College of Arts and Sciences

Technology Workshop for Humanities

Opening Remarks by Dr. Maria Marsilio


March 24, 2010
4:00-6:00 PM
Banquet Hall South, Campion Student Center


I warmly welcome all of you today to a workshop focusing upon the vibrancy of digital media for teaching in the Humanities.  Let me begin by thanking a few wonderful people whose support and enthusiasm made this event possible: our Dean and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. William Madges and Dr. Paul Aspan; Lorraine Hannon and Jena Laske in the Dean’s Office; our Classics Program faculty and students; the Faculty Development Committee and our workshop moderators Enrico Capitan, Lindsay Dragon, Dr. Millie Feske, Al Labonis, David Lees, and Andy Starr; Anne Szewczyk who is the brains and heart of this workshop; and finally, our three amazing presenters Dr. Ann Raia and Dr. Barbara McManus of the College of New Rochelle and Dr. Aimée Knight of Saint Joseph’s University.

I can personally confirm that Ann Raia and Barbara McManus were already sophisticated users and explorers of technology in our Classics classrooms when they taught me nearly thirty years ago.  However, I myself did not fully understand the advantages and the value of technology in the classroom until about five years ago.  The image you see on our promotional flyer, the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum, echoes the beginning of my own “creative exploration” of digital technology.  I used to think it was fine to show my students black and white photos of the monuments of the Roman Forum from a textbook: static, cold and distant images, with little visible background to give the students context and perspective.  I may have succeeded in stimulating my students’ interest and emotions, but I did nothing to encourage and promote their deeper exploration and understanding of Roman art and architecture.  My husband Patrick was also well ahead of me in understanding the adventure and excitement of digital technology, and of its rich potential for genuine discovery.  On a trip to Rome with my students in 2005, Patrick decided to take all our photos with a digital camera.  When we returned home and looked at the brilliant photos together, he excitedly informed me that I could manipulate the images on my computer to change the perspective, focus more closely on a particular part of the monument or view it as a whole in relation to other monuments, and view the Latin inscription on the monument with perfect clarity.  A textbook photo would never again suffice.  The next time I introduced my students to the Roman Forum, I showed them digital images of every major monument in multiple and changing perspectives, always urging them to explore the images very carefully both on their own and in collaboration with their classmates.  Instead of being reduced to passive listeners of my lecturing, the “tourists” that Lucia Knoles’ refers to in her excellent article, “Nobody Likes a Tourist (And Who Wants to be a Tour Guide?)”, my students studied the vibrant digital image of the Temple of Saturn as active learners.  They discovered that the six columns on the facade are of gray granite and the side columns of rose granite, they looked closely at the temple’s architrave, frieze, and cornice and read the inscription that attests to the restoration of the Temple after a fire: senatus populusque Romanus incendio consumptum restituit: “The Senate and the people of Rome restored what had been consumed by fire.”  The students’ ability to modify the digital images to view the monument from varying perspectives enabled them to more fully explore and understand the positioning of the temple on its north/south axis and its placement relative to the Basilia Julia and the Temple of Vespasian, its collapsed stairway under which was the state treasury, the holes at the eastern base of the podium that held a plate for the posting of the laws of the Roman state, and the complex history of the temple’s destruction and reconstruction since its original consecration in 498 BCE.  My students also visited Barbara McManus’ sensational VRoma website to discover many gateways of information and images relating to the Roman Forum.  For my students, the Temple of Saturn now had life and context.  For me personally, the temple’s inscription would be a lasting metaphor for my teaching philosophy: rebuilding, restoring, repeatedly over time transforming old into new, breathing new life and relevance into the ancient past for a generation of students living and learning in the present.

Today’s event is about creative explorations of digital media in our classrooms.  In the first hour we will have three individual presentations from each of our outstanding speakers. I encourage you to visit the fabulous webpage that Drs. Raia and McManus have created for this workshop, a valuable gathering of creative websites for the Humanities discipline.  These sites draw upon the advantages of digital technology to give our students contexts for knowledge, as well as various pathways to pursue and engage in collaborative sharing of knowledge.  After each presentation there will be time for a brief question or two.  In the second hour, after a brief ten minute break for refreshments, we will proceed to round table discussions with moderators and a sharing of our thoughts and conclusions for the day.