February 3, 2003

Pajares inspires students, creates community via IT


Donna Price is communications coordinator for the Information Technology Division.

As evidence that Emory faculty continue to expand teaching and research opportunities with the innovative use of information technology (IT) tools, the website of Frank Pajares, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in educational studies, is both a creative teaching tool and a global “collaboratory” for scholarly research and cultural and intellectual exchange.

By offering online access to a rich mixture of text and graphical PowerPoint presentations, personal display format (pdf) files, links to other sites and readings, class materials, syllabi, and handouts, Pajares gives his students multiple layers of learning opportunities that reinforce and extend the classroom experience.

Sara Siegel, a psychology and education major, has taken three courses with Pajares. “All of my learning experiences from these classes have been incredibly memorable,” she said.
“The classes he teaches with PowerPoint add a great atmosphere to learning. Learning becomes exciting and interesting, rather than boring and unoriginal.”

Pajares also writes and teaches about 19th century philosopher William James. On his website, the collected letters and writings of James, now in the public domain, are compiled with excerpts, highlights and texts from all of James’ books, providing access for researchers around the globe.

The extensive resources on James, Pajares’ own teaching and research on self-efficacy, and indexes and links to a network of scholars and sites attract to the site an interdisciplinary group of researchers from more than 70 countries. With website hits averaging in the tens of thousands each month, the site offers an exceptional opportunity to participate in a global learning community.

“I’m collaborating with scholars from all over the world on various papers and articles,” he said. “Then there are the doctoral students who are doing dissertations or work on self-efficacy. One of the things that happens is that doctoral students contact me, and I put them on the site, showing the area they are working on. It becomes a network, and before long people who are interested in collective efficacy are writing each other and collaborating.”

Pajares’ website grew organically from his initial experimentations with IT tools around 1995, about a year after he came to Emory.

“My number one priority initially was research,” he said. “I was getting requests for my articles. If I could put them on the web, I wouldn’t have to keep sending them [by mail].”

By using an existing website as a template and ITD’s faculty support services, he created his first site and then began to play with HTML and Java. And so it began.

“The William James page just began to grow,” he said. “Before you know it, every class I was teaching was put on the web.”

Pajares doesn’t allow technology to dictate how he teaches. He still lectures and holds classroom discussions, but he skillfully integrates technology into the learning experience when it saves time or enhances information delivery by offering a multiplicity of connections to concepts that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

“I try to enrich the experience,” he said. “If we are talking about Piaget, I want them to see Piaget. I teach Freud using Van Gogh; I illustrate defense mechanisms using art. We have very much become visual learners, and when you make the connection between [the textual] and the visual, memory is enhanced.”

“Dr. Pajares is a master at keeping his students’ attention in the classroom, and he accomplishes this most often through the use of technology,” said Kevin Landesman, a senior majoring in accounting and educational studies. “My favorite [is when] his PowerPoint presentations play automatically in the background while we discuss difficult topics such as Freud or Bandura. Personally, I find that glancing at these presentations from time to time gives me more ideas and topics to think about and bring up in class.”

To view Pajares website, visit www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp.

To learn more about faculty use of technology in education, register for the second annual EduCATE Conference, to be held on campus March 25–26 (http://educate.emory.edu).

The conference will feature presentations and panel discussions on innovative applications of technology in teaching.






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