Summer institute returns with teaching, tech, and a contest

After a two-year absence, the Summer Institute on Teaching and Technology (SITT) returns July 24-28 with a full agenda, new topics, and tutorials on recent technologies—even some friendly competition.

For a chance to win the envy of fellow faculty and gain extra respect from technophile students, UC Davis faculty can enter their best visual presentation in a small contest that accompanies this year's institute. A student panel will judge the entries and display the winners at the International House on July 27.

Besides promising glory, the contest highlights how important and accessible visual media and technology have become to the once decidedly chalk-and-board profession of teaching.

The 11th SITT, sponsored by the Teaching Resources Center, is a week-long training and discussion program that aims to smooth the technological transition for campus faculty and instructional assistants. Fellow faculty members will lead discussions, tutorials and workshops on technology in the classroom.

The institute will also focus on teaching itself, holding seminars, for example, on teaching large classes effectively and using student writing as text.

The program is free for undergraduate instructors and undergraduate support staff. The institute expects about 75 people to join this year. So far, 65 have registered. Registration will remain open until space fills up.

The 2006 SITT will introduce new educational technologies, such as SmartSite, a set of new course management and collaboration Web tools. Pilot groups for SmartSite will share their reactions and experiences using the new system. Attendees can try out the system firsthand.

There will also be presentations on existing Web tools. Philip Neustrom from will talk about wikis, or collaborative Web sites where users can create and edit the content.

As its name indicates, SITT will not just focus on technology; the institute will also discuss pedagogy and how instructors can use available tools to improve their teaching. Along with technical previews and demonstrations, presentations will cover different teaching approaches and cognitive learning theory. Susan Keen, winner of the Academic Federation Excellence in Teaching Award, will present new ways to teach biology.

Besides SmartSite, collaborative group work, and research on teaching, the institute will concentrate on writing as a teaching tool and on multimedia in the classroom.

"SITT offers five 'strands' of approaching teaching this year in part to signal, ironically, a lessening emphasis on technology, and a greater emphasis on the great variety of paths towards innovative teaching," said Andy Jones, UC Davis writing lecturer and coordinator for this year's program.

For Spanish Professor Emilio Bejel, SITT offers a way for instructors who are not familiar with educational technologies to connect with their increasingly tech-savvy students.

"Faculty members who don't do that," he said, "will be out of touch with the greatest revolution in our times."

The program does not require any specific level of computer ability. Technical experts, however, can still benefit from attending.

"I really want to stay abreast of new developments in technology uses in learning," said Richard Walters, professor emeritus of computer science. "I find that SITT offers such opportunities every year, to learn about new tools or improvements to old tools."

Though the institute expects a week-long commitment, those unable to attend every event can drop in on the plenary sessions, afternoon discussions and some workshops. SITT runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with a half day on Friday the 28th. Attendees will receive free lunch and snacks.

This will be the first full SITT since 2003. Last year the institute was cancelled. In 2004 the program met as two smaller sessions instead of one main summer session.

"It's the primary and largest event of its kind at UC Davis," Jones said. "A great number of people can come together and swap ideas. It's also a great opportunity to observe how other faculty teach."

For a full agenda of the week's events, locations, and to sign up for the program, please visit SITT at For more information, contact the Teaching Resource Center at or 752-6050.