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Posted 05.16.06

Digital Image Collections, Using Images to Teach, Topics of Workshop

After attending a digital image workshop, six Wesleyan staff members are seeing picture-perfect.

During the April 24 North East Regional Computing Program conference at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., participants had the opportunity to learn about digital image resource development, meeting the image demands of scholars in a changing environment, using digital maps in the classroom, creating and managing institutional digital image collections and visual storytelling among other topics.

“The hope is that by assessing current practices in the classrooms, methods for more effective use of these images can be identified and implemented,” says conference organizer Dan Schnaidt, academic computing manager for Arts and Humanities. “While it would have
been nice, we discovered that there are no obvious answers, methods or tools.”

Schnaidt was joined by Valerie Gillispie, assistant university archivist; Mary Glynn, applications technology specialist; Susanne Javorski, art and reference librarian; Rob Lancefield, manager of museum information services and registrar of collections; and Susan Passman, slide librarian.

Topics of the day-long conference were “The Use of Digital Images in Teaching Today,” “Digital Image Resource Development,” “Getting it Right: How Well Can Image Suppliers Determine and Meet the Image Requirements of College and University Users?” “Open Archive Initiative's Protocol for Metadata Harvesting in collecting and distributing NSDL resources,” “Maps, GIS and spatial data: Maps Entering the Classroom in New Ways,” “Creating and Managing Institutional Digital Image Collections,” “Supporting Faculty in Developing and Deploying a Personal Digital Image Collection,” “Gather Ye Images: Negotiating Multiple Collections for Teaching,” “Critical Literacies,” “Visual Story Telling, Grammar, Cognitive Aesthetics,” “Teaching Visual Rhetoric” and “The Threat of Media Illiteracy.”

The attendees also received the results of a six-month digital image study, which examined how digitized images of all sorts are used by faculty at 34 teaching and research institutions. Wesleyan and the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) spearheaded the study.

Wesleyan spearheaded and sponsored the workshop, which was first sparked with a $15,000 Fund for Innovation grant. NITLE provided significant additional funding which allowed the program to expand the number of participating schools from 10 to 33.

The conference’s principal speaker was David Green, a consultant hired to conduct the research. His final report will be made available on the Academic Commons site on June 2. The link is http://www.academiccommons.org/group/image-project.

The Wesleyan participants attended the conference for different reasons, but all hope to implement some of their new-gained knowledge at Wesleyan.

Lancefield attended the conference to hear the study’s results, and learn from the diverse perspectives on various image-related topics.

“Findings reported at the conference may well affect the approaches and tools we at Wesleyan use to deliver digital images, made here or elsewhere, to students and faculty for use in the classroom and in other learning contexts,” Lancefield says. “This defining focus on pedagogical use, rather than the more common topic of image production, was the really exciting aspect of the event. The conference and the study could have appreciable effects on our thinking at Wesleyan.”

Gillispie says she gained some new insights into how faculty members are using visual resources in their teaching, and how other schools are managing personal and institutional collections of digital images. These ideas will be put to the test in Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives. There, more than 40,000 photographs of Wesleyan University and Middletown, and rare illustrations, are available and could be digitized for academic use.

“The conference has encouraged me to think about how we in Special Collections and Archives can work with faculty to encourage use of our unique visual materials,” she says. “It was interesting to see how other liberal arts institutions are managing collections of visual images, and how they are using them to teach undergraduates.”

 
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor