Technology Assistants Program Links Professors and Students

Posted: February 23, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

The Technology Assistants Program (TAP), an experiential learning program designed to provide undergraduate students with technology skills needed to assist faculty members and academic departments across George Mason, has proved beneficial for both students and their faculty mentors.

Begun in 1999 as a joint initiative of the Division of Instructional and Technology Support Services, New Century College, and the College of Arts and Sciences, TAP has as its driving principle teaching students so they are more fully prepared to enter a workplace environment.

“We want to provide students with opportunities for hands-on technology learning while supporting faculty who need assistance with instructional technology projects. Students receive training and experience while they earn 3 credits for their work,” says Allison O’Connor, TAP program administrator.

Kenneth Thompson, assistant professor of English, has participated in the TAP multiple times since 2001. In his latest TAP project, he worked with student Sara Kistler, a junior psychology major, who served as a mentor for English 209, Enhanced Digital Texts.

As part of her duties, Kistler oversaw three sections of English 209, each composed of students from freshmen to seniors. She assisted students with the basic skills necessary to build a web page, including how to load images, set permissions, streamline the navigation of their web sites, and use color. Kistler says, “When I started the program, I never imagined how rewarding the whole experience would be. I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to if I work hard.”

Paula Petrik, professor of history, also found her experience with TAP rewarding. Her TAP student helped with the graduate course, History 697, Creating History in New Media. Petrik says, “She was able to help those who were having difficulty with basic or even more advanced problems on a one-to-one basis. Knowing that I had solid technical support allowed me to include more advanced topics in the course. I also think that the experience helped the TAP assistant explore different topics and get to know a different clientele. From my perspective, this is one of the most valuable programs at the university.”

Shakoya Hicks, an information technology major, participated in TAP in lieu of taking Information Technology 103, a general education requirement. “The project [I worked on] was the same duration as a typical course, but I was able to work at my convenience,” says Hicks. Hicks would meet with her faculty advisor, Joan Wray, and her TAP instructor, Allison O’Connor, once a week for an hour to discuss her progress and assignments. Her work consisted of developing a web site, a handbook, a manual, and an online journal.

Students who participate in TAP receive 45 hours of technical training, project management, time management, and customer service instruction and complete 90 hours on an assigned project. To participate, students must have completed at least 30 credit hours, have a GPA of at least 2.5, be able to use an Internet browser, and possess keyboarding, data entry, and word processing skills.

Based on their skills, students are matched up to faculty members who have requested assistance with a technology project. TAP is open to all faculty members willing to learn the necessary technological skills needed to participate fully with the assigned student. Faculty members who are interested in taking part in TAP are encouraged to apply and submit proposals for projects, O’Connor says. The deadline for the fall semester is mid-April.

More information is available at the program’s web site.

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