Reed Magazine February
Go to Page 1 go to page two go to page three You are on Page 4 go to page 5 go to page 6 go to page 7 Link to Reed Mag  Home next page


Remember trucking to the library every time you needed to look up a reference? Remember hauling stacks of file cards filled with notes?

Reed was one of the first campuses in the country to be fully wired, including dorms. It’s now heavily saturated with wireless technology as well. That means you can access the internet from just about anywhere.


Many student and faculty tasks can be handled quickly via the Gateway, a web-based interface. Students can view course descriptions and schedules, register for classes, and sign up for career services. Professors can download rosters, generate email lists, and order textbooks. “The Gateway is all about making it easier to get at the information students and faculty need,” says Marianne Colgrove ’84, director of Reed’s web services office. Less time for busywork means more time for teaching and learning.

And technology has vastly expanded the learning resources available to students and faculty. “My students have ready access to the research literature through computer databases,” says biology professor Peter Russell. “Often we can download actual articles from scientific journals. There is an explosion of knowledge available online, and it’s become very important in my research and teaching.”

That holds true in the arts and humanities as well as the sciences. “Thousands of valuable older texts by subspecialty writers are no longer available in print,” says Lois Leveen, visiting assistant professor of English and humanities, “but my students can access them in digitized form on the web.” For Leveen’s course on abolitionist literature, for example, her students can visit a site containing every known slave narrative.

There are advantages to digitized text, she notes: “One of my students wrote a paper on the cloud metaphor in a book by Harriet Jacobs, and was able to run a search of every time the word ‘cloud’ appeared in the text. Given enough time, he could have addressed it by rereading the whole book, but I certainly wouldn’t have expected that.”

Since about the mid-1990s, the web has become a powerful tool for the Reed faculty, Colgrove says. “Before that time, the big emphasis in educational technology was on canned courseware packages,” she says. Some departments tried them; for example, computer-assisted mechanics experiments from the Tools for Scientific Thinking curriculum were used in Physics 100 in 1992. But off-the-shelf programs were never a hit at Reed.

library at night

Then the web began to mature as an educational resource. “The Reed faculty started posting course materials and making them richer by linking students to other resources, such as the huge data banks in government,” Colgrove says. “Sociology students might access census data for analysis, chemistry students might link to data that could be used for molecular modeling.”

The Reed library is a key player in this trend, she adds. “It is a repository of electronic resources across all disciplines. Our librarians work closely with faculty members to help them develop their syllabi and become familiar with the resources available online.”

Leveen pulls up images from the web to enliven her students’ study of literature. A story about a Japanese American woman in the period after World War II, a time of intense anti-Asian prejudice, came alive as the students viewed Look and Life magazine articles from the period describing how to tell “good Chinese from bad Japs.”

Leveen has even experimented with having her students design a website in lieu of writing a paper. “They have to be strong writers, and traditional papers are important for that. I wouldn’t assign a website in every class,” she says. “But I believe web design promotes a different kind of thinking, about synthesis as well as analysis. You’re making cognitive links from one idea to another.”

Having your students’ work out there on the web, she notes, can be intimidating for the teacher. But it’s often very helpful for students. “It’s easier for them to do collaborative work on a website project than on a paper,” she says. “And when they can look at each other’s sites, they have a better sense of the context of their own work than simply getting their paper back with my comments.”

next page

Reed Magazine February
Go to Page 1 go to page two go to page three You are on Page 4 go to page 5 go to page 6 go to page 7 Link to Reed Mag  Home