Summer Students Bring Professors’ Ideas to Life on the Web

For immediate release:
June 10, 2005
Arlie Corday

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- One professor hopes to teach French song lyrics using animated cues – showing a beating heart, for example, when the word “coeur” is sung. Posted online, the lesson will allow students to puzzle out a foreign language at their own pace.

Another faculty member wants to create a show-and-tell about former President Richard Nixon, including links to films, speeches and information on Checkers, Watergate -- perhaps even the newly revealed “Deep Throat.”

A third wants to explain physics using moving images that can show the difference between a traveling wave and standing wave, for example.

At Wellesley College, the Knapp Instructional Technology Summer Internship program helps students bring professors’ technological dreams to life. This summer, nine student interns will work on projects aimed at improving and enlivening college courses. At the same time, the program at this all-women’s college encourages female students to explore computer technology careers.

Earlier this spring, 50 students applied for a spot as a Knapp intern; nine were accepted for the 35-hour-a-week jobs. The interns will work on 15 technology projects from June 22-Aug. 12 under the direction of Wellesley staff.

“We’re trying to do great projects for faculty – and to offer the development of technical and management skills to students,” said director of instructional technology Kenny Freundlich.

Students work on Web page design and a variety of other projects. One professor would like her videotapes transferred to DVD format, for example, keeping up with changing technology.

“You don’t need a lot of computer skills to start – but it helps to take a beginning computer science course,” Freundlich said. Students with a graphic arts or writing interest – or just good enthusiasm – have an advantage too. Once interns are chosen and given preliminary training, professors “sell” their technology projects during presentations to the students (scheduled this month on the 17th, 20th and 21st).

“One economics professor likened it to making a pitch to a venture capitalist, except you know that somebody will fund you,” said Freundlich. “Students get to choose the top four projects they’d most like to work on.”

Professor Jack Chen, who teaches an introductory course in Chinese cultural history, wanted his class to be less talk and more action. He hoped an interactive Web page with maps and timelines would draw students into the 3,500 years of literature, politics, intellectual history, and culture covered in the course. Knapp interns Kristen Roth and Mimi Lai, now seniors at Wellesley, worked with Chen to create Web pages replete with maps showing rivers changing course over time, an image database and a time table with student-written entries on the 100 most important issues of the era.

“I’m immensely grateful to Kristen and Mimi for having done this,” Chen said. “No one had come up with these ideas before. The course has always been very static. Now, the project allows students to have a more active participation in the class.”

Students, as well as faculty, benefit directly from these intensive summer jobs. One has gone on to work in digital media for Microsoft; an anthropology major became a Web designer for a bank. “It gives them a whole lot of understanding of something that is valuable to nonprofit organizations and the business world,” said Freundlich. The internships also can benefit Wellesley staffing. Heather Woods, a former summer intern, now oversees six people as manager of Wellesley’s Knapp Center for Instructional Technology.

Senior Sara Kratzok collaborated on several projects last summer as an intern. With classmate Devyani Parameshwar of India, she worked on a Web page for Wellesley German professor Thomas Hansen.

“In addition, I used the AMICO image server to create an archive of 100 images of New York City to be used in an English class on ‘New York City in Literature and Art,’” said Kratzok. “I also added a ‘prospective student’s page’ to all the Science Department Web sites.”

An American studies major, Kratzok marvels at the variety of technological skills she learned, an opportunity that would have been impossible during the academic year. “I was able to expand my limited knowledge of Web design and work both independently and with a partner on fascinating projects,” she said. “I was also able to build lasting relationships with faculty members and the Instructional Technology staff. In one summer, I was able to learn so much, not only about Web sites, but about myself and the entire Wellesley community.”

For faculty, staff and students, Wellesley’s Knapp program offers a technology bonanza during the so-called lazy days of summer.