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September 1999, Week 3

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Subject:
From:
"dave.trautman" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Mon, 20 Sep 1999 21:10:55 -0600
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I hope I'm not too late to the party, my mail acted up and... well you've
all heard those tales I'm sure.  I was first struck by Greg Smith of
Georgia State <[log in to unmask]> who asked,

>Is this simply a transitional moment when students still are trying to treat
electronic texts more
>like paper ones, or is there a more lasting need which is more difficult to
achieve with electronic
>texts?

I've just left a position with a big University where I aided professors
into the new age by helping them understand the delivery of lectures,
notes, interactive labs, media, and other doo-dads over this new fangled
thing called the web.  The most brilliant of my cohorts began a practice
of putting all his lecture notes in a pile of stapled hand-outs by the
door of his classes and letting the students focus entirely on the
presentation without fear they would have to make extensive notes.
Although everything on the page was available from his class web site
logs of visitors reported very few ever took enough time on the pages to
actually read it off the screens.

Peter Warren's suggestion seemed immediately appropriate.

>Why don't you print out your computer screens and provide your students with
>paper copies, if that's what they want?  You may receive faster feedback, too.

Feedback indeed.  Those who will take the time to "preview the lecture"
from a website usually respond and participate because that's just the
kinds of students they are.

Then Leo Enticknap wrote,

>But all this does point to the main disadvantage of multimedia compared to
>conventional books - you need machines to read any of it.

This point was made to me hundreds of times and it's very true.  Of
course, some in the History and Classics department quickly remind others
how limited access to books had been at the early part of this century.
None-the-less this problem will require a solution.  Our University
experimented with mandating laptop computers be given to first-year
Engineering students to be used for the duration of their stay.  Pharmacy
and Pharmacology also looked into doing this.  Pharmacists are a very
wired lot.

>Others with far more expertise than my own feeble experiments can (I
>hope) comment on how far-fetched my thinking is!

Don Larsson's experiments have probably shown him much of what my
Professors experienced.  Much hard work in the first couple of years and
then smooth sailing as they adjusted their practice of teaching to fit
the media they were using.

And then there are always those for whom portability is the big issue.

>Have any of you looked into using an e-book, such as the Rocket e-book?

I'm not a big believer in hardware solving what I consider to be human
software problems.  Much of what is said about books as a tactile
encoding and a physical interaction with learning is easily proven.  The
"colouring" habit of current students to "chunk" their highlights is just
a recent mechanism which is adapted from margin notes and lecture notes.

There are some students for whom, whatever the reason, these technologies
are suited.  The E-Journal revolution will not really take hold until
these young people get tenure.  I've watched a wide range of students
engage their "electronic delivery options" in a variety of ways.  From
copying long-hand from the screen, to printing an entire year's thread
from a discussion group.  The best know how to grab the parts which have
meaning and to thread them together into their own knowledge construction
processes.  The ability to "clip" and paste from the web is very
"enabling" and those who learn to use it do very well.

In the area of distance delivery we always encountered the limited
capacity of the wire and the antique nature of early computer
installations.  It was far easier to ship them CD-ROMs and let them share
the contents in advance.

As well, if I'm permitted this last observation, with one professor
delivering daily electronic lecture to groups of students in various
video-supported classrooms the only way to show them the subtle colour
and fine lines of the nervous system he arranged for delivery of a CD-ROM
of his video clips before the lessons and let the students have time to
review them on their own after the class was over.  Even fibre-optic
cable did not deliver the image quality he needed.

I think a peer reviewed electronic version is about the only thing worth
including in Screen-L's discussions.  Considering the capability of
future DVD-ROM and high-speed cable connections we might soon be arguing
about whether Don Larsson chose the best clip from his "electronic
review" of Armaggedon or if Jeremy Butler's recent CD-ROM retrospective
on Kubrick included the right storyboards from The Shining.

I look forward to seeing people refer others to the McLuhan CD-ROM or the
DVD Video version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Dave Trautman
Media Specialist
  ...formerly with the University of Alberta


In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin."
         Marshall McLuhan


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