Two foundations award $150,000 to Fairfield University for interactive computer classrooms


The Booth Ferris Foundation, located in New York City, has awarded Fairfield University a grant of $100,000 and the George I. Alden Trust of Worcester, Mass., granted an additional $50,000 to establish the University's first Interactive Computerized Classroom for students. The grants enable Fairfield to continue incorporating technology into education and to increase student achievement.

The new Interactive Computerized Classroom will benefit the teaching of the humanities and the sciences and will provide students with access to a proven educational tool.

In the Interactive Computerized Classroom, an instructor will have the ability to send information directly to each of 25 students' computer screens and monitor the work each student produces at a workstation. The goal is to enable the professor to serve as a mentor while the student takes an active role in the learning process. In a physics class, for example, the new technology would enable a student to complete complicated equations at an individual computer and with the help of the professor, the student's findings could be transmitted to a large screen in front of the classroom for discussion. During evening hours, when the room is not in use by a class, it will serve as a computer laboratory for students.

In the past year, Fairfield has continued to expand its multimedia and technological capabilities, upgraded its computer laboratories, hosted faculty training programs dealing with technology and appointed a director of academic computing and information services.

Thanking the Booth Ferris Foundation and the Alden Trust for their support, Frederic Wheeler, associate vice president for development, commented, "Technology has become vital to the learning process. It is important to emphasize how dedicated the faculty is to using technology in a manner that meet students' needs. The Booth Ferris FoundationUs and Alden Trust's generous support of faculty training and development laid the groundwork for constructive change. A report by the U.S. Department of Education has found that students who use technology are challenged, engaged and more independent."

He added, "Fairfield's desire to develop an Interactive Computerized Classroom also is motivated by its responsibility to prepare students to become productive members of a society in which they must become comfortable with technological innovations if they are to remain competitive with their peers. One analysis shows that 60 percent of all jobs will require skills in computer or network use by the year 2000."

Dr. Robert Wall, academic vice president at Fairfield, explained that through multimedia technology, students benefit as complicated issues and topics are brought closer to them.

In one Religious Studies class, Prof. Alfred Benney has brought the views of the world's leading religious scholars into the classroom via computer. He previously interviewed them and transferred their comments to a CD-ROM that classes can view as the scholars respond to Dr. Benney's questions.

In the Philosophy Department, Dr. Curtis Naser is using the technology for his classes in Ethical Theories and in Bioethics. Using a large projection monitor, individual theories are presented diagrammatically for easier understanding. Dr. Naser has also introduced students to numerous sources via the World Wide Web, inspiring students to conduct their own research outside of the classroom.

In classes in Contemporary Moral Problems and in Religion and Public Policy, Dr. David Schmidt employs multimedia equipment to demonstrate visually the structure of moral arguments. Students and professors can type their arguments on issues. The students can then update the information to reflect class commentary which is represented on a screen, enabling the class to track complex discussions.

Still another use of technology enabled the Rev. Raymond Bucko, S.J. to serve as a visiting professor at Fairfield and to teach classes simultaneously via the Internet at LeMoyne College in Syracuse and at the University of Spain.

The Booth Ferris Foundation which began operations in 1957 provides assistance to higher education, urban projects, social service programs and cultural activities. It was created through trusts established by Mrs. Chancie Ferris Booth and from the estate of Willis H. Booth who was vice president of Guaranty Trust Company and a trustee for many corporations.

The Foundation previously assisted Fairfield University in 1993 with a grant of $100,000 that helped establish two multimedia classrooms and provided training for faculty.

The Alden Trust prevously supported the University with a $50,000 gift for the automation of Nyselius Library, a $20,000 gift to support the construction of the Quick Center for the Arts and a $5,000 gift toward the purchase of science equipment. The Alden Trust was established in 1912 when George I. Alden bequeathed his shares of the Norton Company which he co-founded in 1885. Alden was an inventor and a pioneer member of the faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute who gained national attention in the 1880s and 90s by stressing engineering education that combined practice with theory. The Trust seeks to promote education by funding scholarship support, laboratory and other equipment purchaes and building programs. Its assistance to the YMCA movement has supported the construction of three buildings in Massachusetts.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 15, 1998