Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
University of Washington, Seattle Campus
Transforming a Department Using Technology
Scott Noegel, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, welcomes the opportunity to discuss how technology has transformed the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. The small department has experienced great changes affecting faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students alike. They used a "Tools for Transformation" grant to begin the technological renovation of all aspects of the department.
Teaching Students Using Technology
Undergraduate students have benefited from the technological changes in the classroom; by utilizing new Web-based language tools (created by graduate students Rachael Robbins, Joseph DuWors, and Gary Martin, in collaboration with Noegel), students can accelerate the process of foreign language acquisition by six weeks.
Students use these biblical Hebrew Tools to practice sounds and pronunciation, build their vocabulary, and read passages in ancient Hebrew while receiving appropriate information on grammar and links to other learning opportunities. The tools also place greater responsibility on the student to look up vocabulary and helps make grammar more exciting. Due to the improved learning rate, the tools allow Noegel to introduce biblical texts to second quarter students, a jump that normally would not have been possible until the following quarter.
Graduate students have also benefited from opportunities to assist with the development of technology-based resources in the department. Many students in the department contributed to the development of the language tools, created the department Web site, and trained faculty members in skills used for teaching with technology. Consequently, these students leave the department better prepared for the professional world, being well-versed in teaching and researching using emerging technologies.
Providing Access to Information
Researchers and students now have access to a searchable database of the Ancient Near East Photograph collection. Over a ten year period, Professor Noegel and other University of Washington scholars have taken 5,000 images of significant historical and cultural landmarks during their travels in the Middle East. Most of this collection has been scanned in both high and low resolutions and placed online in the image database for use by researchers worldwide.
The department's Web site now provides greater opportunities for faculty to share their research as they can reach a global audience. It has also been used to develop outside support by providing an online newsletter as well as a form which makes monetarily supporting the program much easier. Finally, the Web site provides a place to advertise courses to those who are interested learning all about the ancient and modern Middle East.
During this transformation, faculty attended a series of summer workshops. Noegel believes these were extremely influential as they exposed faculty to possibilities, allayed fears, and prompted comradeship. Additionally, the workshops opened up conversations in the department, allowing professors to compare and learn from each other's ideas and experiences. Noegel stresses that the "reticence is no longer there;" instead it has been replaced by greater possibilities for teaching, research and outreach.
In June 2002, Noegel and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, in association with the Comparative Religion Program, Jackson School of International Studies, UW Libraries, and the Program for Educational Transformation Through Technology were awarded a grant to develop the Digital Egypt project. Working to integrate technology into a comprehensive study of Egypt's history (3000 BC - 1200 AD) and cultural background, the Digital Egypt Project aims to use PowerPoint Presentations, a far-reaching image database of Egyptian subjects, and Web-based broadcasting of supplemental lectures to enhance the learning process for all involved. This ambitious course won the University Curriculum Development Award and is currently in development for the academic year of 2003-04.Written by Jean Hanson, edited by Shelly Martin, September 2002