Project:  Prismatic Perception
Project web site:
Team members:  Carol Panaccione, Debra Lilli, Sue Apshaga and Judeth Crowley
The Community College of Rhode Island's project is entitled Prismatic Perception. Originally, its primary objective was to set up a web-based module, entitled Mona Lisa, that would be student-targeted and both faculty- and student-generated. The main idea was to initiate, in the first phase, a series of interdisciplinary contributions to the website by faculty members. The second phase would then use that material as the basis for a team-taught web-based, interdisciplinary course, what hopefully would serve as the inception for a Humanities Division at CCRI. This was our original goal nearly a year and a half ago, and we have accomplished a good deal of this goal thus far.

The "Prismatic Perceptions" team is well on its way of achieving its goal of creating an interdisciplinary web-based humanities learning environment. Phase I (January 2000 - December 2000) of the project was supported by the Community College Humanities Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Phase II (July 2000 - June 2001) is currently being funded by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education's Incentive Fund for Excellence in Technology.

During the summer of 2000 we went on to apply for and receive grant money from the Rhode Island Board of Governors so that we were able to establish a Prismatic fellowship program in the fall of 2000. We had four fellows from four different departments---library science, philosophy, music and psychology. Over the course of the semester we, the core team, worked on a regular basis with the four fellows, helping each of them create a homepage as well as an essay relating their particular field of study to the period represented by Da Vinci and the Mona Lisa. Aside from weekly meetings, we were in touch with each other by way of a Listserv (

During the first five or so weeks we met regularly with Linda Beith, the college's newly hired instructional technologist. She taught us how to use FrontPage, how to set up a homepage and how to use various technologies that CCRI has recently acquired. During the last two thirds of the semester, we encouraged the fellows to collaborate so that they might discover connections between their individual areas of concentration. By December 2000, it was clear the fellows had learned a great deal about collaboration and the use of technology in the classroom and had shown that the Mona Lisa site could be used to interconnect disciplines.

However, the core team recognized at this time the need to stop, assess, and refocus our efforts in a new direction, a direction that would still build on the Mona Lisa web module, although along slightly different lines. This new direction in our thinking resulted in the creation of an interdisciplinary, team-taught humanities course that could serve as a model for technology-embraced humanities curricula. Over the course of the spring semester 2001, we have met regularly, at least once a week, to discuss the pilot course we are teaching in the fall-- Man and the Machine: Bridging Humanities and Technology. Its objectives are succinctly listed in a handout we are distributing to interested students. We have met with both Dean Judeth Crowley and President Sepe to discuss our plans and both are very enthusiastic and supportive. We are hopeful that this initiative will serve as a paradigm to encourage other CCRI faculty to team-teach interdisciplinary courses and thus promote student collaboration and integrate instructional technology supportive of in-class learning and independent thinking.

Here is a summary of the latest events since January 2000:

January - May 2000, Development of "Prismatic Perception Humanities" concept.
May 2000, Presentation at the CCRI Technology Conference.
The core team presented the "Prismatic Perceptions" humanities project at CCRI's first technology conference held at the College.

May 2000, "Practical Applications of Educational Technology" conference and site visit
Dr. Charles Evans and Robert Brown, Northern Virginia Community College, were invited to discuss the project "Advancing the Humanities through Technology at Community Colleges" project. The "Dogwood" concept was also introduced as a model of a technology-embraced approach to humanities. The "Prismatic Perceptions" concept was again introduced to the faculty/administrators at the conference. The core team met and discussed at length our project goals with by Dr. Arnold Bradford (Northern Virginia Community College). The team also met with President Liston and toured the college's technical support facilities.

June 2000, Application for Grant
The core team applied for funding for the "implementation" phase of our project through the Incentive Fund for Excellence in Technology. Dr. Julie White, Director of Institutional Advancement, assisted us with the grant-writing process.

July 2000, Notification of Grant Award
We were notified that our proposal had been chosen. We were awarded $32,000 from the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education to support Phase II of this project. The Rhode Island Board of Governors chose this project for they stated, "this program appears to have the potential for increasing student interest and performance in the humanities. It also will foster further collaboration with Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island by using the Prismatic Perceptions platform.

August 2000, Selection of Fellows
The core team selected four faculty fellows to work on the project during the Fall 2000 semester to develop content for the first web module to be housed on the Prismatic Perceptions site. These faculty members met weekly with the core team members and with our Instructional Technologist in order to learn about the software/hardware now available in our "Faculty Computer Resource Lab".

September 27, 2000, Meeting with President Sepe
We met with President Sepe to discuss the Prismatic Perception Humanities Project. Those in attendance included Dean Judeth A. Crowley, (team administrator), Susan Apshaga, Susan Brown, Debra Lilli and Carol Panaccione (core team members), Anthony DiRuzzo (Chair, Foreign Language Department), William Hatfield (Chair, English Department) and the four fellows (Doris A. Swenson, Chair, Music Department; Denise Turgeon, Psychology; Paul Leclerc, Philosophy; Robin Medeiros; English, Library Resources). We discussed the impact of this project on future curriculum development. We also informed the President that this project is connecting ten departments over the College's three main campuses and is serving as the prototype for a technology-embraced approach to humanities.

October 6, 2000, Presentation of the project to the CCRI Foundation

December 14, 2000, Meeting with the four fellows
Meeting with Paul Leclerc, Susie Swenson, Denise Turgeon and Robin Medeiros, who represented the disciplines of philosophy, music, psychology and library science, and the core team to discuss content development. They discussed their experience of creating four separate though potentially interrelated essays that are currently being housed on the Mona Lisa web site, our first area of interdisciplinary study.

January 2001 - March 2001
The core team is building the foundation for a web-based, team-taught interdisciplinary course to be offered as a pilot in September 2001. The core team is meeting regularly on Friday afternoons to develop such a course.

Student involvement in this project has been essential since the project's inception. . We are seeking their input in the design component of the Prismatic Perceptions site, as the goal of this project is to allow students to perceive their studies holistically. This project is well on its way of promoting a new direction in humanities at the Community College of Rhode Island - one promoting collaboration among students and faculty and integrating instructional technology to support in-class learning and independent thinking. We are excited about the opportunity to create a collaborative learning and teaching environment, and we are hopeful that the model we eventually construct will serve as a paradigm for future faculty members interested in setting up a web-based, team-taught interdisciplinary course.

Lessons learned
Perhaps the most important lesson we learned from our mentoring relationship with Dr. Arnold Bradford was the crucial importance of both financial and administrative support for the development of faculty projects. We also learned the following from developing and implementing the project:

  • need for more tech support,
  • need for more dedicated hardware for the continuation of our project,
  • realization that projects need time to evolve,
  • collaboration is a learned skill/art for both faculty and students,
  • ongoing communication among the members of the core team and relationship with fellows and other key players is paramount,
  • project management must be equally shared by all team members.
Carol Panaccione and Debra Lilli,
Community College of Rhode Island

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