Education studies major
Derek Wells '11, shows biology-chemistry major Laycee Harmon '14
how to use her Livescribe pen.
Dr. Judd Case communicates
via cell phones in
of Human Communication.
ITS guru Deborah Hustin uses
touchable SmartBoard technology.
"BLACKBOARD" TO THIS GENERATION of Manchester College students has absolutely nothing to do with chalk, much less dustily smacking erasers. "Whiteout" is a superhero, a flavor of Mountain Dew, or even a heck of a snowstorm – but most certainly not a way to correct a typewriting (huh?) error.
Times, they are a-changing rapidly, and so are teaching and learning methods at Manchester.
"I remember when the school purchased its first copy machine," says Warren Garner '50, professor emeritus of education who taught future teachers from 1967 to 1989. "It was on the first floor of the Administration Building and each copy took afull minute. You couldn't just go in right before class and make your copies." His students penned their term papers and he calculated their grades with a pencil.
The Class of 2014 – the latest class to enter Manchester College – considers e-mail "snail-mail," opting instead for texting and instant messaging and tweeting. Forget postal letters: Few write in cursive. DNA has always been part of their vocabulary and most tell time by their cell phones, not wrist watches.
Internet software "smart" technology is as necessary as pens for most classes. Some classes are totally online; others necessitate not only online research and connections but are conducted in a virtual world.
Dr. Judd Case, assistant professor of communication studies, has the audacity to conduct parts of his classes on the cell phone. He stands at the front of class, cell phone in hand, fielding texted responses to his texted questions. Such technology enables student and teacher to connect virtually anywhere and at any time, cementing an even tighter bond for mentoring, or just … communicating.
"Formal education walls are limiting for all technology," says Case, who also leads students through a study of the economic, cultural and technological implications of cell phones, PDAs, iPods, laptops, cameras and surveillance technologies in a 300-level class, Telecommunications. "Just because we use technology doesn't mean we understand it," Case warns.
This school year, Manchester will offer more than 21 classes totally online, with online components in many classes, says Registrar Lila VanLue '79 Hammer, who compiles and reports grades electronically on academic software called "Blackboard" (or ANGEL) that enables faculty to not only track students' progress, but to communicate with class members about syllabi, readings, reports, assignments … the gamut.
"Unlike a textbook, software can pose interactive questions, review answers, and tell students to try again, offering hints on where they may have gone wrong," opined The Chronicle of Higher Education in a July 16, 2010 editorial. "Other computer programs can meld clips from movies, plays, or ballet."
The Chronicle asserts that techno-teaching can't rival a seminar pondering Fermat's last theorem or King Lear, but urges schools to look keenly at the growing opportunities of techno-teaching.
Online classes also are enabling bright, highly motivated students to earn a Manchester degree in only three years. Students take six-week "core" courses, such as Introduction to Music, World Literature and Elementary Probability and Statistics, online during summer. They are saving tuition and housing costs and getting a one-year jump on their careers and earning potential. Sometimes, online classes are on the January session schedule, or even the school-year schedule, such as Medical Terminology, offered this fall in the Exercise and Sport Sciences curriculum.
Dr. Marcie Coulter-Kern, associate professor of psychology, forged the path to MC online learning with research underwritten by grants. "There are psychology methods that suggest online courses allow for better repetition and retention," Coulter-Kern explains. "I wouldn't wish online courses for an entire college career, but as a summer option, they are ideal."
She acknowledges that a face-to-face sense of community might be lost outside of the actual classroom. "With the online courses, though, I have been able to interact with my students in new ways." Coulter-Kern uses Blackboard (ANGEL), where students post discussion forums, take quizzes, submit writing assignments, connect with textbook software and even check for their most current grades.
Professors Mary Plunkett '83 Lahman (communication studies) and Leonard Williams (political science and history) have collaborated on extensive research that indicates "students show higher levels of critical thinking skills in online discussion." ANGEL allows for professors to engage the "reticent student," says Lahman, who conducts her office hours through ANGEL.
"I have received great feedback from students who would normally be unlikely to attend my traditional office hours," she says. "And, students are able to help one another and connect for studying while logged into the ANGEL chat."
Techno-teaching stretches beyond online classes, says Bonnie O'Connell, director of academic support. "We have oodles and oodles of cool stuff," she declares before launching into a grocery list of technical wizardry available to Manchester College students and faculty – from gizmos for the visual- and speech-impaired to language aids for international students to audio textbooks to screen magnifiers (up to 36 times) to scanning software that converts book text to audio files students can save on their iPods. The most awesome tool is Livescribe, an inexpensive "smart" pen that does absolutely everything imaginable, and then some.
The hub for making all the technology work is Information Technology Services (ITS) in Clark Computer Center. There, a team of staff (some teach, too) and student workers provide support and strategic direction for campus networks, more than 750 College-owned PCs and software packages, computer labs, campus wireless service, connectivity for students' personal computers, academic systems like ANGEL, a 117-channel cable TV system, phone service, the MC website and Gateway intranet. (All of the techno gadgets enter campus via the ITS portal.)
The campus has interactive SMART white boards that are truly hands-on education. The touch boards look like screens on popular TV shows like Bones or CSI, where users pull and drag and expand views on the screen while merging all kinds of technology and data.
Of course, using the internet is "old hat" for Manchester students, who literally travel the universe as they do research for projects and papers on topics ranging from the Milky Way to blogging from the Iowa caucuses.
While technology is a great benefit to the classroom, "it should not be the focus," cautions Dr. Susan Klein, associate professor of chemistry, who teaches Chemical Science online. "I don't just use technology because it is there. I like to leave class with my hands covered in chalk dust. The class is about me, the student and the content."
Online learning is critical to education major Whitley Starnes '12, who is in Fast Forward, hoping to complete her degree in three years. "It gives another way for the teacher to present information and to meet a variety of learning styles," she says, noting that technology has its drawbacks: It doesn't always work when it is needed.
"I have the flexibility to be 'in class' whenever I want," says accounting major Nick Barbknecht '12, who admits he sometimes misses the personal interaction with his professor that occurs face-to-face.
It's important to remember that techno-teaching is not the sole route to a quality liberal arts education, says Jill Lichtsinn '79, academic technology support librarian. "Technology is not about using the next cool tool. It's about helping teachers teach, learners learn and motivating."
BY KATHRYN MILLER '12
Manchester's Angel angel, Jill Lichtsinn
|Librarian Jill Lichtsinn '79 (center)
shows the latest teaching technology
to Latefa Abdel-Khaley '09.
LIBRARIAN JILL LICHTSINN '79 is a techno-teacher. Her knowledge – and guidance – influences every current Manchester course.
"I walk the line between the technology experts and the teaching side of it all," says Lichtsinn, whose passion for savvy teaching is seeded in her Manchester degree in secondary education. After graduation, she worked in management until she decided to pursue a master's degree in library science, which brought her home again.
"When I began working here in 1986, we had one computer in the entire library," she recalls. Lichtsinn enjoyed working on that computer and followed that passion to a second (online) master's degree, in instructional technology.
Today, her role includes managing Angel LMS, a software system that provides learning tools ranging from individual class syllabi to lecture notes, assignments and readings, class rosters, announcements, and, especially, grades – all accessible by individual login. All MC faculty members and students have an Angel portal to their classes. She's the go-to person for other learning and portfolio software, too, working closely with Information Technology Services.
"I am no hardware expert, but I understand what goes on in the classroom." And for this librarian, it's the best of both worlds: Connecting virtual technology with real people.
BY KATHRYN MILLER '12
Ever wonder what college would have been like
in another life?
|Professor Naragon sits alongside
"real" Second Life avatar in this
photo illustration of a classroom setting.
IMAGINE ATTENDING COLLEGE CLASSES up in the clouds and flying through the magnificent rooms of museums or even the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Manchester students and faculty do it every day.
The world is literally at their fingertips with a program called Second Life that is sweeping the globe and changing "life" as we know it. Just like Facebook, anybody can do it. All that's required is registration, no money or passport.
Second Life is a virtual world that allows users to create an alternate persona (an online avatar) that can interact with avatars of people from all over the planet. The avatars can resemble with remarkable clarity their real people, or they can be absolute fantasy. Their skills range from super powers to the mundane, from leaping tall buildings to eating cookies. For some, it's all a game. For others, it's serious business. For students at Manchester College and around the world, it's an education.
Virtually, users make new friends, travel, shop, work … and attend Introduction to Philosophy taught by Professor Steve Naragon '82, and other Manchester College classes.
"There will likely always be more people in Second Life playing games of chance, or flirting, or dancing or shopping – but a great many of us are busily engaged in education," Naragon tells students considering enrolling in his class. "Second Life makes group conversation possible, and in this way the online course becomes much more like a face-to-face classroom."
Second Life is so much cooler than meeting up in a chat room, says Naragon. "It's psychologically much more immediate and engaging," he notes, adding that professors have a number of pedagogical tools in Second Life not available in chat rooms. "Oh, and the flying in Second Life is way cool."
Just like when he teaches in Room 113 of Holl-Kintner, Naragon grades his students based on their participation in his virtual Second Life classroom, wherever it might be, perhaps discussing the philosophy of religion in the Sistine Chapel (a creation of a Vassar College academic techno whiz). Students who engage in meaningful discussion fare well; students who respond only with a "yes" or "no" receive weaker grades.
BY KATHRYN MILLER '12
Have you found Patty Cox on Facebook?
|From left, bio-chem major Kailey Honn '11, marketing and management major
Evan Lancaster '10 and finance major Joel Hawkins '09 chat up Patty.
CHANCES ARE PRETTY GOOD that if you graduated from Manchester within the last 20 years, you know Patty Cox … and she knows you.
She's the Lunch Lady, the Card-Swiper, the Meal Mom, the woman with the smile at the beginning of the cafeteria line in the College Union.
She's not only got her own Facebook page (created by a student fan), within the first week the page was created, more than 600 fans had joined her page. Now, Patty has more than 2,000 fans, and the tally is growing, especially as alumni discover the page.
"Even if I'm having the worst day ever, you make me smile when you greet me as I'm getting my card swiped in the Union. You're the best. : )" That's the Wall love letter from Brittany Cierra Lynn Kurtz '13, a music education major from Liberty, Ind.
"It seems like I have known Patty forever," wrote Tami Bradburn '95 Hoagland, secretary and scheduler for the MC Athletics Department and Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences. "When I was attending MC in the early '90s, Patty was the 'checker.' The first time I ate in the Union after taking my job at MC three years ago, she said 'Hello, Tamara,' just like I'd been eating there all along. It had been about 15 years since I'd seen her!"
ID cards are "swiped" now, but Patty still knows everyone's name, and is ready with a welcoming smile. "The students are my delight," says Patty, who was unaware of her Facebook page for several weeks after it was created by a student who prefers to remain in the wings. "They keep me young."
Do you have a Patty memory? Write on her Facebook wall! Just log into Facebook.com and type in "Patty" in the search.
BY KATHRYN MILLER '12