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Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:11 AM

 

Professors at research universities prefer teaching with old-fashioned whiteboards

Professors at top research universities are highly skeptical of the value of the instructional technologies being injected into their classrooms, which many see as making their job harder and doing little to improve teaching and learning.

That's the conclusion of "Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate," published in the January edition of Science, Technology & Human Values....

Consider the opinions of two different chemists. "I went to (a course management software workshop) and came away with the idea that the greatest thing you could do with that is put your syllabus on the Web and that's an awful lot of technology to hand the students a piece of paper at the start of the semester and say keep track of it," said one. "What are the gains for students by bringing IT into the class? There isn't any. You could teach all of chemistry with a whiteboard. I really don't think you need IT or anything beyond a pencil and a paper," said another...

The professors...were technically sophisticated in their own fields but had no vested interest in the success of instructional technologies, which many felt were being imposed on them by the university administration with no regard for their preferences. "I've been very disturbed at the way this university has tried to ram these technologies down our throats," grumbled one anthropologist. "My belief is that we should have a wide range of choices for teaching technologies, but what goes on here is the higher administration has decided what's best for us in a very paternalistic fashion. I've become hardened in my resistance to these attempts to impose the adoption of technologies. And even though I once might have been more receptive to some of them, I'm now saying no, I'm not going to do it."

http://www.informationweek.com/education/instructional-it/classroom-technology-faces-skeptics-at-r/240148217

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Reply Professors at research universities prefer teaching with old-fashioned whiteboards (Original post)
HiPointDem Feb 2013 OP
bemildred Feb 2013 #1
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #2
alcibiades_mystery Feb 2013 #6
bemildred Feb 2013 #8
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #10
FarCenter Feb 2013 #12
HiPointDem Feb 2013 #16
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #19
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #22
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #24
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #30
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #37
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #43
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #54
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #59
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #60
FarCenter Feb 2013 #29
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #38
FarCenter Feb 2013 #42
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #45
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #53
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #41
FarCenter Feb 2013 #47
Ed Suspicious Feb 2013 #58
Ed Suspicious Feb 2013 #57
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #51
redstatebluegirl Feb 2013 #52
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #63
bemildred Feb 2013 #68
exboyfil Feb 2013 #3
bemildred Feb 2013 #5
Blue_Tires Feb 2013 #61
bemildred Feb 2013 #67
hunter Feb 2013 #13
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #56
Ed Suspicious Feb 2013 #64
life long demo Feb 2013 #4
LisaLynne Feb 2013 #7
whistler162 Feb 2013 #21
d_r Feb 2013 #33
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #28
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #9
duffyduff Feb 2013 #14
alp227 Feb 2013 #18
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #46
Ed Suspicious Feb 2013 #65
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #62
exboyfil Feb 2013 #17
jpak Feb 2013 #35
mainer Feb 2013 #11
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #48
Coyotl Feb 2013 #15
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #49
Lydia Leftcoast Feb 2013 #20
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #25
LWolf Feb 2013 #23
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #26
backscatter712 Feb 2013 #31
LWolf Feb 2013 #34
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #36
eppur_se_muova Feb 2013 #50
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #55
Deep13 Feb 2013 #27
d_r Feb 2013 #32
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #39
d_r Feb 2013 #70
GiaGiovanni Feb 2013 #72
tammywammy Feb 2013 #69
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2013 #40
Viking12 Feb 2013 #71
treestar Feb 2013 #44
kwassa Feb 2013 #66
greymattermom Feb 2013 #73

Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:21 AM

1. Hey! Mr. Professor, outsourcing is coming, they are going to outsource you.

It's called "distance learning".

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)


Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:49 AM

6. "Distance learning," in one manner or another, has been the university initiative since the 1950's

And every time it comes up and in every form, it's always going to end the university and make professors unnecessary.

For the next two to five years, the correct term for replaying this silly and repetitive anxiety will be "MOOC," or "Massive Open Online Course." It's the only solution to the particular economics of the contemporary university, said today's MOOC spokesperson (and the guy pushing closed circuit television lectures in 1957)...

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Response to alcibiades_mystery (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 09:10 AM

8. There is nothing wrong with distance learning, as such.

Or MOOC either, anymore than international trade or outsourcing. The problem is that such things can be exploited in pursuit of other agendas than academic excellence or superior education.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:15 AM

10. This new technology is going to radically alter education beyond recognition ...

That's what they said when motion pictures were introduced.

That's what they said when phonographs were introduced.

That's what they said when audio tape was introduced.

That's what they said when video tape was introduced.

...

You get the idea.

All those things were introduced to the classroom. They, or their successors, are still around. Classrooms have absorbed them and evolved as surely as China has absorbed all its outside "conquerers". All remain adjuncts to mainstream classroom instruction. Expect the trend to continue.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #10)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:46 AM

12. Cost of reproduction and the shift to learning, rather than teaching, will change education

Digital media are far cheaper to produce than the analog media of the past. I was involved once in producing 15 minute film for educational purposes, and IIRC, it cost about $30,000 in 1970s dollars (equivalent to well over $200K now). With digital video cameras, computer editing, and computer graphics, this could be done for a small percentage of the time and cost.

Once made, a 15 minute video can be distributed for essentaily nothing, rather than making and shipping expensive film copies.

With a cheap laptop or tablet and an intenet access, any talented, self-disciplined, and motivated kid anywhere on earth can access educational materials and learn almost anything they want. The result is a hugely expanding high-skilled, low-cost workforce. Students saddled with huge educational debts will be unable to compete.

The future belongs to those who can learn, not those who must be taught.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 02:54 PM

16. "shift to learning v teaching" = baloney. shift to corporate control of all education & information

 

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:07 PM

19. Far Center: the DIY education strategy works well for simple, discrete skills, not for deep learning

 

A 15-minute video is great for particular points of interest. I can learn how to remove wallpaper from a wall, how to change my oil, how to solve a particular type of mixture problem in algebra (provided the video is well produced), etc. These are the same kinds of skills that one can pick up from a book, although video examples can be more lively and helpful.

It is far more difficult, however, to learn how to write a good research paper, a good essay, a good paragraph. These skills require lots of interaction from an instructor or tutor. If I want to learn how to play the violin, a 15-minute video (or even a series of them) will not substitute for weekly lessons with a classically trained violinist who can teach me proper technique over time. Foreign language learning can be aided by videos or interactive media, but eventually you need a native speaker to talk to and a teacher to take you through the finer points. And as for subjects like physics, you really need someone who can interact with you as you are learning the concepts and solving the problems.

In the end, videos and net info are good for small, discrete skills. The real learning at deeper levels requires live, interpersonal connection. My ideal is a hybrid: the small skills can be taught via computer, but the larger concepts and context are provided by a live person.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #19)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:34 PM

22. I had similar thoughts, but couldn't put it so succintly.

Education is still not a spectator sport. You must be the motive power in your own education, but you need a mentor to guide you in directions you would never have sought on your own. Hypertext, web media etc. is too unstructured to provide that sort of guidance.

Your last line sounds similar to something I posted earlier: these make nice adjuncts/assists to mainstream education, but do not replace it.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:55 PM

24. The vocation of teaching has been so devalued over the past 30 years that

 

we forget what it really is.

The Latin verb for "Teach" was ducere, which also meant to "lead, conduct, guide or direct"

Teaching is really about knowing your students and guiding them, pointing out the important concepts, guiding them through the crucial skills, watching them to see where and when they have difficulty, and almost reading their minds as they go through the process. While teaching is usually well planned, the actual process of teaching is improvisatory and interpersonal. A machine, video, online message board or exam cannot ever begin to come close to that.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #24)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:17 PM

30. Dang, you mean we can't blindly apply mass production methods and get good results ?

Who knew ?

Re exams: The worst exam questions are those in which wrong answers don't reveal anything about the student's thinking, particularly his misconceptions. No multiple-choice exam can ever do that, and fill-in-the blank questions aren't much better.

The worst situation for students is when instructors don't comment on why the answers are wrong. The worst situation for instructors is when students don't write out answers fully enough to show what they're thinking. So Scantrons ...

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #30)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:49 PM

37. Uh, no.

 

Teaching is labor intensive and you have to pay good people. Mass production methods are much cheaper.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #37)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:22 PM

43. No offense intended ...

I see you are new here, so let me introduce you to this "smiley" : which I might well have included with my post, but didn't.

A lot of us don't bother to use that, or just get out of the habit.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #43)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:18 PM

54. Oh..

 

Thanks! I haven't figured out the emoticons yet.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #54)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:29 PM

59. IF you have JavaScript turned on, just click on "smilies" when posting.

Then click on the smiley you want to use.



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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #59)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:31 PM

60. Thank you

 

I was looking for "emoticons" LOL!

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #19)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:16 PM

29. I can't recall physics or chemistry as being particularly interactive

Lecture halls for freshman and sophomore classes were 250 to 1000 seats. The interactive part was interacting with your classmates to work the problem sets. Interaction with the professor was essentially non-existent. Lab sessions were smaller, but they were not covering the material that was in the lectures, and they were taught by grad students.

Upperclass sections were smaller -- 25 to 50 students. They were not particularly interactive either. Professors moved through the material at whatever pace they saw fit. By then, the students had learned to fend for themselves.

On-line courses would have the advantage that you can actually see what is going on at the front of the lecture hall, you can actually read the material, and you might get a professor who speaks English intelligibly.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #29)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:59 PM

38. Actually, this a huge problem with universities now

 

Physics and chemistry classes should never be huge lecture classes. It's an insane way to teach what is important. Universities decided to save money by overloading these kinds of classes. They have recently decided to save even more money by allowing foreign grad assistants to teach these huge classes. (The administration loves using these cheap, exploited workers whom they would have to pay anyway to assist actual professors. They get more work out of them this way.)


Of course, if this is your experience, then you're learning on your own anyway, and to be paying outrageous amounts of student loan debt later in life for this travesty of education is just ludicrous. An online class would certainly be a much better option here. In fact, a good Schaum's outline a couple of hours a day could teach you what you need to know too. But this is no substitute for real teaching or what a real teacher can do for you. This is why a lot of young students go to community colleges to get their basics in and then go to the university. CC classes are still capped and, depending on the school, you can actually get a better education at a CC for this level of math and science.


That being said, I remember a couple of amazing lecture hall profs who really knew how to teach several hundred people and keep their attention. Some people really do this well. Most, unfortunately, don't. A large class doesn't have to mean a loss of communication and learning.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #38)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:21 PM

42. This was back in the early '60s, but tuition was $114/quarter.

This may have started when the public universities enrolled the returning WW II vets under the GI bill. These students would have been used to company to battalion sized operations.

The lecture hall profs who really know how to teach several hundred people are probably the ones who will do well creating online courses.

There was a recent article that said that a large percentage of students are taught by a small percentage of professors. It is the large percentage of professors who are teaching a small percentage of students that drive up the tuitions.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #42)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:39 PM

45. Obvious solution: cancel all classes with low enrollment.

This would include most upper level classes in all disciplines, the very ones which are "driving up" tuition. Is that really the "problem" ? No. That fact that a small number of profs teach most students is just a natural consequence of eliminating duplication of effort. Done the right way, there is a hierarchy of class settings which enables students to get individual attention without offering an absurd number of small classes, which would require hiring an absurd number of instructors to teach the same material in each section.

The conclusion in the article you read is one that follows from the existence of a few large classes by little more than tautology. It is not a productive observation. (Also note that if every class had huge, but similar enrollments, it would no longer be true, providing a clue that the problem has been misidentified.)

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #42)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:15 PM

53. The great lecture hall profs should be allowed to be live in lecture halls

 

I agree that they might also be good at designing online courses, but the showmanship that it takes to get up in front of 600 students and make your subject matter intelligible and interesting is priceless in the classroom and might not translate to online work.

I agree that a large percentage of student are taught by a small percentage of the professors. This is even truer now since students have a 70% chance of their college instructor being a "contingent" employee: adjunct, lecturer, or grad student.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #29)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:19 PM

41. What, no recitation/conference sections ? That sounds like a bad setup.

Those large classes are partly the result of economizing, but also the result of so many students needing/wanting to take the same class, and complaining vigorously if one section is viewed as being in any way different from any other ("If only I could get into that other section, I'd be doing a lot better" being a complaint in -- every section). Most schools recognize that large classes need to be augmented by smaller class sessions where students have more opportunity to ask questions. (One of the advantages of a smaller school is that the lecture audiences are smaller, but a disadvantage is that there are no rec/conf sections because they don't have grad students. This also means that homework/quiz grades are fewer, or nonexistent.) I've never seldom heard of a school having such giant lecture sessions without have smaller rec/conf sections. If someone is expecting the labs to serve that purpose, that sounds like a bad idea. Lab courses mostly teach lab skills, which don't overlap in good sequence with the theoretical background covered in lecture. Lab is not a subsitute for small classroom sessions. I prefer lab courses to be completely separate -- with their own registration and grade rosters. Unfortunately, most schools don't do it that way.

If there really is a school run that way, I'd like to know which one so I can avoid it. (Actually, on reminiscence, I taught at one state school like that. Not a state with a good educational system, and not a school that attracted many grad students, so they couldn't offer rec sections. Schools are obligated by their legislatures to respond to "consumer demand", so they have to keep increasing the enrollment limits on large classes, whether they have money to hire more instructors or not. The result is instructors who can barely keep up with their schedules and students disappointed that their instructors aren't doing more for them. And to get more teaching hours for the same pay, tenure-track faculty are gradually replaced by low-paid adjuncts with no job security.) Yay America, where we know better than to waste good money on education !

Perhaps I was just lucky in that I've never been able to make much complaint about my own professors. I had several of the type who would suddenly stop in the middle of class and say "you look confused" or "people don't look too happy with that" even though no one in particular had said anything. When I asked profs questions I never had any trouble getting an answer. The least interactive instructors AFAIR were the ones who just couldn't see that well, and I'm afraid I fall into that category lately.


(BTW, I'm really hoping you're not of those students who sit in the back of the class, never raise their hands, and never try to talk to the lecturer after class -- then complain in the course evaluation that the instructor didn't interact with students. There are enough of those. )

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #41)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:43 PM

47. IIRC, there was a grad student or two that had posted hours; commuter students used them

If you were in a dorm or an off-campus house, it was easier to consult with other students.

I had a job as a grader for a sophomore physics course when I was a junior, but I didn't have contact with the students except for a couple that I knew outside class. Anyone who appealed their grade had to track down the professor, but his instructions for grading were pretty explicit -- full marks for the right answer, and specific partial credit for intermediate steps, formulas, etc.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #19)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:29 PM

58. This/\.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:27 PM

57. Professors provide context and a framework organic discussion.

There is a reason I love and find my "honors" level courses to be the most effective at university. The main reasons are the student to teacher ratio and the professor guided discussion with my intellectually above average peers. Distance learning simply doesn't have the same effect on me. Does that make me unable to learn without being taught? I doubt it. I think learning is reinforced in a professor-guided discussion-based classroom setting.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:09 PM

51. Well, that obviously proves they must be in error then.

No one would ever lose their job to corporate-driven "innovation" if they were doing it right.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:13 PM

52. So it is ok to outsource a professor's job but not yours?

I note the sarcasm and dislike of academics here. If we do not adequately educate this generation they will all vote republican. My husband worked long and hard to become a professor. He works long and hard to teach them in the best way possible while meeting teh constant demands the University places on him to obtain and maintain large research grants.

He finds that some of the technology these kids have become so attached to are used to cheat on tests in labs and any other way they can. He caught one young woman using her cell phone to text her med school boyfriend during a final in Physical Chemistry. She did not feel she did anything wrong.

I agree and so does he, that professors need to keep up with the technology, but I think it needs to be measured. The Distance Learning courses I have seen are pretty lame. Not challenging at all. I certainly do not want a medical doctor who did his or her undergraduate science work utilizing this technology.

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Response to redstatebluegirl (Reply #52)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:54 PM

63. Many classes have a policy forbidding anything beyond a four-banger calculator on exams.

Unfortunate, but fancy calculators these days are full-blown computers, with lots of memory for large amounts of data/text. And phones with built-in calculators are a temptation to text or web-browse during exams. iPods and other music devices may have taped verbal notes or even be comm radios in disguise, so no headphones or earbuds during exams.

I was never allowed to use a calculator on an exam as a student. If you couldn't do long division and simple logs/antilogs you were at the wrong school. Of course, exam questions were structured to be solvable without anything too complicated -- if you were doing a lot of difficult arithmetic on an exam problem, you were likely on the wrong track.

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Response to redstatebluegirl (Reply #52)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:48 PM

68. I am an academic and I come from a family full of academics.

So that's a bad guess. I'm trying to warn them, my job (IT) has already been well outsourced, but I'm now retired.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:07 AM

3. My father in law who

started teaching college math in the 1960s preferred chalkboards (he was bummed when most got trashed for whiteboards). Chalkboards are easier to see (more contrast - less glare). Except for the chalk dust (which he would be covered in after a lecture) it is a better medium (just a lot more expensive). When you going through an analytical problem, part of the learning process is writing out with explanation. The same learning just does not occur with a Powerpoint (I am not an educator so I don't understand the theory). When I tutor my children in math, I work out the problems on sheets of paper. When they are learning new concepts I force them to do every step in the correct fashion (for example setting up an axis and free body diagram).

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:40 AM

5. Yes, nothing beats chalk. Or paper and pencil.

I remember being annoyed when the whiteboards came in.

Powerpoint is to thought what TV is to education.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:34 PM

61. +1

I loved volunteering to clean the erasers at the end of the day...(which meant going out the back door and beating them upside the brick wall of the school)

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #61)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:43 PM

67. It has it's down side, but when you are working on a problem, nothing beats it.

You have all that space, and you can erase easily. Expensive to buy, they are very cheap to use, and low-tech. When I was at Berkeley we used to get together in groups and work on hard problems in classrooms so we could spread all over the blackboards and see everything. Then when you had an angle worked out on it, you could go home and write it up.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:48 AM

13. We have the big chalk board from my wife's work in our house.

Administration was going to throw it away when they installed white boards.

The chalkboard was one of the things that made our house a popular hangout with our kids' and their friends.

When they were all teenagers some of the drawings and some of the stuff they wrote used to crack me up, but maybe half of that I'd have to put on my stern responsible adult face and tell them to erase it even if I was laughing my ass off inside my head.

Now whenever they visit new stuff still shows up on the board.

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Response to hunter (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:21 PM

56. "going to throw it away" -- **choke**gag***

https://www.google.com/search?q=chalkboard+table

"From a young age, she and her siblings worked problems on a chalkboard in the kitchen as dinner was prepared." http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/prodigious-math

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:17 PM

64. Except whenever I have a class with one I live in fear of that noise, you know the one. It's

like nails on a chalkboard!

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:15 AM

4. For anyone that wants a laugh,

When I read the title I stopped at the word whiteboard, because my mind anticipated the word "blackboard" instead. The word old-fashion tricked my mind. Then I laughed. Old-fashion indeed. Life does go faster and faster the older you get. lol

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:59 AM

7. I don't know about this.

I actually work in IT in higher education in a research university and I have to say that "technically sophisticated" faculty are few and far between. It's shocking, actually. A lot of these people want to teach with the same crumpled old notes they've had for thirty years while the students are coming in with more and more technological skills and devices. That's how they interact with the world and that's how they are going to have to interact with the world when they graduate. In my experience, some of the faculty don't want to do the work to learn the new technologies and that is why they are against them. They can't see the value because they won't give them a chance.

Does that sound bitter? Maybe. But there are still a lot of people in the field who have a lot of power who just don't want things to change.

To be fair, I will add that there are also many who go out of their way to embrace change and explore new ways of doing things. So, just my $.02.

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Response to LisaLynne (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:33 PM

21. I work in IT in K-12 and the biggest

hurdle for switching some teachers to newer technology, Smartboard and the like, is showing them what they can do with the boards.

One older teacher once we showed her the basics of what she could do with a Smartboard she was very taken by it. The classes she took on using the board didn't help but a little one on one work with her did.

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Response to whistler162 (Reply #21)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:27 PM

33. in my daughters K class

everytime I go in there there is something up on the promethean board - they might not even be doing it right now, they might be scattered around the room at centers, but there is book open on and projected on the wall. And when they do group exercises - well, the teacher doing directed reading with an electronic book with clickable actions on it is a whole world different than when we sat around in a circle chairs taking turns reading aloud or when the teacher would read a page and hold up the picture.

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Response to LisaLynne (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:13 PM

28. LisaLynne, for old timers who've been teaching the same courses for years...

 

These folks are teaching things that don't change, like basic chemistry, algebra, etc. Courses that actually rely on cultural and social change for content, like the social sciences and some humanities, might actually take to the technology quicker and better. I can understand the desire of the old timers in the maths and sciences to stay with their chalkboards and old notes: since there hasn't been much change in, say, calculus since the time of Leibniz, the only value to the new technology is in replacing one shiny screen with another. And if the former shiny screen is manipulable (you can erase, write new stuff, etc.) while the newer is less manipulable and requires you to dim the room (so your students can't even see you), then you pick the former. I can thoroughly understand that.

And, of course, using technology doesn't mean your students are paying any more attention than they were. While to prof is running through the Power Point, the students are updating their Facebook pages and texting their friends on their phones. Because the room is dim, the professor can no longer gauge for whether or not the students are paying attention.

Just because a technology is available doesn't mean it is preferable or even desirable in a given set of circumstances.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 09:49 AM

9. "Old-fashioned" whiteboards ? Whiteboards SUCK. Blackboards are far more practical.

Whiteboards proliferated because school supply companies pushed the idea that chalk dust would damage computer hard drives (it doesn't). School purchasing agents fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and are now locked into the very expensive whiteboard supply chain. Try to compare the cost of keeping markers stocked vs the comparable cost of chalk -- the profit margin on chalk is nil, and chalk provides MUCH more writing for the same cost (without breathing VOCs, either). Whiteboards consume far more erasers as well, and can only be properly cleaned with a special solution, whose ingredients are pretty damned toxic. I hate the smell of that crap, but you can't NOT use it if you're stuck with a whiteboard. And you're constantly having to order more. So by "more practical" I mean "cheaper", "safer", and "greener" as well.

Whiteboards were invented so corporate suits wouldn't get chalk dust on their pricey manicures. They are ludicrously impractical for presentations to an audience larger than a small boardroom. I taught in a large lecture hall which had been stupidly switched to whiteboards and was instructed not to use the board AT ALL -- students beyond the first few rows couldn't read any writing made with markers. So I had to use an overhead projector exclusively -- restricting me to a very tiny area, while hundreds of square feet of whiteboard sat unused. At one Univ. where I taught, the Math Dept. had made sure that when they moved into a new building, all their classrooms had blackboards, even though whiteboards were the default for everyone else. It was a very good decision on their part. As far as I can tell the ONLY advantage of whiteboards is that colored markers work better than colored chalk, and that's not useful an advantage. Stick to the chalk colors that work well with the color of "black" board you have (they may be green or brown) and that advantage is insignificant.

Not every new technology is an improvement over the older technology it replaces. It may be MUCH worse, on multiple counts. But -- OOH, pretty, shiny!



ETA: Hardly surprised to read the comments in the OP coming from chemists. Teaching chemistry involves a lot of *manipulating* writing -- not just slapping it on the board to be read in strict sequence. Also, chemical structures are depicted in something that is a hybrid of writing and drawing. You need special apps for that, and the interface is much more tedious/awkward than freehand writing/drawing. Trying to present the same information through a GUI slows things down horribly. In chemistry, like math, the pencil/chalk becomes a tool for trial-and-error "experimentation", with lots of erasures and modifications (including using your fingers/hand as an eraser occasionally -- not a good idea on a whiteboard!). Students learn how to do this by watching their instructor do it -- they don't see just the finished equation or structure, they see how it was created. If they don't learn how to do that, they can't use those skills to solve problems with pencil and paper, and even on multiple-choice, online exams, you need to do some of that on scratch paper to get the correct answers. One shouldn't necessarily defend "tried and true" ways simply because they are well-worn and comfortable, but where they genuinely perform as well (if not better) than newer alternatives, one should not have to justify rejection of the new as if it were some kind of aberration. Sometimes the new is just new marketing of a bad old idea.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:17 AM

14. I MUCH prefer whiteboards to chalkboards

Let me tell you, you obviously aren't allergic to chalk. It's a real pain in the ass, not to mention chalk is MESSY.


Now if you want to condemn the use of so-called "smartboards," I am with you all the way.

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Response to duffyduff (Reply #14)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:06 PM

18. not to mention, SCREECH SCREECH!!!

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Response to alp227 (Reply #18)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:41 PM

46. Chalk screeches at a frequency that can only be heard by bad students.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #46)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:19 PM

65. That explains a lot. I hate that sound!

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Response to duffyduff (Reply #14)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:39 PM

62. There is such a thing as hypoallergenic chalk (Google), and at least some of what I have used ...

was labeled as such. I've never had ANY problems, and I've never met anyone who did, so I've never looked into it before. I'm not sure how anyone could be allergic to chalk itself (calcium carbonate) but there may be some binder or etc. added to the chalk which could trigger allergies (I've seen corn products suggested, can't vouch for the accuracy of that though). I'm sure changing chalk suppliers would be much, much cheaper than switching to whiteboards -- chalk costs a few cents a stick, and a dollar pack will long outlast a marker. Have you ever counted the number of markers that get thrown away (NOT recycled) in a week ? Chalk doesn't die if you leave the cap off. Schools that use chalk just have the custodians check that there is a box (or two) of chalk at each board when the rooms are cleaned, and no one ever has to provide their own. Whiteboards are nearly unworkable unless each lecturer brings his own markers. All in all, that's a MUCH bigger PITA than anything I've ever encountered with chalk.

As for the mess ... what mess ? Chalk dust does not stain. It brushes easily off of clothes. OK, colored chalk is a little more resistant, but even then a wet wipe will do. I clap my hands together a few times at the end of a lecture and I am ready to go. At worst, a quick rinse (no soap needed) gets all of it. And if you want to avoid getting chalk on your hands, there's the chalk pen.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 02:59 PM

17. Good summary of the reasons writing out on chalkboard

works better than Powerpoint. I think your arguments also apply to math and physics. I remember being startled when I looked into one of my old lecture rooms last year (I graduated in 1984) and seeing nothing changed except the projector showing a Fluid Mechanics Powerpoint. I remember the artistry that Drs. Fox, McDonald, DeWitt, and Incropera showed in presenting Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer on the chalkboard. Something has definitely been lost.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:39 PM

35. I admit I suck at Smartboard - my penmanship goes undecipherable

I use both Powerpoint and whiteboards - going back from one to the other.

Each has its own merits and switching from one to the other keeps the student's attention.

I also use Youtube videos to illustrate complicated processes that Powerpoint and whiteboards cannot adequately depict (and post them on Blackboard)

I use clickers for recitations and pre-exam reviews.

The biggest problem with whiteboards occurs when other faculty take all the good markers and leave the ones that don't work.

Pisses me off.

yup

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:20 AM

11. I used to teach using Power Point and other eye-catching technologies

Until several students said they preferred just to hear me talk, because it was the IDEAS they were interested, not the distracting visual aids. Ever since then, I don't use any visual aids. It's more important to engage students with conversation.

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Response to mainer (Reply #11)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:45 PM

48. I may come kidnap your students.

I'd love to have students with that kind of attitude. I haven't often seen any.

One of my first observations of classes (not my own) taught with PowerPoint was that the students were much better rested. Once the lights are dimmed ...

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:33 AM

15. Don't they know whiteboard markers have toxic fumes. They injure health.

I sent for the MSDS after blacking out in class the day I started using two new, "wet" markers, after 4 hours of demonstrating college algebra. They are bad news and it really irks me that the trade association labels them safe and people give them to children as toys. They can even be used as drugs of abuse!!

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:14 PM

20. As a translator, I have come to the conclusion that the business world still thinks

that a boring, meaningless bit of gobbledygook is improved by writing it out as a series of multicolored flow charts.

Nope. It's still a boring, meaningless bit of gobbledy gook.

The medium is NOT the message.

When I was a professor, I preferred whiteboards to chalkboards because chalk dust seriously irritates my skin. But handouts and prepared overhead slides make the students' eyes glaze over.

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Response to Lydia Leftcoast (Reply #20)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:59 PM

25. The problem is that corporate messages are limited

 

Expansive thought is not required, only "implementation strategies" for pre-decided corporate goals. And implementation strategies, without the actual interesting part of guiding the goals, get very boring very quickly. No wonder they keep trying to put together happy slides with animation.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:36 PM

23. Not just at universities.

Because one teacher in my building teaches exclusively using "clicker" technology, my principal became so excited that he made sure we all had software and clickers and training ad nauseum, and for 3 years now the drumbeat to try to force us into using them has not diminished.

Regardless of how many times we point out that much of what we teach can't be translated into clicker T/F, Y/N, or multiple choice, and that, while it may be possible to twist it to use with other formats, it's more time consuming to create the stuff than it's worth.

My students, when asked to produce some sort of project or presentation, may choose from several formats. PowerPoint, though, is not on that list of choices. I don't care what fonts, colors, or animations they put into it; it's the information that counts, and I'm not going to torture myself by having to view 30 something PowerPoints full of crap because they think the bells and whistles distract from the weak content.

We use technology. Some students have notebooks, e-readers, and laptops. All students have access to desktops at some point in their day. We have document cameras and projectors. We have online gradebooks and assignment calendars. We have online request for anything in the regional library system to be delivered to and picked up from school. We have some smartboards in the building. We have ipods.

We just want the use of those technologies to be at our discretion.

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Response to LWolf (Reply #23)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:03 PM

26. "Clicker" technology: can you get more Skinnerian?

 

Outcomes based education: stuff you can measure, even if the actual data is meaningless. No wonder your principal likes it. He can show the data to the higher-ups.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:17 PM

31. From the student perspective, I've had a few classes w/ the Clicker.

I'm not a fan. They're a gimmick.

Personally, I say stick to whiteboards/blackboards, and I'll say PowerPoint is useful as well, though if you digress from the preplanned lesson, they lose their usefulness.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:29 PM

34. And the higher-ups are certainly all about data. nt

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Response to LWolf (Reply #34)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:45 PM

36. Yes. they have almost a religious belief in data of any kind taken under any conditions

 

and analyzed with any statistical test, even if it's the wrong one.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #26)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:01 PM

50. No calling out individual DUers, especially not Skinner.



OK, that was silly, but I agree with your post. In fact, it's a short, pithy counterargument to much of education "reform", much deserving to be quoted and passed on.

"See? I've been working -- I have data!" (Please don't fire me.)

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #50)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 06:19 PM

55. Oh, gee, get me in trouble with the management!

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:10 PM

27. White boards are old fashioned?

So what are chalk boards?

Anyway, I agree. I have little use for powerpoint or whatever it is because except for the odd map, nothing in my material requires visuals.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 04:17 PM

32. you can do a lot more than pass out your syllabus

with even blackboard. A bunch of grumpy old farts.


eta I don't love the clickers. Some do. My classes are small enough I'd rather just ask them a question to answer it than vote on it. But it fits some classes and some materials.
I don't know where I'd be without power point and I leave the track ll the time. It's what people used to use over heads for, and before that a chalk board, but I don't have to carry the overheads around with me. There's nothing magic about it though.
What I like is being able to put a lecture on blackboard with the power point and video and audio. Or extend an in-class lecture. Being able to edit down a video clip demonstrating something and embed it. To do a little stats right there, to flip upon a paint program and draw something. To have the students take quzzes on line instead of taking class time, and they get to take a bunch of small quizzes instead of a few big tests and we lose no class time. And not having to worry about make up tests because they can take it wherever they are and have a window of time to take it. And they can do writing in journals after an experiential learning op and have it right there. I'm not a fan of discussion boards for classes, it really always turns out shallow imho. But it is a great way to organize an rethink classes. You can do a lot more than just teach the way you have always been teaching the class and shoe horning some tech around it, you can rethink it. Tech for its on sake is silly and a waste of time, it is a tool like any other.

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Response to d_r (Reply #32)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:02 PM

39. What class do you teach?

 

Agree that Powerpoint is great for embedding video clips.

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Response to GiaGiovanni (Reply #39)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:22 PM

70. education

early childhood, child development, curriculum etc.

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Response to d_r (Reply #70)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:14 PM

72. Education actually lends itself to multimedia and video

 

Most social science type courses do. Hard core math and basic science usually don't.

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Response to d_r (Reply #32)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:55 PM

69. For my undergrad they used the heck out of Blackboard.

Syllabus was up a month before the start of class. Online quizzes and exams, so you weren't losing class time. Always knew your grades in a timely manner. Professors were able to put a lot of stuff up there - video links, PowerPoints, other documents for the class.

I guess I was spoiled. I'm working on my MBA and they barely use it, at most put PowerPoints out there. And I feel like we're wasting class time when we take in-class quizzes and exams.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:04 PM

40. Worse, both the teachers and the students tend to get wrapped up in the technology

 

and teaching/learning the subject becomes secondary. Technology can certainly be a helpful aid, in some courses more than others, but most often it is distracting at best and often an impediment.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #40)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 08:51 PM

71. ^^^This^^^

This semester I designed a course that is pure discussion. Students read, write out responses to 3 simple questions and we talk about the reading and their responses for 90 minutes twice a week. They have to write 2 papers over the semester and I've scheduled time to sit and work on the papers with each student. It's by far the best experience I've had in many years and, so far, the students seem to be really enjoying the move away from information delivery and digestion to actual thinking.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:30 PM

44. That could be

There could be some limit. Since the 90s people seem to think they have to use the technology if it's there. But there could be a point where it just doesn't really make things better and more efficient.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 07:20 PM

66. As an art teacher, I love the new technology.

I've spent a lot of time in the past drawing on green boards, as the black boards were never really black. Now I draw on paper and project it large, and that really makes a difference with student comprehension, and also allows me to do guided work, which was difficult to do before. I also create Powerpoints that are essentially examples of fine art from around the Web, or examples of art techniques. I can also demonstrate clay techniques.

It is a tool to express content, but it is not the content itself. The trick is the right tool for the right job.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:31 PM

73. podcast

All of my lectures are podcast, and only about 30 students out of a class of 175 attend the live performance. One professor whose lectures are used every year is no longer employed by the University, but his podcasts are still assigned. Students speed them up, so speaking slowly and clearly makes no difference. I expect that my lectures will be used for years after I retire, but I won't be answering the email questions then. All exams are multiple choice questions given in a testing center. We entered the questions years ago and don't know what questions the students will see each year. That makes it hard to change the lecture content. Ever. This is in a medical school. Even more creepy, many students are taught in two off site locations hundreds of miles away, so we see giant video screens of empty classrooms while lecturing. The offsite students don't attend the lectures either, and the University spends a fortune on video technology.

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