CLIR Report on NITLE

Logo designed by Khaled Al-Saai

I finally read through this report on NITLE (the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), and I must say I agree with most of it’s findings.  It is a thorough survey of what was accomplished and what is needed. Thanks are due to Jason Brodeur, Morgan Daniels, Annie Johnson, Natsuko Nicholls, Sarah Pickle, and Elizabeth A. WaraksaI, as well as all who participated in the surveys they conducted, for this job well done.

I was very proud of my involvement in NITLE, which started our as a visionary organization, assisting member institutions to be forward looking and to think big about what they could accomplish. I was Program Director of NITLE’s Al-Musharaka Initiative, which is mentioned early in the report. I am immensely proud of my involvement with that project. Our focus really was on building community, facilitating collaboration, and fostering intellectual exchange, not just across institutions, but also across sectors within the academic community.  Much of what has been published about the initiative focusing on the Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource (the ACC site), one of our first projects, but it was really the collaborative projects that were the most interesting and produced the most exciting results.  Continue reading

My Career in International Education, v 4.0

Globes in Chicago, by John LeGear

In 2005 the Association of American Colleges and Universities launched the “Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility” initiative. The mission statement for that initiative describes what should be one of the most important principles guiding higher education today. Shared Futures

is based upon the assumption that we live in an interdependent but unequal world and that higher education can help prepare students not only to thrive in such a world, but to remedy its inequities.

Higher education not only can prepare students to do those things, but it must, for their benefit, for the good of our nation, and because remedying inequalities is the right thing to do. Hence, as the statement continues, the academy

has a vital role of expanding knowledge about the world’s peoples and problems and developing individuals who will advance equity and justice both at home and abroad.

These are fine and noble ideals, but they are also solidly rooted in reality. The United States finds itself involved in two wars at the moment, and neither is with a neighbor or even a nation in this hemisphere. The largest share of our foreign debt is owned by China. America is a nation addicted to television, yet only Zenith makes television sets in the US, maintaining one factory so that it is able to claim it is an American producer. Problems like global warming can only be tackled on an international scale, and when the mortgage crisis hit the banks in the United States, many of the world’s banks also felt the impact. The engine of globalization is, of course, technology, which makes it almost as easy to conduct business between Boston and Hong Kong (8,000 miles) as it is between Boston and Cambridge (next to one another).
Continue reading

“Millennial Teaching” by Doug Davis

While researching something I was writing recently, I stumbled across an article by Doug Davis, Professor of Psychology at Haverford College and leader of the second NITLE Al Musharaka Summer Seminar in 2003. One interesting this about it is how quickly the technology become dated! But it is a good article and is worth a look.

When the technological and political events that now preoccupy us are exhumed and examined by historians, it will surely be remarked that never was the misfit between professors’ favored styles of teaching and the actual skills and predilections brought to learning by the young so great, or so rapidly increasing. Most of us struggle daily to use the personal computers, word-and data-processing software, e-mail tools, and Web services with which we are provided. We often despair of getting a whole class to read a few paragraphs of Freud with sufficient attention that we can have a real class discussion. On the other hand, the liberal arts college student who five years ago would have described herself as “not a computer person” now spends four hours a night on America Online, even as she tries to make sense of Freud with the best of her downloaded Nine Inch Nails music collection ringing in her ears. Her male suite mate spends a good deal more time playing a (female) Barbarian character in the EverQuest online role-playing game than learning chemistry. Faculty who feel pressured to lug a laptop computer and a bag of audiovisual connectors into class wonder whether this generation can tell the difference between a glitzy Web page and an actual argument, and many students find the “monotasking” of book and lecture a weak brew to accompany the smorgasbord of media to which they are wired. Surely we liberal arts professors are at a nexus having to do with the ways we and our students use information technology.

Continue reading Includes NITLE ACC Site

This evening I was happy to learn that the NITLE Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource is once again publicly available, generously hosted by the Middle East Policy Council, a nonprofit organization that seeks to enhance American understanding of the political, economic and cultural issues affecting U.S. policy in the Middle East. I was principal editor of the site throughout much of its existence, and was very proud of the collaborative effort that went into building, launching, and nurturing the site throughout its life. At the time of its retirement it was registering thousands of hits on a daily basis.

Continue reading

NITLE Programs This Week and Next



This is the NITLE Professional Development News that went out today. It focuses on my programs for the coming two weeks. They are going to be be keeping me busy. But they are interesting programs, so they should be fun.

Dear Colleagues,
As campuses continue to respond to the challenges of globalization as well as on-going economic restraints, I wanted to take a moment to call your attention to three upcoming NITLE programs relevant to both situations.

Using media elements with an international perspective to introduce complex issues such as research ethics can offer a new dimension to the lab-based science class, stimulating and enriching discussion. Faculty members in the natural and social sciences who want to integrate an international perspective into lab-based curricula in this way are encouraged to sign up for “Science and International Perspectives.” Continue reading

NITLE’s New Online Presence

Revised NITLE Site

Revised NITLE Site

Some of you may have already noticed, but NITLE’s web site has gotten a face lift or, more accurately, a radical redesign of the sort that would be worthy of an episode if anyone were ever to launch and “Extreme Web Makeover” series. I couldn’t be more pleased and I’m very grateful to the task force that coordinated this project for the new public face they have given us.

This is my personal blog and I don’t often use it to talk so much about work, but I can’t help myself, so let me point out just three things that, for me, are highlights of the new main site and its complementary presences.

I should point out that while we were asked for our opinions of the site at various points in it preparation, I was not part of the task force. So I am approaching the site as a user or visitor like you, not as a guide involved in its design who can tell you why things were set up the way they were. I am also expressing my opinions, which may not necessarily be representative of NITLE policy.

We might as well start at the main page. There is a lot of information presented on this page, and yet it is done clearly and in a manner that is easy to navigate and that quickly takes on into sought after information without multiple stops en route. If you are interested in something on the front page and you click on a link, more often than not you end up directly on a page containing the information you need, even if that click takes you out of the NITLE site.

That, in fact, is the other thing I like more about the front page. It sends a clear message from the start that NITLE is an organization that works in partnership with our participating colleges so the page itself presents a dialogue.

I also like that it brings together, right up front, all that is going on with NITLE. We’ve got some cool projects in the queue for the NITLE labs and we’ve got some good programming coming up, too. In the Daily NITLE Column you will find items from NITLE’s new blogs.

Liberal Education Today has been re-focused and revamped to become Liberal Education Tomorrow, fitting for a blog covering emerging technologies. Perspectives is geared toward the technology leadership at a liberal arts college. Techne, the one which I will be contributing to most regularly, is about integrating technology for teaching and learning at liberal arts colleges.

There are other things I like as well, but I said I would mention only a few. There are bugs and glitches, too. I’ve already pointed out two that are being corrected. But this is the world of information technology and everything is always a work in progress. That’s why things move forward at the pace they do. And that’s why we need you comments.

We’d all like to know what you think of these sites, so visit them and post your comments or contact our staff.

Models for Collaboration in Cultural Studies

Thursday, a week from today, I am chairing the next program in the special topics series I organize for NITLE, Tools for Teaching in the Global Age. The title for the program is Models for Collaborative Teaching in Cultural Studies: Working Across Campuses, and it should be both interesting and timely.

Inter-institutional collaboration allows an institution to access a much wider array of resources. The most obvious an common example of this is inter-libary loan, but it is equally possible in other sectors as well, administrative and even pedagogical. It is the last form of collaboration this session looks at. The three projects to be presented in this program were either components of or the primary subjects of academic courses and through them students gained access to expertise that was not on their campus, were exposed to viewpoints of students that were not their own and gained experience with something that is increasingly common in the workplaces they will encounter after they leave college, long distance collaboration.

Yet in no case was the essential classroom experience and high degree of teacher-student interaction that is so characteristic of the liberal arts college education compromised. Classess in one location interacted with classes elsewhere, in some cases overseas, within the context of a course at their home campus.

Especially important in the current economic climate, in all three cases the costs involved in the collaboration were quite low, for the most part taking advantage of resources already available at even the most poorly resourced institution. In short, relatively few resources where leveraged to multiply dividends.

That said, there was one very valuable resource on which the success of all three projects depended, and that is talented, dedicated teachers willing to experiment and to put some effort into the projects.

See the description at:

NITLE Names 2009-2011 Advisory Board

Below is a message from Joey King, our new director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, announcing the creation of an advisory board, the functions of which he outlines below. It’s a good group, one that probably was very difficult to finalize, given the large number of people who would have been excellent choices throughout our participating institutions. The initial list of suggested candidates we came up with as an organization was very large indeed, and fortunately a task force took over from there and came up with this group. They did a great job!

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the formation of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) Advisory Board for 2009 – 2011 (.pdf, 214 KB). The Advisory Board’s purpose will be to provide strategic advice for the organization. Goals for this year include deepening NITLE’s engagement with specific sectors of the liberal arts community and developing strategic partnerships with other organizations as appropriate. The National Advisory Board will meet twice per year, and board members will serve terms of two years. Members serving on the Advisory Board will have a direct, positive impact on the advancement of liberal education. We at NITLE are honored to have these outstanding leaders participate in this important effort.

W. Joseph King, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Liberal Education Today : What Function for Study Abroad? Service Learning in International Studies Programs

Liberal Education Today has published a brief piece I wrote about the integration of service learning programs and study abroad programs.

The post gives examples of study abroad programs with a service learning component at Sewanee: the University of the South, Luther College and Pitzer College that allow students to work with microfinance programs in South Asia, impoverished communities in Cape Town, and vaccine development programs in Botswana.  In each case the the service learning component provides experiential learning as students engage important social issues.

Read more at Liberal Education Today: “What Function for Study Abroad? Service Learning in International Studies Programs.”

Liberal Education Today (LET) is a blog reporting on emerging technologies relevant to higher education.  It is maintained by Bryan Alexander and engages topics including pedagogy, copyright, libraries, media services, social software and other developments in educational technology and liberal education.

Innovative Practices for Challenging Times

An message from Michael Nanfito and NITLE.

In March 2009, five exemplary projects from the liberal arts community received the NITLE Community Contribution Award, which includes an opportunity to publish a case study with Academic Commons. Today, I’m happy to announce the publication of “Innovative Practices for Challenging Times,” a new issue of Academic Commons that showcases these projects and gives readers a chance to find out how their leaders made them happen.

Articles featured in this issue of Academic Commons include:

War News Radio” by Abdulla A. Mizead. Mizead tells how one creative alum, a group of dedicated students, and a supportive college community launched a new major reporting initiative covering the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Come for the Content, Stay for the Community” by Ethan Benatan, Jezmynne Dene, Hilary Eppley, Margret Geselbracht, Elizabeth Jamieson, Adam Johnson, Barbara Reisner, Joanne Stewart, Lori Watson, and B. Scott Williams. Find out how a group of inorganic chemists used social networking technologies to build a scientific community for support, exchange of ideas, and friendship — all in the interest of improving chemistry education across campuses and having a bit of fun in the process.

Curricular Uses of Visual Material: A Research-Driven Process for Improving Institutional Sources of Curricular Support” by Andrea Lisa Nixon, Heather Tompkins, and Paula Lackie. When students work with visual materials in all parts of the curriculum, how do you make sure they get the technical support they need? An extensive research study of faculty and students led to a new coordinated support model. Nixon, Tompkins, and Lackie explain how they got it done.

The History Engine: Doing History with Digital Tools” by Robert K. Nelson, Scott Nesbit, and Andrew Torget. The History Engine offers a rich digital repository of episodes from American history and even more important, a chance for undergraduates to “do history” long before the senior seminar or capstone course.

The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project: A Case Study” by Ken Newquist. The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project, or CLAMP as it’s better known, proves the power of collaboration across campuses. By creating a network of Moodle users from multiple campuses across the country, CLAMP has developed a highly effective system for adapting the open-source software Moodle for the specific needs of liberal arts colleges.

At NITLE, we’re pleased to partner with Academic Commons to bring you these case studies and to enable their authors to share the knowledge they’ve developed along with their projects. We thank the featured authors and their partners for their work and Academic Commons for collaborating with us. If you would like to nominate a project for the next round of awards, please contact me at by November 16, 2009.