Monday, September 21, 2009


What a day. I'm toast and it's only 5.30pm! I had several phone meetings to do today that started at 8am, followed by sitting in on my undergrad class to watch a lecture by the other professor (geologist). Now that was interesting. Times have oh so changed. 

None of the undergrads know me yet, as I don't start teaching them until November (Science of the Sea - our basic undergrad course that has 400 students in it from across all disciplines). I snuck in and sat at the back left hand corner and watched. Watched as people walked in and out throughout the hour. Watched as people (20 at my count just from the ones I could see!) doodled on Facebook throughout the entire class. Watched as cell phones were brought out and many texts sent. Watched as earphones were plugged in and other material read through. All while the class was in session. I still remember a lecturer stopping the class, walking to the back and prodding a couple of people who were sleeping in my undergrad days! To the geologists credit, he just kept on going. I guess you develop a knack for ignoring it and ploughing through, getting to the students who are listening. Disheartening though! 

I went primarily to watch a new system being used for the first time in this class - iClickers (picture above). I then went to an iClicker class for faculty. It's a very cool system, and chatting to the geologist after (who has been teaching this portion of the class for over 10 years) he is totally sold on them - he said that even last year, before these were used, he used to get less than half the class attend, now it's almost everyone every lecture. Basically every student has one of these handsets (we were told today that over 3000 students at UH now have one) and they have 5 buttons on there. They cost the students $36 and the same ones can be used in any classes that use them (and more and more are), for all their years at university, and when they finish, they can sell them back to the university for 50% of cost. So they're totally accessible to all. Throughout your lecture you throw in multiple choice questions that the students then use the handset to answer.  Once they've all "voted" you then get a bar chart up on the screen seeing how the class answered. 

This can be used in 2 ways - 1) to see how the class is absorbing your material, and re-covering concepts that are not understood, and 2) to mark attendance. All the data is stored from all your classes, so what we are doing in ours is giving out 5% of marks for attendance (so just answering a question per class - you can only miss 2 classes) and 5% for getting the right answer on those tests. On average we'll put in 2 tests per lecture. Pretty cool, I would have loved this when I was a student. The class I took today showed different ways to integrate it into your lectures, so i'll definitely be using some of their suggestions, and am actually excited to start using them. 

And then I had a meeting with a grad student to go over her progress and where she's headed. I enjoy talking to this student, she's fun and totally motivated. And that was my day. One meeting to home to eat, clean up and write. And rest my sore body from yesterdays hike! 


BSA said...

I wish i could be a fly on the wall in your Science of the Sea class. Despite being the parent of a marine biologist there is so little I know about this part of the world. Yes, it is a whole new world out there with all the elctronic stuff that kids bring to classes--Can they really learn? I wonder how I'd handle it if I were the instructor!

PleaseRecycle said...

We used something like the clicker in one of my epidemiology classes. It was kind of neat, but always reminded me of "Ask the Audience" on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

That's such a good way to keep track of attendance too. I tend to discount attendance in my class because if they have poor attendance, they usually don't do very well.