Spring 2007 Vol. V, No. 3
Technology @ AUB: New Horizons in Education
To Google or to Moodle
Even though AUBwlan (the AUB wireless network) was only
established in May 2005, it already provides wireless internet access
to more than 2,800 students. AUBwlan enables students to take their computers
from the Green Oval to an English class or a chemistry lab and then later
log on to social networking interfaces and websites that have become widespread
on campus. And almost everyone on campus has heard of Facebookeven
those who have not joined it yet.
Maysam Ali (BA 07)
Facebook, which is an on-line interface where people from
around the world can meet and exchange messages, pictures, and other material,
has over 600 registered AUB students, including alumni and staff. The
AUB community on Facebook is growing every day, and clubs and societies
are using it as a means of communication. The 2007 Outdoors team, the
Student Representative Committees, AUB athletes, and other societies and
groups regularly announce their activities and news on Facebook.
While not all students have their own blogs, most of them are familiar
with MySpace (a website for social networking), YouTube (a website where
people share videos), and MSN chatting. Omar Chatah, a political studies
senior, told MainGate: I use my cell phone; I use skype [that allows
you to use your computer to call any phone number anywhere in the world]
primarily to call outside the country, and my ipod for entertainment and
data storage. Chatah created a blog during the war last summer to
express his opinions and thoughts. As for YouTube, students seem to be
enthusiastic about the new video-sharing interface.
Ramsey Nasser, a computer science major, said, The stuff youll
find never ceases to amaze me. Everything from Captain Majid from childhood,
to Lebanese political commercials, to S. L. Chi episodes. Its all
there. (Captain Majid is an animation series that became a part
of Lebanese heritage, and S.L. Chi is a 1990s Lebanese political and social
Inside the classroom
The recently renovated classrooms in Nicely Hall offer sufficient Wifi
(wireless) coverage so that all students can bring their laptops to class
if they want to do so. This is convenient because an increasing number
of students use laptops on campus. Political studies senior Nour Malas
said, I use the internet obsessively. . . I rely heavily on my laptop
for getting all of my academic work done; it also comes in handy for taking
notes in class, and in doing research anytime and anywheresince
wireless internet is available on campus. Ramsey Nasser uses a tablet
PCa laptop that can act as a notepadin class to take notes.
You can rotate the screen and rest it on the keyboard, allowing the user
to write. The benefits are limitless. Unrestricted page length,
automatic saving and sorting of all your notes, search features, importing
of slides and PDFs to take notes on, and so on, said Nasser.
Nasser is currently setting up his own blog: It will be a repository
for all of my programming projects and a place to publish articles on
different issues, mainly technology. Its important for someone like
me who would like to work in this industry professionally to have some
kind of presence on the web, Nasser added.
The Facilities and Planning Design Unit (FPDU) Project Manager Hisham
Ramadan said that all classrooms in Nicely Hall will eventually be renovated.
So far, there are five prototype classrooms and it is already pretty clear
that the traditional chalkboard will be eventually phased out completely.
In its place in one of the smart classrooms in Nicely Hall is an interactive
board, which can be connected to the professors laptop. The
projector provides the visuals on the board, and a pen or the persons
finger acts as a mouse or a writing tool, said Ramadan. This technology,
however, is still quite new and has not yet been used by AUB professors.
Technology as means for cultural exchange
Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International
Affairs Rami Khouri is giving a course entitled Media and Politics, which
consists of class discussions on topics related to media perceptions and
impact within the context of US-Arab relations, the Arab-Israeli conflict,
and such issues as colonialism,
imperialism, and double standards. Web conferencing sessions
with AUB students and students from 18 universities in the United States,
Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Gulf complement
Using Soliyas Connect Program, an initiative that facilitates on-line
exchanges between students in the United States and predominantly Muslim
countries in the Middle East, students communicate through web conferencing
and post articles, video footage, and lectures. Its a way
to allow them to interact personally through honest discussions and joint
projects. You get to see how different students in different cultures
shape the same material, to learn what they share, and what separates
them, says Khouri.
Last year, when Khouri taught the same course it consisted of a weekly,
hour-long video-conferencing session with students from the University
of Delaware in the Untied States, in addition to class discussions on
the same contemporary topics. Referring to the new technology he is using
this year, Khouri said, Its much more personal. That is one
of the strengths. There is also an element in the class that provides
extra means for the students to interact with students of the same age
from Norway, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, and the United States. They talk
about issues of political and social concern to them in a way that allows
them to develop friendships. It supplements what we do in class. The combination
is very enriching.
Nour Malas, who is enrolled in this course, said, The course is
a great way to connect students around the world, in a structured and
constructive conversation. According to Malas, it does not require
much knowledge or technical skill, but rather clarity of thought
and speech and patience with technology, which is frequently problematic.
First step in the journey of a thousand miles:Technology as a knowledge
Professor Roman Kulchitsky from the Political Studies and Public Administration
Department said that technology should be used in innovative ways to make
teaching more effective. I use [digital] technology to do things
I cant do with paper technology. Kulchitsky aims through his
efforts to go beyond knowledge management to knowledge
Kulchitsky, whose classes include a large IT component, uses hypertext
as a teaching tool in graduate and undergraduate courses that explore
the impact of new technologies on public policy and administration. He
explained that information in hypertext can be read in a flexible way,
which allows readers to capture more ideas in a combined process of reading
and writing. It introduces a whole new way of thinking and reading:
new ideas arise; text acquires a new meaning; the reader can identify
contradictions and links, Kulchitsky said. IT is in contrast to
the traditional book structure, which is fixed.
The major problem with the new technology is that it is costly, and it
requires much time and effort. Kulchitsky said that the communication
networks cost is high, as connecting with other universities is
very difficult; the speed of the internet connection in Lebanon is not
always adequate; and PSPA faculty do not have easy access to labs in the
faculty. Teaching [here] is based on a mindset which was created
through the use of paper technology. Thats a problem and a challenge.
In addition, the professors have to learn the technology and deal with
a tremendous amount of red tape.
The cost is not only high in terms of accessibility, but also in terms
of incentive for the professors. Unless you have a research angle,
it wont be very beneficial for academics [at AUB]. Theres
not enough incentive for scholars [at AUB to use technologies in innovative
ways]. The first time AUB students were introduced to video-conferencing
in class was when Kulchitsky gave a course in fall 2005 entitled Multiple
Perspectives on US Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Kulchitsky led a
team of AUB professors, including President John Waterbury, in a series
of lectures on different topics related to the Middle East. He said that
it required a tremendous amount of time and effort to make the class work
and because of this and a lack of resources, the class was not offered
At AUB, if theres a will theres a way, said Kulchitsky,
and he highlighted the instrumental role that Computing and Networking
Services, the Academic Computing Center, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal
Bin Abdulaziz Al Saoud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR),
and Jafet Library played in making the video-conferencing class a success.
Students discuss American Zionism and sexuality in the Middle East
CASAR Professor Marcy Newman said she uses Moodles discussion forum
to encourage dialogue among students. Students have a lot to say,
especially on hot topics like sexual identity in the Middle East and American
Zionism, so they use the discussion forums on-line.
Although Newman used blogs when she taught at universities in the United
States, at AUB she prefers to use Moodle because it provides a safe environment
that is not found on the internet. The classroom is a safe space
no matter what the students believe. If they express their opinions publicly
[on a blog], it would make them vulnerable, so a closed space like Moodle
Tamara Keblaoui, a business junior who is taking the class said, The
technology-centered nature of our class has made the class more appealing
and fun. Newman constantly updates the page with articles, maps, art,
and sometimes even music relevant to class content. Students can also
contribute, so were not just interacting through writing.
Keblaouis colleagues Yasmine Nsouli and Nadine Kotob agree that
discussions on-line are intenseheated and interesting. Students
feel very strongly about the course material, and I think thats
why I love Moodle this semester, Kotob told MainGate.
Judging by the way that on-line networking and communication is booming,
it is pretty clear that student use of technology is only going to grow
on campus and lead to increased contact between AUB students and students
abroad. For both students and professors on campus, chatting and web conferencing
provide an accessible medium through which they can create new forums
of interaction, advertise on-campus activities, and expand course offerings.
By encouraging a global perspective, these new technological tools enrich
minds and increase tolerance as users exchange thoughts and viewpoints
with students from around the world.
adopted from Wikipedia
A user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed
in a reverse chronological order.
A social networking website that has become particularly popular among
college and university students.
A popular free video sharing website which lets users upload, view, and
share video clips.
The wireless local area network installed at AUB
An open-source software e-learning platform that is used by an increasing
number of professors at AUB instead of the proprietary WebCT.
A social networking website that offers an interactive, user-submitted
network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and
A peer-to-peer internet telephony network. Its many features include free
voice and video conferencing and the ability to use peer-to-peer (decentralized)
technology to overcome common firewall and NAT (network address translation)