Book Reviews

Book by: Brown, David G.
Review by: Jennifer Joslin
Academic Advising Center
The University of Iowa.



Students often ask, “Why do they make us buy the PowerPoint® slides if they’re just going to go over them in class?” or “What does it mean when the course description states ‘students will use course management software?’” If you have had these or similar experiences concerning technology in the classroom, I recommend David Brown’s Interactive Learning for you and your office library.

Brown, a Vice President at Wake Forest University and Dean of the International Center for Computer-Enhanced Learning, has compiled 93 examples from instructors nation-wide that demonstrate the many types and uses of computer-intensive technology. Each example or ‘vignette’, as he terms them, outlines the course philosophy and design, the technology involved, and what the students and instructors learned from the class (refreshingly, instructors include the weaknesses as well as the strengths of their efforts). Following this standard format, the vignettes are easy to read and understand. Another plus of the text is that the wide variety of disciplines represented—from the Mathematical Sciences to Fine Arts— makes Interactive Learning of interest to a wide audience within the academe.

One example illustrates the creativity instructors bring to teaching today as well as the ease of using this book. Vignette #40 (Brown, pp. 129-132) focuses on a ‘Native American History and Culture’ course taught on-line to students at two schools—LeMoyne College in the U.S., and an institution in Bilbao, Spain. The instructors use classroom management software to post readings and scanned images, have students share papers, create discussion groups, take exams and even host real-time chat groups between students and instructors in both locations. The LeMoyne instructor freely highlights the good—opportunities for international communication, technology skill development—and the bad—slow servers, computer malfunctions—to give the reader the tools to evaluate the success of the course.

I enjoyed “Interactive Learning: Vignettes from America’s Most-Wired Campuses” in light of the "Results of a National Survey on Technology in Academic Advising" where Michael Leonard identified areas in which advisors felt uncomfortable with technology in their day-to-day work. While Interactive Learning does not address advising technology per se, the book cannot help but assist advisors become more informed about technology in today’s educational environment.

Even advisors not working on one of ‘America’s Most Wired Campuses,’ need a working knowledge of courses that are computer-intensive. This book can help fill that knowledge gap. Advisors who teach courses will find the examples of how other instructors use electronic lists, e-mail, CD-Roms, Web-based sites, and course management software, instructive and energizing.

Reference

Leonard, Michael J., "Results of a National Survey on Technology in Academic Advising," 24(1&2): 24-33.




Interactive Learning: Vignettes from America’s Most Wired Campuses. (2000). Book by Brown, David G. Review by Jennifer Joslin. 282 pp. $37.95 (paperback). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company. ISBN 1-882982-29-0.

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