Epiphany Project To Provide
Teacher Training in Digital Technologies

On the front page of a recent Sunday edition of The Washington Post,  Robert O'Harrow, Jr. reports: "the hurdles schools face in using computers aren't just financial. Education specialists say that to take full advantage of the machines, teachers will have to change their traditional classroom methods. Instead of relying on lectures and worksheets, for example, they will have to give students more freedom to do research, work collaboratively and create sophisticated reports using sounds, images and words. Some teachers admit that they're uneasy about giving up control in their classrooms, in part because of a lack of training." It is this lack of training that the Epiphany Project will address.

A two-year project, supported by funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project, Epiphany is sponsored by Gallaudet University, George Mason University, and the Alliance for Computers and Writing, a national organization dedicated to helping teachers with writing instruction in the digital age.

"A Full Spectrum of Materials and Guidance"

The Epiphany Project will help faculty integrate computers into writing curricula. The goal of the two-year project is to develop and provide a full spectrum of materials and guidance for training events ranging from a one-day workshop to a full two-year faculty development program. The operating assumption is that those faculty who use computers now may be "early adopters" who are not representative of mainstream faculty. Epiphany will help institutions support the mainstream by assessing what teachers need in terms of support and training in order to make use of technologies in their classrooms. The program will help teachers think through theoretical, curricular, and strategic planning concerns in addition to learning how to use various options such as email, the World Wide Web, and networked classroom instruction.

"By July of 1997, we expect to have at least ten universities linked with the Epiphany Project," said Trent Batson, director of Academic Technologies at Gallaudet University and Epiphany Project director. "Teachers are experiencing a switch from print to digital culture in the writing classroom, and they need to learn how to adapt to enormous changes. Often, in the past, teachers found themselves the sole electronic word whiz in their departments, and most of these 'early adopters' lacked a broad base of support. Now, with more and more teachers wanting to use technology, it's becoming critical to provide adequate training and support in order for them to take the risks of trying new teaching practices using information technologies."

Banding Together at the Departmental Level

The Epiphany model, a departmental model, draws upon a program developed by Steve Gilbert at the American Association for Higher Education called Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtables (TLTR) which is based on the notion that success is more likely in the classroom when institutions are committed to change and technology infusion. When a department adopts the Epiphany model, it will be more likely for teachers to find the support and enrichment they need.

An example of English teachers banding together at a department level to develop a support team is at Virginia Commonwealth Universtiy where an informal group meets weekly to share information and do hands-on workshopping in order to learn new skills. Faculty from the University of Richmond recently joined the VCU meetings since some teachers in the English departments at both VCU and UR are members of the Epiphany testbed team. These teachers have participated in initial research, video production, World Wide Web development, and other efforts aimed at the creation of training packages for teachers.

The first Epiphany training package will be tested at a workshop on January 12 and 13 in Richmond, Virginia, where teachers will learn about email, hypertext, networked classrooms, synchronous communication in virtual spaces (MOOs) and the World Wide Web, among other things. At this workshop, the Epiphany guidebook will make its debut, the result of a collaborative effort among many members of the Alliance for Computers and Writing. The next training program will be offered in Richmond in June.

For additional information, contact Epiphany Project Co-Director Judy Williamson or visit the Epiphany Project homepage.

Facts About Epiphany/Important Dates


Kairos  1.1 (Spring 1996): News