• Managing technology in academia



    Part 2
    WHAT we shared last week were earlier technologies that were utilized in our classrooms and how these technologies influenced soft technology such as teaching and learning approaches, methods and techniques. Our recall began with the ubiquitous chalk and blackboard behind the professor’s platform that then usually lorded classrooms. Aligned with this set-up is the popular configuration of the classroom—chairs in sets of three or a whole row of six were nailed to a single wooden strip apparently to avoid the disarrangement of chairs had they been singly placed. These were in straight rows facing the blackboard. Yet in some forward-looking classrooms, individual chairs could be rearranged for group discussions. We described the maiden bow of the mimeographing machine and photocopier followed by the overhead projector, films, videotapes, the microfilm viewer and the tape recorder. With these gadgets, lectures and visuals came in packages and were easily distributed on paper, tapes and film strips. Along with these technologies were changes of student behavior as well as of professors in processing learning particularly in graduate school.

    The desktop computer and initiatives. Towards my second six-year term (early 1990s), heading the then Bukidnon State College, (BSC was awarded university status in 2007), the desktop computer made its presence in provincial universities. This was less than two decades after “Apple released the Apple II desktop computer . . . (utilizing) floppy disks” in the UK which could contain various types of content and could be viewed on a screen (an accessory to the computer unit) but “did not have access to the Internet.” Promoting this new technology in academe was the program of Dr. Abraham Felipe, former president of the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) whose package of incentives from his special breed of entrepreneurship (special, because it was not all business but more a CSR benefiting education) consisted of a number of computer hardware with software plus free teacher training in teaching computing. We availed of this program which lasted several years. Further boosting efforts were volunteer services of two Ateneans who were much ahead in utilizing digital technology. By 1995, the state college was one of two schools in the region to offer Computer Technology throughout basic education.

    The desktop computer and further steps. This time, after the initial steps into computer technology, we requested for several Japanese volunteers from the Japan Overseas Cooperation Agency (JOCV) which favored the college with two volunteers serving two to three years each to teach the rudiments of computing, utilizing early software versions and setting up a data base for management purposes. Thus, we formalized a basic computer course for all freshmen college programs. The enthusiasm and eagerness in the use of this “miracle typewriter” was obvious. Each academic dean had a unit. This technology was a great communication medium to management, to staff, to academics and to various publics. In many ways, it was breeding initiatives. Dr. Beaulah Rose Torres, then office secretary, teased as “the interior affairs” put up a weekly newsletter, What’s UP? — announcing to one and all goings-on in the college. The copies I have of What’s UP remind me how much staff could accomplish, given resources they themselves manage. Technology can likewise move one to be creative. Such as when the College was to do away with what was introduced before I assumed office—the Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree. At the instance of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) which did not consider a Commerce degree appropriate for a teacher education college like BSC, one of

    four pioneer normal schools in the country, a letter of CHED to close the commerce course awaited us. We had to recast the commerce degree as Bachelor in Computer Technology Education to include among other study areas, business, banking, and finance. This relieved the anxiety of the commerce academics about suddenly losing teaching loads. Computing being barely new then, I felt that it was more sensible to teach the technology within the context of a discipline rather than mere computing skills much like a typing course. The academic heads and staff, the eager beavers they always were, were all into the new technology. Although personally less versed in using the computer, but supported by Dr. Sol Simbulan (teased as foreign affairs secretary whose work focused on my international links) and Dr. Torres, I received a national award along with several other CEO’s as an executive pioneering in computer education.

    Managing internet sources. A decade after the first personal computers invaded academia, the ubiquitous Internet has become the main source of reference material. Libraries became more of connections than collections. The downside for us who teach, is that the explosion of web references does not ensure intellectual discourse among our students. There are those who merely copy-paste chunks of web-soured literature, submit and pass this off as their own. We feel that questions and assignments should be such as to “trigger interpretation and force (students) to engage the material actively.” Giving students ahead well-thought-out questions to accompany topics assigned to them and present their power point slides in outline form, would help students avoid copy- pasting from word to power point.

    Ending a group presentation with a synthesis of learning gains by anyone in the group provides opportunities for students to engage in intellectual discourse—to know, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate concepts from the instructional material and from this, create some product showing their deeper understanding of these concepts.

    (Next week: Lecture method formats)

    Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph


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