The Colgate Scene
November 1998
Table of contents
Enhancing student presentations
by Michael Haines
Professor of Economics
[IMAGE]
Students of Professor Michael Haines use technology both to compile and present their research.
When I arrived at Colgate in 1990, I faced the new experience of teaching a seminar in American economic history made up entirely of undergraduates. Initially, I organized it in a rather traditional manner. Students were required to make long, substantive presentations on a specific topic related to the general theme for the term. Over time, however, some students began using films, videos and overheads to complement their presentations. This became more extensive, one student even making his own documentary video about immigrants and Ellis Island.

     By 1997, I had 31 students taking the seminar in two sections. I had determined to see if they would be amenable to making presentations using computerized presentation packages. The first presentation of the term was done using PowerPoint (presentation software for which Colgate has a site license) by a student with experience from summer employment. Mary Jane Petrowski of the library agreed to provide two training sessions for the class. The result was an instant success. All but three of the students made their presentations using computer presentation software. Some continued to supplement it with overheads and videos.

     The following year (spring, 1998) all 26 students in the two sections of the seminar made computer presentations. The same thing happened in the economics honors seminar that same term. The first student up was from the economic history seminar and made his honors presentation with PowerPoint. Most of the other nine students followed suit, even though they had not originally planned to do so.

     All this was done despite somewhat unsuitable conditions. The seminar room was not set up for this. I had to bring in an older notebook computer and media services provided an older LCD display that fitted atop a high intensity overhead projector. We had to set up and tear down every evening, since there was no safe way to leave the equipment in the classroom.

     During the spring term, media services secured a very high quality video projector for us. The improvement was dramatic. I expect that classrooms will eventually be regularly equipped with projectors and computers in place. A classroom near the Geography Department has been so equipped and the Persson Hall statistics classroom will soon be outfitted.

     There is clearly real student demand. Several students have commented that the experience is quite useful and helpful in their job searches. The competition among students has, I believe, a good effect on their intellectual effort and development, although I need to remind them that a poorly researched and organized presentation that looks good is still a poor presentation.

     The next stage in the process of drawing the students closer to technology is to encourage (and eventually require) seminar papers that utilize statistical methods and databases. To that end, the Economics Department had been collecting data sets (both historical and contemporary) and has outfitted the Persson statistical laboratory with statistical software packages (SAS, STATA, SPSS). Again, students seem receptive, although the risks in terms of time and effort in such a new endeavor deter most at this point. I feel that these are also extremely useful skills for our students. Additionally, these applications of technology are also more directly controlled and managed by the students themselves, which itself has pedagogical advantages.


Computing in the classroom
More perspective than I know what to do with
by Charles H. Holbrow, Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics

Joint learning across the ocean
by Dierk Hoffmann, Professor of German
A tale of two classes and the Web
by Jun Yoshino, Associate Professor of Psychology
Computers and classical archaeology
by Rebecca Miller Ammerman, Associate Professor of the Classics
Ecrire La Fontaine: technology for teaching literature
by John Gallucci, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures
Enhancing student presentations
by Michael Haines, Professor of Economics


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