Harnessing Technology to Revitalize Our Institutions

The computing and telecommunication technologies of the information age have long been promoted as a way of improving productivity in our institutions, allowing organizations to conduct some activities faster and with fewer people. Until recently, however, information technologies have not been sufficiently powerful or widespread to sustain fundamentally different ways of doing business. This situation is changing, and the faculty and staff at the University have been in the forefront of this revolution, capturing the opportunity to reconsider and reinvent institutions and objects that have been with us for hundreds of years.


The Virtual Classroom

The Internet has been a valuable resource for school systems struggling to institute more rigorous educational standards on limited budgets. Instructional tools, such as associate professor Mable B. Kinzie's Interactive Frog Dissection, are an example of why the Congressional Office of Technological Assessment singled out the Curry School as a pioneer in the development of educational technology. Kinzie's FrogNet site on the World Wide Web was visited by more than 100,000 students and teachers in less than a year. Students using the on-line dissection program can refer to color images of frog specimens and movie segments illustrating biological concepts as they dissect the virtual frog layer by layer.

Telecommunications technology also offers ways for school districts to enrich the experiences of their students. This year, the education school sponsored an electronic field trip to Antarctica, a live teleconference linking Charlottesville teacher April Lloyd and scientists at the South Pole with students gathered at Ruffner Hall.

Mable Kinzie of the Curry School of Education is recognized nationally as a leader in technological instruction.


Moving Beyond Gutenberg

The invention of movable type in the fifteenth century made it possible to mass produce books, spawning an entire class of readers and new forms like the novel. With the recent invention of on-line publishing, the computer network replaces the printing press, making it easy to reach millions of readers without printing a single word and, in the process, redefining our understanding of the book.

This year, the University Press of Virginia became the first university publisher to release an on-line book, an updated version of Afro-American Sources in Virginia: A Guide to Manuscripts on the World Wide Web. An important aspect of this electronic guide, by Michael Plunkett, U.Va. library's director of special collections, is that it can be rapidly searched by keyword, subject name, historical period, or geographic location. The press will add African-American resource guides for other states to this electronically published series.


Assistant professor Vijay Desai teaches in the
McIntire School of Commerce in a classroom
equipped for the twenty-first century.


New Opportunities and Valued Traditions for Students

The routine that today's students follow highlights the changes that information technology has made at the University. Returning to their dorm rooms after a day of classes, this generation's Wahoos check their e-mail and then can relax by browsing through the on-line edition of The Cavalier Daily,   the first Virginia college newspaper to publish on the World Wide Web.

Fourth-year students searching for employment can dial up the electronic job-search website posted by the Office of Career Planning and Placement. This first-ever electronic guide not only allows students and alumni to conduct computerized job searches, but also offers advice on writing resumes, exploring job openings in different fields, and finding other on-line services.

Despite the changes brought about by new technology, today's students still have much in common with their predecessors. For one thing, they value achievement.Zayde Antrim, a Jefferson Scholar from Richmond, was selected in the spring as the school's forty-first Rhodes Scholar for graduate study in England. And fourth-year student council president Terry A. C. Gray received the Luce Scholarship for studies in Asia.Maryanne Quinn, a third-year student in the government honors pro gram, won the Harry S. Truman Scholarship for pursuit of public service.

Like their forerunners, today's students are both creative and competitive. George Weinmann, a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is leading a multidisciplinary student team constructing and financing a solar-powered, remotely piloted blimp. The University of Virginia team will represent the United States in the 1996 World Solar Challenge Airship Race across Australia. Richard Miksad, dean of the engineering school, called the project "what engineering education is all about; it gives students hands-on experience."
With the exception of a small yearly show, the Bayly Museum's extensive collection of African art remains in storage because of limited exhibition space. By posting an electronic catalog of a portion of the Bayly's African art collection, Benjamin C. Ray, professor of religious studies, and the Digital Image Center at the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library have made it accessible to any student with a computer and an Internet connection (African Art: Aesthetics and Meaning).



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