By James J. Mitchell

Mercury News Business Editor

IMAGINE a college art history course in which students call up photos of paintings, statues or buildings along with historical information about them on their CD-ROM or via a computer network in their dorm.

Or training as a music major using a CD-ROM that allows you to listen to Mahalia Jackson, see the music notation on your computer screen -- and, if you don't quite catch it, lets you click the mouse and play it again.

These and other educational applications of technology are being developed and used at San Jose State University, thanks to a two-year program that gives teachers time to develop innovative ways to use technology in teaching.

So far, the university has spent about $600,000 to allow 30 faculty members to devote about half their time working on ways to use technology to improve learning. Their projects, which are often spectacular and involve a broad range of subjects in the sciences and humanities, will be on display Friday at a Technology Faire at San Jose State.

San Jose State's primary mission, according to the California Master Plan on Higher Education, is teaching. That's why the university set aside money to fund the Innovation in Teaching and Learning Fellowships.

One goal is to develop courses that can measurably improve learning, says John Baird, director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning. Another is to enable San Jose State to use its resources more effectively. And the university hopes these pioneering efforts will interest other teachers in using technology.

One pleasant surprise to an outsider is that veteran teachers have eagerly embraced change.

For example, music Professor Brent Heisinger has been at the school for 32 years and knew little about computers a year ago. But he took lessons and created a HyperCard CD-ROM program that allows students to develop aural skills listening to music.

The CD-ROM allows students to apply what they've learned in class to music they hear elsewhere, Heisinger says.

Kathleen Cohen, a professor of art history recently named the university's most outstanding teacher, is using technology to make her collection of 4,000 art photos from around the world accessible to her students.

Cohen, who has taught at State for nearly 30 years, says the collection will be used in an art history survey course next fall. She hopes to link up electronically with high schools and even other California State University campuses.

Alejandro Garcia, associate professor of physics, developed a program that has enabled his department to provide beginning students laboratory experience in a new course without adding lab space or faculty

Students, instead of visiting a lab, use a set of computer simulations of physics experiments, along with a new workbook. They can do their lab work in the computer lab any time they choose and leave it in a drop box once a week. A graduate student works in the lab 12 hours a week to answer student questions.

While most teachers want to use technology to supplement classroom work, Patricia Backer, assistant professor in the Division of Technology, is creating an entire course on technology and civilization on CD-ROM. It includes video clips, text and questions students are expected to answer electronically.

Many technical and legal issues involving the use of technology remain. And the teachers are still experimenting to find out what's effective.

But it's exciting to see technology used so creatively in education.


The Learning Faire is in the Alquist Center for Innovative Learning at San Jose State University from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday. For additional information, please call (408) 924-3458.

Write James J. Mitchell at the Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190; phone (408) 920-5544; fax (408) 920-5917 or send e-mail to JMitch on Mercury Center or on Internet.

Published 4/27/95 in the San Jose Mercury News.

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