Source: Sarena D. Seifer and Tanis Vye Mihalynuk, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, September, 2003
Updated: May 2005
Widespread use of technology is changing the way we work, learn, and communicate-even the way we carry out our regular, daily activities. In higher education, technology has had a dramatic impact on teaching and learning, including service-learning experiences. Service-learning classes and activities can be augmented through the use of technology to provide more effective experiences for faculty, students and community participants. With their ready access to new technologies, higher educational institutions are well-positioned to take advantage of rapid changes in the field.
This document is intended to provide information on the use of technology in service-learning programs at the local level.It is not intended to recommend or endorse specific software or hardware.
Community access to technology can itself be the focus of service-learning.Readers seeking resources on this topic may wish to consult the October 2002 Seedco publication, Opening the Door: Technology and the Development of University-Community Partnerships.This online report highlights the critical role that academic institutions can play in mobilizing technology resources to improve conditions in their host neighborhoods: http://www.seedco.org/whatsnew/pressrelease/pritems/techuni1102.pdf
There are a number of ways that technology can enhance service-learning programs while conserving program resources:
- Program management
For example, databases can help program staff to track student placements, community partner contact information and the academic calendar.
- Community partner participation
For example, a well-publicized web site can describe the service-learning programs, provide easy access to forms for registering a community project and highlight stories of positive community partner experiences.
- Curricular tools
For example, online modules and case studies can enhance classroom and community-based learning.
- Community service
Meaningful community service doesn"t necessarily have to involve regular or ongoing face-to-face contact between student and community partner. For example, after meeting with community students in a web design course with a service-learning component
For example, electronic discussion groups can enable students across different service-learning sites to regularly communicate, share their experiences and respond to reflective questions posed by faculty and one another.
- Program evaluation
For example, online surveys can enable students and community partners to respond to questions about their experiences and the impact of the program. Databases can facilitate the tracking and storage of program evaluation information.
One goal of service-learning is to create community, therefore some skeptics question the use of technology in service-learning. They focus on the potential for alienation and disconnectedness that can result from over-reliance or sole reliance on high technology. Technology will certainly never be able to replace human interaction and exchange, which is at the core of service-learning experiences and essential to the development of trust between campus and community. These face-to-face exchanges are critical to sustaining service-learning partnerships. In fact, "community" and "technology" should not be considered mutually exclusive events—one may be used to enhance the other. Certain sub-populations, such as shy and introverted individuals, may actually be more inclined to participate in a "virtual" community than a "physical" community. Technology can engage learners with communities in a dynamic relationship.
There are a number of challenges to using technology in service-learning. Many of us are not facile with technology or the range of applications currently available. Rapidly evolving technology makes it nearly impossible keep up with the latest technological advances. The differential access to technology among faculty, learners and community partners can pose a challenge. Inadequate resources (i.e., time, money and people) to continually update technology (i.e., updating web pages) can be a major barrier to even getting started.
Below are some "tips" for how to get started in exploring the technologic possibilities for your service-learning program. The resource section that follows is intended to provide more in-depth examples and information.
- Seek out technology-savvy individuals at your institution for advice and consultation. Possible places to start include a university computer science department, center for teaching and learning or center for instructional technology.
- Draw upon technical support from free or reduced price services available on campus. For example, some computer science departments offer student consulting services
- Contact the computing and communications departments at your school for specials on software packages and information on classes being offered in such areas as the on the use of PowerPoint, web site development and chat rooms.
- Assess the extent to which your community partners have access to computers, e-mail and other technologies. To the extent possible, facilitate access to these resources. For example, community partners might be given adjunct faculty status and thus access to a campus e-mail account. The campus and local companies may donate used computers to community-based organizations.
- Make sure compatible technology is set up at both your institution and community partner sites (e-mail, internet, software, etc).
Technology as a tool for service-learning program management
Below are several examples of how service-learning programs are incorporating technology into program management. The authors thank Melanie Brown, Director of the Community Service Learning Center at Washington State University, for generating some of this information through her question posted on the service-learning email discussion list hosted by the Center for a Sustainable Future.
The Boise State University's Service-Learning Program has been developing a powerful ACCESS/COLD FUSION web interface program in which students, faculty, and agencies enter and access information on-line. The interface can be accessed at http://servicelearning.boisestate.edu/. For more information, contact the University"s database developer, Len Engle at Horizon Internet Solutions 208-344-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
California State University at Monterey Bay"s Service-Learning Institute has developed online databases for many of its program management functions. For example, it has a Community Partner Database, Service-Learning Opportunities Database and online Student Agreement Form, Student Guide and Community Partner Guide. Community partners can go online through the program"s website and update their Organization Profile at any time using a user ID and password. Numerous real-time reports can be generated from the databases. For more information, visit http://service.csumb.edu/ or contact Cheri Bartimus, Information Specialist at 831-582-3644 or email@example.com.
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis has an extensive web-based course support system called ONCOURSE that is being expanded to include tools for service-learning courses. It is commercially available. For more information, visit https://oncourse.iu.edu/ or contact Robert G. Bringle, Director, Center for Service and Learning at 317-274-6753
Central Washington University"s Service-Learning and Volunteer Center has an online system that serves students, staff and community partners. Students who enroll in the system can register for service-learning and volunteer opportunities and create a volunteer portfolio. Staff can create, post, host, and/or sponsor service opportunities students to participate in. They also have certain other benefits such as verification, assigning, updating, and maintaining the status of all website members and postings. Community partners who register can create and post service opportunities. http://www.takeactioncwu.com/
The Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service at Georgetown University maintains an online database for matching the needs and assets of community-based organizations with student and faculty interests and expertise. The database allows CBOs to post projects that could benefit from student and faculty involvement, and researchers to post projects that would benefit from CBO involvement. http://coralnetwork.org
Technology as a tool for service-learning: Best practices in Cyber-Serve Series
James-Deramo M, Ed. Best Practices in Cyber-Serve: Integrating Technology with Service Learning Instruction. Virginia Tech Service Learning Center, 202 Major Williams Hall, Virginia Tech (0168) Blacksburg, VA 24061. http://www.servicelearning.org/lib_svcs/lib_cat/index.php?library_id=2679
The following abstracts and related documents are from the Best Practices in Cyber-Serve Series, sponsored by Virginia Tech. The purpose of this publication is to disseminate insightful practices that highlight the use of technology in service-learning instruction. The authors discuss with candor their experiences in employing instructional technologies in service-learning programs and classrooms, and how this integration has been both challenging and beneficial—to students, faculty, campus-community reciprocity and communities in need. The nine abstracts below provide a wide range of examples for integrating technology with service learning in a variety of instructional and administrative settings.
Carico KM. Electronic Conversations: Furthering Multicultural Literacy through the Web.
The author describes a project centered around youth adult literature that focuses on the experiences of young adults who must move from one culture to another, usually a drastically different culture. The participants in this project, middle school and university students, were paired together for the purpose of communicating with each other about the books, and considered the lenses through which we interpret literature and culture. They did so electronically, through three formats: e-mail, NetForum (threaded conversations) and MOOs (real-time, online chats). The author discusses aspects of setting up an electronic network, and the usefulness of teaching components of a methods course on-line, including a service-learning field experience. Several queries guide the discussions, including community building through the internet, use of electronic mediums in learning, benefits compared to costs, and use of technology for future career paths.
Creamer EG. Feminist Pedagogy in Action: An Online Module About Service Learning.
Helping students to envision the link between the subject matter of the course and their experiences in service learning is the single greatest challenge for the faculty member who chooses to incorporate service learning as an instructional method. Motivated by the concern that many of today"s college students assume that problems of gender-based and race-based discrimination of the past, the author chose to develop an on-line module about service-learning for Women"s Study course offerings at Virginia Tech University. This module is accessed via the internet, and includes a reading about the history of women"s volunteerism, a net forms format to submit responses to discussion questions about that reading, a chat room, and several exercises designed to guide students' exploration of related sites to the internet and to explore the difference between volunteerism, activism and service learning. Goals of the course include fostering a sense of social responsibility, helping students to become personally and intellectually engaged in the topic, and developing a sense of community among others. The module appeared to be most effective with self directed learners and when combined with ongoing, structured in-class opportunities for reflection.
Dellinger L. Web Page for Virginia Reads Consortium.
The Virginia Reads Consortium is a group of colleges and universities around the state of Virginia who have responded to President Clinton's America Reads Challenge by developing literacy tutoring programs. These programs, located across Virginia in rural and urban areas, train and place college students in schools and community organizations to assist children preschool through fifth grade in literacy development. Most of these programs are the result of partnerships between education faculty, offices of financial aid, community service offices, local schools and community organizations. The web page is designed to provide a place for schools and community organizations across the state to access the poets of literacy tutors in college and university programs. This page is linked to the National America Reads page and to pages for each of the twenty tutoring programs around the state. It is anticipated that articles about literacy work written by students, faculty and community people will be published on this page. The web page also provides chat-room experiences, and a list of course offerings and resources.
Hertzler AA. Extending Food and Nutrition Outreach by Technology.
Information about computer applications in nutrition education is rising dramatically as students and consumers surf the net for 'technical information' on food and nutrition topics. The purpose of this outreach project was to provide students experience reviewing and searching for reliable and supportive food and nutrition information for preschoolers and their caregivers (families, child care providers) and to customize for this for delivery via the internet in four categories: web sites for teachers and parents, support groups for children with special nutrition needs, web site activities for children, CD-ROMs and book reviews. Enthusiastic reviews and ratings from students and workshop attendees suggest a viable internet site for obtaining resources to support the development of recommended food patterns. Virginia Tech visibility was expanded through contacts with children, caregivers and professional groups (500 Virginia community librarians). The Nutrition Central Site will provide a rich source of resources for professional nutritionists in their design and delivery of programs and to caregivers looking for ideas to use with young children.
James-Deramo M, Macedo P. Distance and Service-Learning in the Sciences: Augmenting the Science Curriculum of Rural Schools through Online Mentoring and Electronic Communication.
This paper provides an overview of the Distance and Service-Learning in the Sciences project (DSL), piloted in the Department of Physics at Virginia Tech. The DSL project was designed to address two related problems: 1) the geographic and professional isolation of rural high schools and teachers that limits their access to facilities, resources and research of major universities and 2) the academic isolation of advanced graduate and undergraduate students who have few opportunities to communicate with populations outside their highly specialized scientific field. Using a combination of Internet teaching modules, electronic and human interactions, and on-site demonstrations, undergraduate Physics majors have augmented the science curriculum of juniors and seniors at Floyd County High School. The paper aims to explain the DSL achievements as well as demonstrate how distance learning venues can bridge students beyond the limitations of time and space in order to create new learning communities that are mutually beneficial to both populations.
Johnston SN. Practicing Community Through Technology.
Through a Cyber-serve grant IDST 3114, Community, Creativity and Social Change has provided an opportunity to experiment with web technology as a tool to support the practice of community within and beyond the classroom. The course design incorporates a case-study approach to studying 'community-based social change', including service learning sites, historical cases, pedagogical cases and the class experience itself as 'texts' for the course. The paper describes several features of the course's homepage which illustrate possibilities for using technology to support a critically conscious, participatory, civically responsible community within the classroom.
Relf D, Dorn S, DeMarco L, Donbbs K and Schnitzer M. Incorporating Cyber-Serve Technology in a Service Learning Horticulture Class.
Through a Cyber-Serve Grant, a world-wide-web home page and student / community email discussion list were established as core communication tools for a special study taught Spring 1997. The course, entitled 'Horticulture and the Community: Professional growth through Volunteering' incorporates the Blacksburg Electronic Village with the goal of easily putting student volunteers and the community programs they worked with in direct contact with each other, allowing an exchange of ideas that made them equal partners in their endeavors. The multiple benefits of these technology tools-for students and community-are reviewed.
Schnitzer MH. Virtual Placement and Other Tools for Facilitating Service-Learning Placement, Training and Reflection Campus-Wide.
In this paper, the author describes the development of the Service-Learning Center homepage as a virtual center for linking more than 1000 students across the university with the information and resources they need to fulfill course-based service-learning components. The article begins with a description of its virtual placement process that allows students to apply on-line and interfaces with the Center's database system, and moves on to describe its PowerPoint Orientation in PDF format for student training and its newly installed Reflection Forum (threaded conversation) for student-led chats around general service-learning projects. The author discusses the advantages of using hypertext medium to handle routine procedures associated with service-learning administration, with special emphasis on how this highly interactive web site has enabled the Center to better prepare, monitor and assess a greater number of students each semester.
Skabelund L, Paul WG. Sustainable Technology and Development: New Tools and Processes for Planning and Design Students.
Too often human-computer interaction (HCI) research leaves out a key player in the wise use and revitalization of our neighborhoods, rural lands and preserved spaces: the citizen. Many software programs are super expensive, often funded by corporations or national government agencies for exclusive knowledge bases. HCI research is slow to trickle down to the level of activists and local governments. It is clear that virtual design villages, like VRML, and online access to GIS databases, are challenging the traditional ways that we accomplish panning and design projects. In this article, planning and design principles for the next century are framed by four critical concepts: collaboration, access, virtuality and sustainability.
Other technology resources
Bennett G, Green FP (2001). Promoting service learning via online instruction. College Student Journal, 35;4: 491(7).
Service learning and online instruction are both important and much debated topics in higher education. Many professors and colleges are attempting to use service learning and online instruction as effective learning tools for their student clientele. Both topics are being written about extensively in professional journals, as educators grapple to implement these two effective means of learning into class content. The purpose of this manuscript is to discuss service learning and online instruction in a symbiotic educational relationship. The authors discuss the efficacy and benefits of service learning and online instruction, and suggest ways to incorporate these techniques into the classroom. A case example is presented to illustrate the application of these two techniques as they are combined to produce an effective online course that provides students with a hands-on learning experience.
Citrin T (2001). Enhancing Public Health Research and Learning through Community-Academic Partnerships: The Michigan Experience. Public Health Reports 16 (1), 74. U.S. Government Printing Office.
Provides a summary report formulated by a representative group of community members, school of public health faculty, and health department leaders engaged in the four-year initiative sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation named Community-Based Public Health and related national task force. This article includes a description of 'technology-enhanced community-based public health'. Technology enables collaborative research and learning which transcend the boundaries of space and time. Software has been developed to enable people to engage in joint research, to teach and learn and to share expertise from virtually anywhere on earth. Public health has been behind several other fields (engineering, for example) in the utilization of these powerful tools of collaboration and learning. These technologies are expected to further strengthen the existing community-based partnerships and to expand the reach of partnerships throughout the state, the nation and the world. While face-to-face contact is still essential to establish trust and develop initial relationships, technology can maintain and strengthen these relationships without the need for frequent meetings involving expensive and time-consuming travel.
Cyrs TE (1997). Teaching and learning at a distance: What it takes to effectively design, deliver and evaluate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Teaching and learning at a distance is an area of education that is growing rapidly alongside the technology that makes it possible. But success in this area requires more than advanced technology; it requires skillful instructors, well-designed courses, and students ready to learn from the format. This issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning provides insights from experienced practitioners into what is needed to make teaching and learning at a distance successful for everyone involved. This is the 71st issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Teaching and Learning. For more information on the series, please see the Journals and Periodicals section.
Degelman C, Ed, Hayes B, Ed (1998). Technology and Service-Learning. Service-Learning Network, 7 (1), Spring Issue.
This issue of "Service Learning Network" explores some useful applications of technology to service learning. In the classroom, technology, computers and the Internet can stimulate activity and cooperative learning while they forge links between curriculum and community. Articles in this issue are "Service Learning on the Information Superhighway" (B. Bracey) and "Building a School Website" (M C Argandona). The Profiles section describes several technology-oriented service learning projects, while the Review Corner explores a procedural guide and two software programs for setting up Web pages.
Harwood Angela M, Chang J (1999). Inquiry-Based Service Learning and the Internet. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 12 (1), 15-18.
This article discusses how technology-enhanced service learning can help teachers address national standards. A three-step process is described (preparing students for service-learning, reflecting on the experience and taking action through communication) to strengthen service-learning. The internet is suggested for enhancing environmental community projects. A list of web sites supporting service-learning and environmental projects is provided.
Hoyt BR, Thalman J (2001). Service Learning as a Training Platform for Business of Tomorrow. WebNet Journal 3 (1), 16.
A growing movement across university and college campuses may be just what businesses need to make employees more productive, more knowledgeable, more stable, exhibit higher morale, engage in service with their community, and more technologically competent. All of this could be done with employees who actually request to participate instead of being required to enroll in some traditional training activity. What is this powerful organizational tool? What role does technology play? What will it take to integrate this into a business environment? Can we use the academic model directly? How does community service fit into all of this?
Kearsley G (1999). Online Education: Learning and Teaching in Cyberspace. Wadsworth Publishing Company, USA.
Online education or instruction-any form of learning/teaching via a computer network, is rapidly becoming a major mode of educational delivery used by schools, colleges, and corporations. This book is a comprehensive introduction to and overview of learning and teaching in "cyberspace." Kearsley, an author of Wadsworth's 'Distance Education: A Systems View", provides pre-service and in-service teachers, college faculty, and staff with a formal survey of this new and growing educational paradigm. This book explores themes that shape online education, and examines key settings for online learning such as K-12 schools, higher education, corporations, and government agencies. Online applications and how they are used in teaching and learning activities are described, and comparisons are made between online learning environments and conventional classrooms. A review of participation, feedback, workload, and faculty collaboration is provided, including 12 illustrated case studies.
Ko S, Rossen S (2000). Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, 1st Ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, USA.
This comprehensive, practical resource is suitable for courses in online teaching, web-based instruction, teaching with the Internet, or the online classroom, this book answers the most common questions and concerns of instructors who want create electronic educational environments. Topics covered include choosing software and technology tools, building an online classroom, creating an online syllabus, course conversion, online classroom management, integrating online and face-to-face activities, and student support issues. The text is supported by a web site that provides new strategies, tips, and information on emergent technologies. Pedagogy includes "Important" points that highlight key topics; "Definition" boxes that feature key terms with brief definitions; and "Sidebars," which focus student attention on important points.
McAndrew P, Mackinnon L, Rist R (2002). A framework for work-based networked learning. J Interactive Learning Res. P. 149(18), Spring Issue. A Publication of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Norfolk, VA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The primary aim of the Advanced Software for Teaching and Evaluation of Processes (ASTEP) Project was to produce a framework to support the creation of multimedia working environments, operating across the Internet, which facilitate distance learning for process-based high-technolog y companies. This document describes the development of this task-based framework. A philosophy is adopted for the framework that builds on the recognition that tasks must reflect the social process of learning as considered by Vygotsky (1978). This takes into account the role of dialogue in the building of knowledge for an individual and for a group, following the ideas of the conversational framework (Laurillard, 1993) and allowing for future vicarious forms of learning (Mayes and Dineen, 1999). Tasks are supported by links between people as well as activities, material and the opportunity to find further resources. The framework was provided as a set of guidelines within a manual and also instantiated as a prototype system that represented the course using XML. This representation allowed flexible delivery and the system has been used to support undergraduate courses within a university as well as trials within the semiconductor university.
Palloff RM, Pratt K (1999). Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom.
Colleges and universities are rushing into distance learning, and faculty are finding themselves thrust into an alien teaching environment that requires new skills. This practical guide, by two authors who consult on the subject, spells out the issues and concerns of online teaching and suggests strategies for efficiently using time and handling various "classroom" scenarios. Written for faculty, instructors, and trainers in any distance learning environment, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace shows how to create a virtual classroom environment that helps students excel academically, while fostering a sense of community. This practical, hands-on guide is filled with illustrative case studies, vignettes, and examples from a wide variety of successful online courses.
The Node Learning Technologies Network http://node.on.ca/
The Node has launched a series of new publications designed to give you practical advice in using technology to teach. The first guide tackles the issue of incorporating online discussions into campus-based or distance courses, the second deals with blended learning. Node Learning Guides are electronic publications available for sale online through their website.
The Technology Source (Web Journal) http://technologysource.org/
The purpose of The Technology Source (ISSN 1532-0030), a peer-reviewed bimonthly periodical published by the Michigan Virtual University, is to provide thoughtful, illuminating articles that will assist educators as they face the challenge of integrating information technology tools into teaching and into managing educational organizations. Want to participate? Use the discussion option available in each article to respond to that article, or send your comments and suggestions about the publication to Editor-in-Chief.
Warschauer M, Cook J (1999). Service Learning and Technology in TESOL. Prospect 14 (3), 32-39.
This article explores the natural integration between service learning and the use of information technology. Several examples are discussed from a community college in Hawaii, where adult English-as-a-Second-Language students engaged in technology-related service learning projects such as teaching Internet skills to children and producing Web pages for community organizations.
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