GREENVILLE, SC – September 12, 2008 – Because Furman University history professor Lloyd Benson managed to take his students on a guided tour of Boston and New York City without them ever leaving the classroom, the university is among a select group of colleges and universities to be honored with a 2008 Campus Technology Innovator award.
Furman is one of 14 schools nationwide to receive the award from Campus Technology magazine. The winners were selected from 275 nominations from across the country.
Benson was teaching his Urban History class at Furman in the spring of 2007 when he was scheduled to attend academic conferences in Boston and New York. Since the class had been studying the history of those two cities, Benson decided to give his students back at Furman a virtual walking tour while he was there.
Armed with universally available technologies, including GPS, a digital camera, Google Maps and a cell phone, Benson transmitted images back to the classroom and talked about the places he was visiting. As he walked through each city, images of his current location would be uploaded and would mark his location on a Google Earth map. He even let the students decide what they wanted to see next on the tour. And, with the help of Furman’s Computing and Information Services and Center for Teaching & Engaged Learning, he did it all on a $1,000 budget.
“The students really enjoyed it,” said Benson, the Walter Kenneth Mattison Professor of History at Furman. “It was really valuable for them to see some of the historical areas we had been talking about, while developing a more accurate sense of their space and scale. It was a fun way to enhance what they had learned in class.”
Benson said he toured the area from Faneuil Hall to the Boston Common while visiting Boston and the City Hall Park and Lower East Side areas while in New York.
In announcing this year’s 14 Campus Technology Innovators, Campus Technology editor Katherine Grayson singled out Furman as one of two of two schools who best exemplified “an instructor’s use of technology to bridge the ‘human’ distance between student and teacher.” She wrote that Benson had “foregone the classic history slide show in favor of traipsing through historical sites around the country with his students electronically in tow.”
Benson will teach his Urban History class again this fall, and said he plans to provide his students with more virtual walking tours, this time of New Orleans and Louisville, Ky.