Faculty Response, Amherst College


Q. What is the course content and what are the pedagogical approaches for which you want to draw on technological resources? Map out the range and variation, including both the content and the kinds of resources you encounter and need.

The course is titled "Self and Society: An Introduction to Sociology." It is required for sociology majors, and typically, it serves as a first course for many non-majors who are interested in the sociological approach to things. Typically, course enrollment ranges from 75-110 students, half of whom are in their first semester at Amherst College.

Basically, the course introduces students to elemental constructs in sociology, and tries to do that at both a theoretical and an empirical/practical level. As it is presently organized, the course is divided into three parts, which cover, in turn, the normative dimensions of social life, social structures and cultural practices, and mass media/information technology and the formation of a social imaginary.

Pedagogically speaking, I am interested in using information technology, principally internet resources and the world wide web, to supplement the course content that is covered in assigned readings and lectures over all three parts of the course. I would like students to access a variety of data regarding topics that we cover in class, but also, the wide range of relevant information found at websites, including those of newspapers, online journals and periodicals, "think tanks," as well as numerous organizations (including academic institutions and professional associations within them) and individuals. Furthermore, I would expect that the discussions taking place on selected news/user groups and other "live" communications would be important resources as well.

I see this access to relevant information on the internet as complimenting, not replacing, the use that students routinely make of more traditional resources found in the Amherst College library. The idea here is to introduce students to the new and different sources of information and communication that are made available as a result of technology, and in doing so, to draw them into an evaluative relation with these sources, in which they are required, really, to assess the validity of the information available to them, rather than taking it at face value. Obviously, this would be strongly supported by the instructor, but a most important aspect in fostering this critical, evaluative relation to internet resources will involve a comparison and contrasting of these resources with more traditional ones.

Q. What roles and responsibilities do you currently assume regarding the use and instruction of technology? What resources are you considering devoting to its future development?

Currently, in this particular course, my use of technology has been limited to screening films, video clips in class, and the use of audio cd's to play music as it pertains to topics covered in readings and lectures. In the future, I would like first, to develop a course home page that will enable students to access course information/documents via the campus or Five College network. This will be completed over the summer, if not before. (This past semester, I developed websites for my courses.)

I would like to use my time at Bryn Mawr to develop this course website along the lines that I suggested above. That is, for the topics covered in each part of the course, I would like to establish relevant links to internet resources so that students can gain quick and easy access to these supplementary materials as a way of enhancing their own developing understanding of, say, the ways that norms work in social life, or the persistence of social inequalities in contemporary culture, or the ways that the developments in multimedia and information technology itself are transforming self, identity, and the society in which we live.

Additionally, I would like to use these internet resources, in conjunction with other library resources, as examples of a kind of information that students can utilize in developing their own ideas for a term paper in the course. That is, students would be encouraged to develop their ideas for a course term paper in such a way that they not only used internet sources, but more importantly, incorporated into the paper a critical assessment of the validity of these resources vis-à-vis other, more traditional scholarly sources that typically serve as the basis of their research.

Ron Lembo

Professor of Sociology

Amherst college