Multimedia courseware sparks interest in the industry
The PowerLearn approach to power engineering education is under development by a core group of faculty and students at Iowa State University (ISU) and Virginia Tech (VT), under funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Four basic features characterize the approach. Courseware modularity provides that the material is organized by topic rather than by course. A Web site provides module storage and dissemination. Interactive visualization and simulation tools are heavily used in module construction. In addition, this project is integrated with efforts at both schools to develop new introductory undergraduate courses in electric power engineering. These courses serve well to illustrate the modular approach to course design.
In a national survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the amount of time today’s youth spend with the technology is approximated. “Generation M2 : Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-YearOlds” reveals that three out of four of surveyed 8- to 18-year-olds own MP3 players and almost seven out of ten of them have cell phones. Surprisingly, only three out of ten kids have computers in the home. Overall, they spend almost 7½ hours a day of their recreational time (time outside of the classroom) with some form of technology. When multitasking is considered, students spend almost 11 hours with media content.
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This generation spends a meager 38 minutes daily with print materials, a historic low according to the Kaiser report. College students most likely bring many of their secondary habits with them into higher education classrooms, especially their survey and principles courses. So we can learn something from the Kaiser report: there appears to be a bottom-up demand for multimedia technology. Today’s students, the M 2 generation of preteens and teens who enjoy 24/7 access to multimedia, freely choose to consume much of their leisure time interacting with some combination of multimedia technology. College instructors should take note and leverage these revealed preferences. If instructors provide interesting, meaningful, and engaging content, students using multimedia devices may be drawn into economics inside and outside of the classroom. In other words, instructors may plug into student fascination with the technology and, at the same time, help students learn the subject matter by simply employing the technology students “demand.” The technology and technology-accessed content are readily available and can be supplied by economics instructors to students with relative ease and at historically low cost.
When the distribution of answers is revealed in the histogram, both the instructor and students will know if students understand. High incorrect response rates suggest that students don’t know the difference as well as they should, information that is valuable for the instructor in determining whether to move on to the next topic or engage students in additional reviews of demand and quantity demanded concepts. Combining media and personal response systems can be powerful. Consider the increase in understanding that is likely to occur when the instructor adds these two techniques to a traditional lecture about demand and quantity demanded. After a brief introduction of the concepts, the instructor shows the Hudsucker Proxy video clip. Then the instructor provides more detail and demand curves. Finally, he or she asks a clicker question to gauge student understanding.
The concepts have now come alive in a new way, and the instructor can assess student understanding before moving forward. In addition, if a majority of the class correctly answers the posed question, it signals to those who answered incorrectly the degree of effort they need to put forth in the future. Many response systems also allow students to submit open-ended questions or responses. This feature facilitates a two-way exchange of information between the instructor and the student. For example, when covering the economics of crime, the instructor could ask, “How many of you have ever exceeded the posted highway speed limit?” Predictably, students will respond overwhelmingly that they have. But with an open-ended question like, “What is the fastest speed you have driven on the highway?” the breadth of the responses will be much more illuminating. Now the instructor will receive a wide range of answers, reflecting how fast students actually drive.
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