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When the dean of your college says she doesn't know what the college did before you arrived, you know you've done something right.

And Thomas R. Allen Jr., assistant professor of political science and geography, continues to do things right. And in recognition for his efforts, he was recognized with Old Dominion's Instructional Technology Teaching Award.

Hired in at Old Dominion 1996, Allen has led the university's development of its remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) in physical geography program. This area of research and teaching is technologically driven. In fact, his primary research foci include techniques for integrating satellite remote sensing and GIS for landscape ecological mapping and land use/land cover change. He currently is working on several projects, such as investigating topographic normalization for improving Landsat digital imagery, location and modeling of vegetation boundaries in the Smoky Mountains, land cover and ecologic change on Virginia's Eastern Shore, and GIS applications to sustainable development.

Allen is a pilot participant in Microsoft Learning Technologies and is continuously developing online materials, not only for his own classes, but assisting other faculty members in creating theirs.

According to Chris Drake, one of Allen's colleagues, his use of technology in the classroom goes beyond the norm. "Instead of just using basic computer technology to replicate what previous techniques did, he now uses technology to teach using new methods and concepts not possible with previous technology," she said.

In her nomination of Allen, Drake also emphasized how he updates his lab materials every time new software is issued because he wants to provide students with real-world, and often local, applications.

Allen also uses technology to communicate with students and faculty. He maintains a list-server for student, alumni, faculty and staff communication, accepts paperless submissions of assignments, and uses networking systems for mounting class data and directories.

"Far from using instructional technology as a necessity or for a 'gee-whiz' factor, Dr. Allen applies 'appropriate technology' to meet almost all of his instructional objectives," Drake noted.

Allen earned his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995. An Old Dominion alumnus, he graduated magna cum laude in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in geography and a geology minor.

He also was a foreign exchange student to the University of the South Pacific in the Fiji Islands in 1989.

He currently is director of the Remote Sensing Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, and his articles have been published in leading journals in his field.

This article was posted on: May 31, 2001

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