6.0395 Computers and Instruction (1/56)

Tue, 8 Dec 1992 19:24:43 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0395. Tuesday, 8 Dec 1992.

Date: 3 Dec 92 15:54
From: Lynda Williams <williams@cnc.bc.ca>
Subject: on disk

I'm not sure I qualify as a humanities scholar, but I would like to
share a personal breakthrough with you with regard to the use of
computers in instructing.
I have taught a computing literacy style course in the business program
at the local college for 3 years. For 3 years I have followed the
established convention of preparing assignments, worksheets and other
handouts on a computer, then submitting the output to our print room
for mass reproduction. To prevent running around making a couple
extra copies, I asked for 32 when I knew I needed 30 copies. Lots of
times I stayed up late to get the master made far enough in advance
to make print room deadlines. Sometimes I did not give students
the benefit of extra worksheets because I did not want to run up massive
printing bills.
This year I asked my students to write down one thing they still
didn't understand and hand it in. I repeated their questions,
anonymously, grouped them by subject, and composed lengthy answers
with examples. Three quarters of the way through I thought: this is
too much to print 30 times when most students will only need to
review two or three of the 15 odd items in the file.
Slowly, dimly, it dawned on me that I and my students spent 3 hours
a week together in a lab full of PCs. And they knew how to copy
I gave them the review questions on disk, and also a practice
lab exam, and also another skill-set testing module and ... they
used them!
Students who missed a lab started dropping in to my office to ask
for "The file management disk" or the "Sample exam questions". Most
of my disks got returned. At about $1 each they're cheaper than print
runs even if I lose a few. Some students printed out the files, and
some didn't. But no one had to line up to use a photocopier or
wait for me to get another 5 copies through the print room.
Some students let other students copy their copy, sparing me
the trouble of lending my own disks again. Some students skimmed
files for their own questions, or items of interest, and others
slogged through everything.
One student, in a wry moment, wrote that what he still didn't
understand was : "How to open a door". I answered, soberly, on
disk, generating new interest in checking the disk out. (I didnot
identify which students asked what. He identified himself voluntarily
after this item generated some grapevine speculation as to the
culprit's identity, and/or my sanity.)
In January I will be teaching a distance ed course for local teachers
and was concerned about the lack of a printing budget. The traditional
solution is to require students to pay for any handouts they receive
from me. I prepared myself for being miserly with the customized
assistance I would be able to offer. Not any more.
After all, we'll have a lab full of computers too.

* Lynda J. Williams, College of New Caledonia *
* Prince George, B.C. (604) 562-2131 loc.296 *
* Internet: lynda@cnc.bc.ca *
p.s. I am a parttime computer instructor, and full-time librarian,
with a liberal studies undergrad background, an M.L.S. and an
M.Sc. Computation. In other words, a mixed bag.