Epiphany Summer Institutes

At Newark, there were 36 participants, mostly from campuses in the NY/NJ area, but some from as far away as Wisconsin and California; half a dozen lacked e-mail addresses, about twice that many had well-established homepages, and the others ranged between these extremes of access and expertise.

Bringing together around 100 academics for long workshops on integrating computer technology with the teaching of writing and literature raised a host of issues that ordinarily do not confront the average professor toiling away in the solitude of his or her own institution. But the Epiphany Project, and especially the summer institutes, are specifically designed to encourage collaboration between institutions. The institutional diversity participants brought to both Newark and Richmond highlighted the problems of faculty development through multiple voices and from multiple angles. Some spoke of technological problems, but all were moved when, at the end of the institute, Ann Woolford-Singh reminded everyone that issues of gender, class and power cut across institutional lines, and are critical in the male-dominated, costly, and sometimes difficult-to-grasp world of the technologically enhanced classroom.

In trying to describe what one person does at her home institution, or what might happen if a software package or instructional technique were brought there, participants were forced to consider the wide institutional diversity that constitutes American higher education.

We came from schools as remote as Barrow, Alaska and Presque Isle, Maine, and as urban as New York, New York.. Some participants were computer professionals, and others were lifelong teachers of literature who had yet to learn how to use the mouse.

Although we had diverse groups with divergent skills and interests, there were still points of agreement on fundamental issues that are at the heart of the Epiphany Project. Even with the natural linkages of interest and participation, when participants reflected back on the Newark experience via the Epiphany listserv, and when the Richmond participants split into small groups, a touchstone of the Project hit home: when training people to use technology, the most important questions revolve not around bits and bytes but around students and teachers:
What do I wish to teach? Why? How? And to whom?

Judy Williamson summed up this diversity of participants best when she wrote:
I think this is a strength for the program, and a very fundamental one at that. I will stand by my claim that everyone brings something unique to offer to a group, and although some of us are farther along the technological highway than others, I found myself learning from folks regardless of technological skill level. The learning happened, again, due to a shared dynamic which makes me want to stand by the Project's fundamental belief in collaboration and group work.

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