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  • Rhetoricians, Facilitators, ModelsInterviews with Technology Trainers
  • Michelle Sidler (bio)

At the turn of the millennium, the humanities have become concerned with the ways that computer technologies shape texts and culture (Haraway 1991; Lanham 1995; Landow 1997; Bolter and Grusin 2000). Reflecting this interest, research indicates that a large number of humanities programs, especially those in English, are implementing curricula with formal technological components (Anderson et al. 2006). In the latter decades of the twentieth century, computerized instruction was most prominent among those teaching composition and technical communication,1 but increasingly, all courses in the humanities benefit from engagement with electronic research and communication tools. Although not all humanities faculty embrace computer classrooms, most recognize the value of technology as a teaching tool and support its implementation.

As technology becomes more evident in education and the wider culture, effective faculty training is necessary to ensure quality computer-assisted instruction in all subject areas. However, little research in the humanities has tried to identify and describe current faculty development programs or offer practical advice and wisdom from experienced teacher trainers. A notable exception is the Kairos piece "Administering Teacher Technology Training" by Teena Carnegie, Amy Kimme Hea, Melinda Turnley, and David Menchaca (2002). This Web text is a practical handbook for initiating technology training, including finding funding, locating training programs already available, offering models of faculty development, and describing the [End Page 467] impact of classroom space configurations on training. Carnegie et al.'s piece is immediately useful to inexperienced technology trainers, and it is a testament to the emerging importance of this professional role. However, more research is needed to help guide faculty who have taken on the responsibility of training their colleagues. This article will provide a starting point for further research and development in technology training by reporting on a series of eleven interviews with twelve experienced technology trainers. The interviews elicited wisdom, stories, and experiences from this group of successful technology trainers as well as concrete advice for those starting out as faculty developers.

Most evident from these interviews is the variety of models employed in technology training, including a distinction between training that occurs in the home department and training that is supported by an institution-wide instructional technology program or center. Two common models mentioned in the interviews are the workshop model, which involves a series of sporadic (perhaps once or twice a term) program wide workshops, and the Teaching Assistant (TA) model, where TAs are introduced to technology while being trained for classroom instruction. The workshop model, especially in its most sporadic and ad hoc form, tends to correlate with schools that have fewer technological resources and a less systematized approach to technology-enhanced writing instruction, while the TA model more often develops in state-funded research universities with large English departments and a substantial amount of graduate students.

Facing the Challenge of Institutional Constraints

As the aforementioned models suggest, the type of training greatly depends on institutional and pedagogical constraints, most specifically the amount of technology available for training and teaching as well as the type of personnel dedicated to computer classroom administration and training. An important component to successful technology training is the facilitators' willingness to both recognize and maneuver local institutional infrastructures, budgets, and attitudes. In contrast to several contributors in Technology and English Studies, who cite faculty resistance to technology as a major challenge to technological innovation in past years (Edminster 2006; Eyman 2006), access and infrastructure were much more prevalent concerns for the trainers I interviewed.

Departments with a strong technology component benefit from financial and infrastructural support from the parent university or at least the parent college, providing resources that would be beyond the means of an [End Page 468] individual department or program. In general, the goal is to have technological access for all students, usually by teaching in computer classrooms for a certain number of days, such as one class day per week for each section of a course. This model is in contrast to the more constrained departments and programs, wherein one or two individual faculty members express interest in technology. Those faculty members encourage computer use through ad hoc workshops or even just by...


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pp. 467-480
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