leads the charge to advance A&S technology
Edward L. Ayers was appointed dean of Arts
& Sciences this summer, chemistry
professor Charles M. Grisham sent him the final report of the
Task Force on Faculty Information Technology Skills. Ayers
no stranger to innovative technology, with his award-winning "Valley
of the Shadow" Civil War history Web site responded
by asking Grisham, who had chaired the task force, if hed
become the schools chief technology officer.
was clear to me that while we have terrific people in information
technology at U.Va. many of whom I have worked with over
the last decade the College could take a more active role
in coordinating activities in this area," Ayers said. "Charlie
was the first person I approached because Id seen him in
action as chair of the University Committee on Information Technology
and as a Teaching+Technology Initiative fellow, and was deeply
is the perfect place to lead the technological revolution in higher
education," Grisham said. Thats why he accepted the
newly established position, easing into it part time last semester.
He will devote himself to the job full time starting this semester.
who joined the U.Va. faculty in 1975, has witnessed and
been part of the Universitys growing commitment to
using technology in education. He was among the first faculty
members to take advantage of efforts such as the Teaching+Technology
Initiative, the Instructional Toolkit, the Classroom Improvement
Project, the Desktop Computing Initiative and the Digital Media
programs are the envy of other schools," Grisham said. "We
need to use these fine programs as a springboard to seek additional
funding for technology needs in the College, particularly from
private foundations and corporate sources.
challenge of this job will be contending with the rapid changes
in the field," he added. With that as a given, his goals
are to solve the problems U.Va. currently faces in using technology
for research and instruction and to lead Arts & Sciences into
the digitally enhanced future.
thought it was important to have someone paying close attention
to technology and how it might help us teach better, conduct more
effective research and communicate more efficiently," Ayers
planned Arts Grounds and South Lawn projects offer a golden opportunity
to be more innovative. The latter will include a new building
touted as the centerpiece for technology in Arts & Sciences
and cross-disciplinary work. In the new and revamped buildings,
Grisham would like to see an open environment, with interior windows
for laboratories and classrooms, where students could be seen
working on experiments or group projects and where technological
conveniences could easily be made available. Large computer video
screens might be mounted to display coming events, feeds from
classrooms around Grounds and conferencing links to distant sites
around the world. Students could order concert tickets from nearby
terminals or drop in to participate in a videoconference or a
class at another university.
academic computing used to mean primarily using technology for
research, that area has gotten more attention over the years.
But research and teaching uses share some of the same needs: more
high-level technical support; larger bandwith, or pipeline, for
Internet communications and data transfer; and more data storage.
Grisham gives the University high marks for improving technological
proficiency and praises ITC and all its efforts, he noted that
the uses for technology are multiplying at a rapid rate. "The
demands will be staggering in the next few years," he predicted.
Besides funding, the other resources needed to meet those demands
are time and talent.
the army of more than 230 ITC workers, theres still not
enough support. "We absolutely have to find mechanisms to
increase the number of staff who work daily with researchers and
instructors," Grisham said.
investment of time required to create ones own instructional
software is enormous," Grisham said, "and few faculty
are able to divert their attention from scholarly work to develop
software and media for their courses. We have to seek more innovative
approaches if we hope to expand the role of technology in the
classroom, as many students are demanding these days."
solution may be to develop software that enables an instructor
to create software for a course quickly and easily. "We might
call this software that creates software," Grisham
suggested. He envisions a center at the University that would
be devoted to development of instructional software tools and
course content. "We plan to seek funds from several sources
to support this center," he added.
fact, Grisham just received a grant from the National Science
Foundation to put his idea to work. "Even though I have two
other active NSF grants devoted to instructional software development,
I'm very excited about this one, since it will open the software
that creates software project. I am hoping that we can leverage
and combine this funding with additional money from private foundations
to get the Instructional Software Design Institute up to speed,"
administrative services in Arts & Sciences need to be upgraded,
too, such as undergraduate advising. It should be greatly improved
with a computerized system Grisham and other Arts & Sciences
administrators are working on. This spring, for the first time,
advisers will be able to use a Web page to track their list of
student advisees, with direct e-mail links to each student, and
a appointment calendar that will allow students to sign up for
selected advising times that advisers would designate. Eventually,
Web-based information will reduce or replace the mountain of paperwork
that Arts & Sciences hundreds of advisers have to deal
with each semester.
want the advising site to be as easy as logging onto amazon.com,"
Grisham said. One down-the-road feature he mentioned: a program
that will suggest other courses matching interests from those
have to be ready to make technology work for students," Grisham
said. "We have the responsibility as educators."