potential outcomes of a digital library.

b. Aesthetic preferences: Student contributions to the original layout and architecture of the site had some interesting long-term consequences. I think they and I have very different preferences when it comes to background color and font choice, or the way in which texts and visual image could be arranged. Perhaps this is merely one of the difficulties of any collaborative project where differences in expertise, as well as subjective standards of beauty, do exist. It also suggests, though, that I need to read much more of the "digital criticism" literature (if such a body of aesthetic criticism exists). I need some theoretical or empirical foundation upon which to base my assessments of these aspects of the site.

c. Technical constraints: What will happen to this site in ten years? That's one of my most important considerations. What kind of database should I create (for images, maps, etc.) so that data can be searched and initially analyzed before anyone actually uses the images, texts or maps in the site? What kind of database will still be around in ten years? How can I speed up the initial loading of the images to avoid user frustration? How can I stabilize the main index page and the placename maps index page? My technical limitations were/are many. Perhaps I can now learn how to manage the site that I helped design.

     Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to your office for the extensive amount of monetary and technical support that you have given me during the year. Without either, the pilot project of this digital library could never have been completed.



Katja Garloff, German

German Department Homepage

Objectives

     I was interested in German newspapers and journals, which have increasingly become available on the Internet and which constitute potentially valuable material for second and third-year German classes. The appearance of these newspapers and journals on the net is a particular advantage for a small college like Reed, which subscribes to only a few German journals. The installation of links to various German sites on our departmental web page could considerably expand our archive of German cultural materials and provide new ways of language immersion outside of the classroom. In order to assess the value of these materials for language instruction, I compared the print and online versions of about 20 different newspapers and magazines.

Results of the Comparision

1. Availability: I found it remarkable that some major German newspapers, including the very informative Sźddeutsche Zeitung, do not offer much on the web but services (subscription, advertisements, etc.). On the other hand, the alternative newspaper Die Tageszeitung, which was founded in the late 1970s in attempt to counter the state-imposed censorship of the German Press during a time of political radicalization and a series of terroristic acts, is available on the web in the complete and original version. Because the newspaper is written in a very good, yet not too difficult language, I had its logo put upfront on the "Resources" page of our departmental web site. (Here is a real advantage of the net: even the libraries at larger universities hardly subscribe to the Taz).

2. Marketing effect: The function of the web versions often seems to be to attract readers, who should nonetheless still buy the main paper. Some of magazines and newspapers offer only selected articles on the net, but list all the articles of the print version in the table of contents (Die Zeit, Frankfurter Rundschau). I could not really discover a principle behind the selection; often very interesting articles were excluded.

3. Changes in the format of articles: The web versions of a number of weeklies, including the most important like Spiegel and Stern, differ completely from the print version. They become more like daily news services. Rather than long articles with lots of background information, Spiegel Online presents mostly short articles on daily events, only some of which are then expanded in the weekly print version.

3. Differences in style: My impression was that the language of the web versions was often simpler and less refined than that of the print versions. Comparing both versions of various Spiegel articles, I found that whereas in both versions most of the sentences are about the same length--about 18 words--the print versions usually contain some interspersed, very long sentences, which are entirely absent in the web version. Furthermore, while the average paragraph length is short in both versions--only two to three sentences--the paragraph breaks in the web versions are more emphasized. This entails a fragmentation of the information that parallels the breakdown of larger background articles into brief pieces of news.

4. Use of English. Almost all of the sites include some English-speaking materials, often summaries of the articles or brief newsletters. Particularly striking is the example of the Frankfurter Rundschau, a center-liberal newspaper, which is simultaneously offered in German and in English translation.

Classroom Uses

     The availability of these materials on the net enables me to build a unit on German media into my second-year German class. During the first week of the second semester, I will bring various newspapers and magazines into class and compare their style, layout, political stance, etc. I will then ask each student to browse through the web issues, find one article that is of interest to him or her and prepare a report on this article and lead a class discussion on it. My hope is that once students have familiarized themselves with German newspapers and magazines on the net, they will continue to read these even after completing their language courses. It remains to be seen if this will happen.

     For third-year language courses, we may be able to make the critical analysis part of class assignments and consider the impact of information technology on our understanding of foreign cultures. I do not teach third-year German this year, but I am discussing with Michael Irmscher the possibility of integrating these materials in his third-year class on German detective stories, for instance, through a comparison between representations of violent crimes in print and web versions of newspapers.



Alexandra Hrycak, Sociology

Introduction to Sociology Webpage

     Over the course of my Culpeper peer mentorship, I developed a more systematic program for the laboratory component of the Sociology Department's Introductory course*. Second, I also accomplished the following related goals:

  1. I identified a textbook or primer that would give students support for web-based GSS exercises. I reviewed several new textbooks that that might be incorporated into our research methods instruction. The best was Basic social statistics by David Knoke and George W. Bohrnstedt (Itasca, Illinois: F.E. Peacock Publishers, 1991).
  2. I identified a quantitative methods program that would give students support for creating and/or analyzing data bases as well as a qualitative text analysis program for the analysis of texts
  3. Improve student access to course-related resources by putting them on the web

     As part of this third goal, I created a new departmental website. This website includes a homepage with a sidebar linked to the following pages: introduction, faculty, courses, thesis, resources and transfer credits. These pages were designed to answer questions students commonly ask about the department. Students can now my syllabi and descriptions of course assignments simply by clicking on course titles. The kinds of materials that are normally distributed in class and are often lost--the syllabus, assignments, schedules--are now posted on the web, where students have access to them at all times.

*The need for this is particularly great because the department's introductory course includes a one month long computer lab that greatly requires revamping. The overwhelming majority of student evaluations from Introductory Sociology identified the computer labs as the weakest part of this course.



Elizabeth Drumm, Spanish

Spanish Department Webpage

Objective

     For my Culpeper project, I proposed to develop a series of web-based course pages for the conference that I led in the fall, "Don Quixote and the Theory of the Novel." My goal was to design a series of web pages that gave critical historical, cultural and philosophical background to 16th- and 17th-century Spain. I also wanted to master the technology so that I could create pages for my other courses and planned to work in the fall with faculty members in the Spanish department who were interested in developing web pages for their courses.

Accomplishments

     I worked with a senior Spanish major, Ellie Roper-Ater on the development and design of these pages. In addition to including the course syllabus, we created one page for literary precedents, on for Cervantes, one for historical information (organized around the monarchs of this period). The original plan included one for theoretical concepts that pertained to the novel and that would enter into the course, but we found that the material on the web was not appropriate and that we did not have enough time to write our own. Each of these pages was presented in Spanish. We also provided links to other pages on Cervantes, an English translation of the text and a bilingual version, and other information of interest.

     Although in many ways my collaboration with Ellie was the most positive part of the project, it kept me from fully realizing one of my goals. As we worked together, Ellie was primarily responsible for using the software to create the pages and although she is now very proficient in creating web pages and I still need help. It is, of course, a benefit to the Spanish department to have students who know Spanish proficient in web page construction. I have enjoyed showing and speaking to colleagues about the pages and know of one person in the Spanish department who worked with the FMC to create course pages and another who is interested in doing so.

     I have asked for student feedback on the pages and will be interested to know what they think. While some mentioned that they found the pages most helpful, my general sense is that many did not consult them. I am hoping for concrete information so that I can make changes for the next time that I teach the course.

     Ellie and I included a "credits" link on the title page of the project but I have since realized that the images that we used may have violated copyright restrictions. I, of course, will investigate further the next time that I use the pages.

     I would like to thank the Culpeper Foundation and staff members of the Faculty Multimedia Lab for the opportunity to explore these resources and their help in creating the pages.







Last Modified: February 10th, 2000