Chair of Marymount’s Literature & Languages Department wins Excellence in Instructional Technology Award

Dr. Tonya Howe, Professor of Literature at Marymount University and Chair of the Department of Literature & Languages, has received the 2019 H. Hiter Harris III Excellence in Instructional Technology Award from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).

She will be presented this award, which carries a $2,500 monetary prize, at a luncheon recognition ceremony on Nov. 7 in Richmond, Va. The funding will support Dr. Howe’s research and professional development to continue her efforts in the years to come.

Every year, each VFIC member college is invited to nominate one outstanding faculty or staff member for this award.

“Dr. Howe was nominated because she has worked actively to incorporate the use of technology through innovative ways in the undergraduate educational experience at Marymount,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.

Examples of these efforts with her students include assessing and intervening in the information economy of online databases, constructing informational websites or analytical videos, creating public domain audiobooks and working together to make literary texts machine-readable.

“She is an innovative leader in integrating ‘technological consciousness’ into her pedagogy,” added Dr. Hesham El-Rewini, Provost at Marymount University. “She is committed both to creating open resources and tools to keep our literary heritage accessible to all and to embedding technology into every course she teaches with the goal of empowering her students.”

In 2017, Dr. Howe was awarded a Digital Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support “Literature in Context,” an open-access database providing reliable, annotated student editions of key literary texts in English from 1660 to 1830. It consists of material that is frequently taught in college classes and part of our shared cultural heritage.

Focusing on online public scholarship, her students work together to add new items to the collection, transcribing from early editions, acquiring page images from the material text, researching the literature and its context and annotating those texts in a dynamic multimedia fashion.

“By physically engaging students in the production of accessible, public knowledge, such projects enable young writers to begin to see themselves as having a role to play in ongoing conversations about literature, access and power,” Dr. Howe said.

In Dr. Howe’s upper-level literature classes, students have also embraced technology through digital projects such as creating Wikipedia pages focused on women’s writing. They explore the logic behind how Wikipedia generates public knowledge and the biases that are reflected through content and user demographics.

“The small number of female editors who do contribute to Wikipedia make fewer edits, and women of color are even more underrepresented,” Dr. Howe explained. “Because the essays populating Wikipedia represent the values and interests of their writers, it is unsurprising that those about women are less visible or that they are written in ways that bring to light the hidden systems of misogyny. It is essential that more women and people of color contribute to ensure adequate representation of the full range and history of the human experience.”