Sept. 20, 1996

Hoopes' archaeology class digs into computer technology

By Mary Jane Dunlap

A cartoon emerges in the mind's eye of KU archaeologist John Hoopes when he contemplates using computer technology to teach how early humans created stone tools.

He envisions two cave men seated at a personal computer connected to the Internet. One has his hand on the computer mouse, staring intently at the screen, while the other, gesturing with a rock, said, "Try clicking on `obsidian.'"

About 180 students in Hoopes Introduction to Archaeology course may enact a similar scene this semester. Hoopes has created an experimental World Wide Web resource page to teach the course, ANTHRO 110 or 310. He has culled resources from his own notes and from archaeologists around the world for the resource pages.

Students access the course syllabus that prompts them to access more information for each session with a click of the mouse. Hoopes has included slides, videos and the capability to animate three-dimensional images. An Australian colleague gave Hoopes permission to include a video on stoneworking. Hoopes hopes to add three-dimensional models of ancient cities.

"Learning to use computer networks is absolutely critical as a learning and life skill - for freshmen it is learning the wave of the future," Hoopes said of his experimental effort.

A first for KU's anthropology department, the on-line archaeology class is one of several courses using the Internet. Hoopes developed the Web site with a grant from KU's Office of Academic Affairs to improve undergraduate teaching.

"Most new freshmen don't know how to use the Internet. I am trying to open their eyes to the enormous universe of possibilities," Hoopes said.

His own Internet epiphany came last year while studying in Costa Rica on a Fulbright fellowship. Thousands of miles from his family, his KU colleagues and other archaeologists, Hoopes found he could "talk" daily by plugging in his laptop computer at the University of Costa Rica.

Eventually, computers will be as commonplace as telephones in our homes, Hoopes said. "The telephone had resistance in our grandparents' day. Today we take the phone for granted."

Hoopes believes Internet courses offer great potential in higher education, particularly for students or alumni whose work schedules or commuting distances prevent them from taking classes. Computer technology will soon allow lectures to be delivered by Internet. Soon virtual-reality systems will allow Hoopes' students to manipulate a photograph of an ancient pot, for example, to view it from all sides, turn it upside down or spin it around.

Internet courses have limitations. "You cannot recreate the dynamic classroom on computer," he cautions. His experimental course is designed for students able to attend his lectures three days a week and discussion groups conducted by two teaching assistants.

Yet within 30 days of putting the course on line, Hoopes had queries from London, Paris and western Australia from people wanting to enroll in the course. Students must be on campus to enroll, however. KU should find a way to offer college credit and charge tuition for Internet courses, he said. Hoopes expects e-mail to encourage more student-professor dialogue. He lists his e-mail address at the end of each Web- site page and invites students to respond. Hoopes set up an e-mail bulletin board, ARCHAEO-L, to allow class members to "talk" with him and each other.

Hoopes asks his students to set up e-mail accounts and encourages them to learn to create their own Internet pages. About a third of KU students own computers and have modem connections to allow them to use e-mail and the Internet. Students have access to computer labs in KU's Computing Services Facility and in schools and departments in several campus locations.

After evaluating students' use of the Internet resource page for the course, Hoopes will determine if he will offer a similar course next year.

The Web page address is http: //

Back to KU University Relations' Home Page | KU News | Sept. 20 Oread
This site is maintained by University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1996, the University of Kansas Office of University Relations. Images and information may be reused with notice of copyright, but not altered., (785) 864-8858.