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 Stories for May 6, 1998:

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Archaeology goes high-tech
Presidential Chair recipient Tringham develops multimedia models for teaching and research

by Steve Tollefson, Student Life-Educational Development
posted May. 6, 1998

Soon Berkeley undergraduates will be reconstructing Neolithic villages in Europe without ever leaving their desks, thanks to Ruth Tringham, professor of anthropology and recipient of the 1998 Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education.

The Presidential Chair is a three-year appointment to encourage new course development and to enhance the quality of already existing courses. It offers the opportunity and resources for designing new approaches to undergraduate teaching.

Tringham proposes to develop a series of anthropology courses, with a group of her colleagues, using multimedia technology. Through Tringham’s courses, students themselves will become authors in multimedia, creating not only Neolithic Villages, but also the characters who inhabit them. Students will write the prehistory and early history of the Berkeley campus, create a web that links clay figurines to “the Goddess,” and write a detective story involving the arson investigation of a prehistoric house fire.

Tringham plans to glean the wealth of anthropological archaeologists, as well as Berkeley archaeologists in fields such as classics, Near Eastern studies, and art history, to provide abundant data for such models.

“Multimedia technology provides a medium through which the complexities of archaeological practice – the variety of plausible prehistories that can be written from any database – can be grasped and appreciated,” Tringham says.

“This will give students a chance to do so much more than passively read books,” she said. “It will enable them to experience and participate in the virtual practice of archaeology.”

Initially, Tringham will develop multi-media authoring for three courses: “Archaeology of Architecture,” “European Prehistory” and “Multimedia Authoring for Archaeology.”

Tringham’s goal is to apply the material developed for these three courses not only in lower-division courses such as “Anthropology 2: Introduction to Archaeology,” but also in a new course, “The Poetics of time and Place: Viewpoints on Millennia,” with colleagues Margaret Conkey and Rosemary Joyce.

Other anthropology faculty will work on aspects of the project such as developing modules in their own areas of expertise.

“Professor Tringham will take the ‘bugs’ out of using the multimedia technology,” says Professor Kent Lightfoot, “so that even Neanderthal-level techno-sophisticates like me can take advantage of these new and exciting pedagogical practices.”

Stanley Brandes, chair of anthropology, says, “The field of archaeology is particularly well-suited to the use of new instructional technologies that promote the interactive nature of the learning process, that deploy visual and other multimedia modes of presentation and that promote critical thinking. This is the ideal time for this project to be realized.”

Tringham joined the faculty in 1979. She received MA and PhD degrees from the University of Edinburgh. Among her research specialties are European pre-history, Mediterranean archaeology, analysis of archaeological architecture and the feminist practice of archaeology.

Tringham was recognized at the campus’s annual Distinguished Teaching Award ceremony April 28.

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