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WHAT CAME AFTER THE 500 POUND A/V CART?

WHAT CAME AFTER THE 500 POUND A/V CART?

After reading my first installment one might ask:  “What came next?”

Well my next effort was to make one classroom my A/V classroom.  Also a loser…but try I did.

My first effort was in the in the old Nursing Lecture Hall.  I added a couple of big screen Televisions that had been abandoned by the original owners.  So I wrestled them into the bottom of the lecture hall (which was sloped upward) and connected them to the VCR, Laser Disk and PC’s/MAC.  Of course this was a great start…but then I needed remote control of the various A/V equipment.  This is all be digital and many of you were not even in grade school at the time.

So then I have the two big-screens (rear-projection) hooked to the A/V units and kind of remotely controlled.  Now we are ready to use the various A/V software packages for the equipment.  Now the students could have access to all notes from the screens w/o becoming stenographers.  Having control over the note-taking process was especially helpful in BSA 232 the Introduction to Business Statistics class.  Nationally the failure rate for the introductory statistics class runs about 50-60%.  I was convinced I could do better.  So I started by collecting the notes from the students-shocker they were not writing down in their notes what I wrote on the board!!!  So first thing to do was to have all the notes available digitally-so they got the notation, formula and the rest written done correctly!   That change allowed the students to become much more successful.  Failure rate dropped from 60% to 35%!!!

Next I went to a Computer-Aided-Learning –System for their homework & Quizzes.  This was an interactive system that allowed the students to get hints and to get more than just an answer when they were stumped.  The software put in place a process for solving the problems and a way to check each step (in the hint function).  This software pre-dated what we currently use in the Math Department (This started in Fall 1990) and was a great first software (HAWKES LEARNING SYSTEMS see-http://www.hawkeslearning.com/Support/Downloads.htm).  Next change was to put all the notes and power point slides in the Computer Lab and allow access by all the students.

So inch by inch we were putting in place a series of digital learning technologies that gave students more and more control over their learning pace & methodology.  I completely believe that when a student really comes to KNOW that they are in charge of their own success they change their work ethic and their performance improve.  My teaching/learning strategy is break the course into three distinct components:  vocabulary, mechanics and last & most importantly CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE.  The first two parts are CONTENT specific and lean on memory and rote learning.  The third part is the most intellectually demanding and depends on the higher order strategies of the brain.  That is the third component is all about Socratic methodologies while the first two lean more heavily on rote memory.  BUT for true learning to take place ALL THREE must occur!  I have tried to use technology to make the first two much more accessible via technology-so there is more time to focus on the third Socratic step.

At any rate that is the plan I have been trying to implement fully since 1990.  I am about half-way there!   My message to my fellow teachers is:  NEVER QUIT-NEVER GIVE-UP!!!

WHY I PUSHED MY 500 POUND TECHNOLOGY-CART AROUND FOR YEARS & WHY IS MY OFFICE LITTERED WITH OLD TECHNOLOGY?

OLDTECH

This is my 26th Fall Semester at Yavapai College and just this morning my TELS buddy Todd stopped by the office to get me set-up on WORDPRESS (to do the 9x9x25 blog) and he innocently asked: “Why do you have three; no four old TV’s in here?”  That, as they say, is quite a story…

WHY I PUSHED MY 500 POUND TECHNOLOGY-CART AROUND FOR YEARS & WHY IS MY OFFICE LITTERED WITH OLD TECHNOLOGY?

In a Yavapai College long, long ago and not far, far away I used to push my technology cart-everyday & all day.  Literally!  I had a cart, a rolling cabinet really.  It weighed about 500 pounds (fully loaded) and it was a bit of joke among my colleagues. Even with the best PC available, a Video Tape Recording Camera, a VCR (a dual deck Go-Video Player/Recorder) several TV’s and (yes) a LASER DISK PLAYER (if you are my age you may just recall what a Laser Video Disk Player looked like and how BIG the disks were) and all the supporting media-it was quite a sight.

In the BUC$ Division (Business Computer Science Division->which no longer exists-but I am still here-My God what a sad insight about longevity) my fellow instructors (that was our title back then) all had a good laugh at my expense-some more openly than others but I was the butt of many jokes and much laughter.  When asked why I was doing this-my answer was simple:  “For my students.”

I had surveyed my students and found that the number one reason they dropped a class was that they missed classes and if they missed more than one or two they could not earn the grade they wished to earn.  So I decided that I would make the lecture content available in a 24/7 format.  I started with VHS tapes of Lectures, coupled with transcriptions of the lectures (I used to ask if anyone would word-process the lectures if I tape-recorded them and usually someone would) so I began to build a library of Video Lectures coupled with Lecture Transcripts.  My students, especially those from FAR AWAY locations like Ash Fork, Seligman, Black Canyon City and even Mayer started to take advantage of this technology and I started to see my “job” in a different light.

If I was really going to be a “Priest in the Church of Reason”  (Robert Pirsig’s description of the good College Professor) I had to make the content available 24/7 365->it was my job to get the content to them!  Many of my Colleagues laughed out loud at that sentiment on my part.  One of my fellow instructors said (in a very derisive tone) “The least the students can do is get to class!”  I didn’t see it that way.

I was armed with data from surveys I had done asking why people dropped BSA classes.  The results stunned me.  The most statistically significant predictor of a student dropping a class was (insert drum roll here) having more than 3 children!  Not the class or the time it was offered or even the EXCELLENCE of the INSTRUCTOR!!!  IT WAS ABOUT THE STUDENT-NOT THE TEACHER!!!!!

Imagine my Shock when I asked my students if this could possibly be correct and they said “YES”.  My adult students with families (about 70% of my night student clientele) lectured me about what it was like to have kids in football, track, soccer, band and drama and then on top of working 40×52 they had to get those kids to their school and then get them to their Soccer, Swimming, V V or whatever and then finally get to YC by 6:45 for class.  If one kid got sick-they could manage it-but when 2 were ill they were at the wall and GOD FOREBID-if the third one was hit with the flu, MMR or whatever it was Katie Bar the door.

So I stacked all the technology I could get my hands on and pushed my cart up the inclined walk ways that used to litter our campus (in clear violation of current ADA) and like Sisyphus I trudged on towards some kind of justice/salvation-until the ITS and eventually the TELS came to my rescue.

Needless to say (so don’t say it) I loved BB, Tegrity and the Technologically Enhanced Class Rooms when they finally arrived-I loved them from day one & even with the switch to CANVAS, CONNECT and the other changes it still beats the hell out of pushing my cart.

But after all these years I still have the unwanted TV’s in my office-I guess as a reminder of how good we have it now!!  Occasionally I run into an old student who will tell me that w/o the VHS lectures &/or the transcripts->they would have never finished Statistics or Quantitative Methods or Management or whatever course.  It is always wonderful to hear a former student say that YOU helped them achieve their goals.

Aside from the obvious laugh value of me trudging across campus, pushing the 500-pound technology cart up the (now illegally steep) walk-ways-what is the lesson here?  What can we learn about technology & teaching and student learning?

First I had done part of the right stuff.  I was looking for a pattern of evidence-I just didn’t get all the information that was actually there!I had done the analytical work to ask students why they drop a course.  This survey of BSA students was a great first step.  But it was purely quantitative in nature.  I failed to do an immediate follow-up of the obvious qualitative issues.  Even with the central statistically significant predictor of “more than three kids.  I lacked the context and application for what the statistical truth of the study was trying to tell me.  There is no way to keep four or more children perfectly healthy for 16 weeks-just not going to happen…so I had to develop a technological strategy that would make the content available 24/7.  Please recall this is WAY pre-Internet.  So for years I recorded by lectures on VHS and then eventually I burned those VHS Lecture to DVD’s and keep both in the library or sent copies via USPS mail to the students.

This worked great!  I had students who need to go Elk hunting to put food for their family on the table-miss two lectures-NO PROBLEM-> I’ll mail you the tapes.  Having a baby-no worries-I’ll mail you the tapes.  Fell at work and broke your ankle-don’t sweat it….I have the lectures for you right here!!!   When BB and Tegrity did these tasks automatically and INSTANTLY I was overjoyed and so were my students!

And that is the story of why 26 years ago folks used to see me pushing my technology cart across campus…

So if you ever see my old TV’s (in my Office) now you know the rest of the story.

You humble correspondent in better, fitter days:

TBEAR

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