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Wednesday, January 30, 2002

  • Profs' top technology? Still chalk
  • Walkerton's looking for tourists
  • Ski sprints use scrounged snow
  • And a little of this and that
Chris Redmond

Lobby group sees 'no room' for the double cohort

Profs' top technology? Still chalk

The faculty of engineering spends at least a million dollars a year on computer technology -- some of it for teaching -- and how does it actually get used in the classroom? "Sparingly or not at all," says a report on a survey of faculty members. "The most highly rated mode of communication was the chalk on the blackboard and transparencies on an overhead projector."

[Chalk on board] The survey was sent out last June by the associate dean (computing) in engineering, Hector Budman, and his colleagues. A report now available on the web says the participation rate was 37 per cent, and "There was a remarkable consistency in the results of the survey across all departments."

Says the report: "Until this survey was complete, there was no concrete evidence on the use of the Web/Internet/Technology in the classroom and no available data to address the barriers that exist to prevent the faculty from using the technology. The responses indicate overwhelmingly that the use of technology in the classroom is severely limited despite the faculty having a significant monetary and people investment in the technology. . . .

"Although all agreed that computing was important for research, teaching, personal use and administration, 44% of the responses indicated that there was no correlation between the use of technology in the classroom and student achievement.

"Fifty-one percent did indicate that the lack of release time from teaching to develop coursework was a very important reason why they choose not to use the technology. Another reason cited was the enormous amount of time necessary to produce usable material and the lack of support from the technical staff. Although the lack of career recognition was considered to be 'not important' by 32%, it was also considered to be important by 55% of the faculty."

[Each behind a monitor]

The new multimedia lab in the faculty of engineering -- an addition to Carl Pollock Hall in a north corner of the engineering quadrangle -- is being used for four courses this term. Either dean Sujeet Chaudhuri (left) and other engineering VIPs are going back to school, or they were attending a special demonstration as the lab was brought into use. Photo from Graphics Photo Imaging.

It's not that engineers don't use computers, the survey report stresses. "All of the professors who responded do, in fact, use a computer either at home or at the office and rated themselves to be of average ability to expert ability." Typically they spend 16 to 25 hours a week at the computer, using such tools as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, programming languages and scientific software. In general, other questions revealed, they get their computer skills from "manuals via the trial and error process" and by asking colleagues or nearby staff, but not from formal training sessions.

Says the report: "Although most of the faculty do not use technology in the classroom, they did acknowledge that the graduating engineering students have a need for computer related tools to compete in future endeavors. They also rated design skills, problem solving and technical writing skills as the three most important skills of the graduating engineer. For the most part, all responses felt that it is important for graduating students to have skills in computer programming, computer simulations, design and experimental skills, computer presentation skills, knowledge and use of computer hardware and software and to a somewhat lesser degree, the use of the World Wide Web.

"One must then ask the question how and where they (the students) are going to gain these skills. Are they required to use the technology in any of their courses? From our survey, most courses do not require the students to use the technology. Using e-mail to submit materials on-line was largely not required for their courses and neither was the use of newsgroups. Searching for material on the internet was an often quoted computer task as was the submission of word processed papers and computer messages shared by the class."

The report says professors consider computing skills important: "Yet, the two main reasons given for the use of computer applications in teaching were to maintain records of student grades and to prepare class notes and lectures and not, as one might expect, to deliver lecture content in class or for students to submit assignments and communicate with each other. . . . Another important use of computers in teaching cited was student access to course materials, yet 54% do not use electronic material on the internet in any course."

Walkerton's looking for tourists -- by Barbara Elve, from today's Gazette

Enlisted to help Walkerton, Ontario, attract more tourists, UW researchers have suggested a startling solution. For the Bruce County community struck by the deadly E. coli contamination of its drinking water in May 2000, the key to increased tourism may lie in the waters of the Saugeen River.

"It's a delicate issue," admits recreation and leisure studies professor Steve Smith, who with PhD student Michael Scantlebury is working with the Walkerton Tourism Recovery Project. But the contaminated wells have been given a clean bill of health, and the scenic Saugeen, which skirts the village, has always been a mecca for canoeists, kayakers, anglers, hikers and snowmobilers.

With $350,000 in funding from the province, the tourism recovery project has brought together representatives from Bruce and Grey counties, the ministry of tourism, and the Southern Ontario Tourism Organization to tackle the challenge.

From their offices on campus, Smith and Scantlebury have teamed up with an advertising agency to develop a profile of Walkerton area visitors, to create an inventory of "market-ready tourism products", and to finalize a tourism marketing plan for what they're calling "Saugeen Country".

"Ironically, the tragedy has probably brought more visitors to Walkerton than ever before," says Smith. While Walkerton has never been a tourism hot spot, the Saugeen watershed has a positive reputation among outdoors enthusiasts. Building on that strength, researchers identified things to see and do in Saugeen Country that would encourage tourists to stop or stay in Walkerton on their visits to the region. Among the highlights: outfitters that offer outdoor "team building experiences" for both corporations and non-profit organizations; historic Neustadt, a bed and breakfast package that includes walking tours, visits to a brewery and crafts studios in the village just 15 minutes from Walkerton; a driving tour of lighthouses and other historic sites and museums around the mouth of the Saugeen on Lake Huron; the development of Walkerton's historic Victoria Jubilee Town Hall, built in 1897 and "a beautiful facility", says Smith, that has the potential to provide a venue for choral concerts and other arts programming; rebuilding of some 8,000 km of snowmobile trails in Bruce and Grey counties.

"Our approach has been to work with local resources and talent -- a kind of bootstrap operation," explains Smith. "If the tourism operators can pull together, they can accomplish some good things. The potential is significant for the community." The Waterloo researchers are currently conducting focus groups to test the response to new logos that will be used to market Saugeen Country -- primarily to potential visitors from southeastern Michigan, as well as from the London and Kitchener-Waterloo areas.

Ski sprints use scrounged snow

There's a storm in the forecast tonight, but right now the ground is bare -- not great news for the UW nordic ski team. Still, the races must go on. So today's scheduled "free technique sprints" are going to start on time.

It's just the location that's changed. Instead of skiing on the Village green, close to the Student Life Centre, the PAC and potential spectators, competitors will do their thing on the north campus beside the Columbia Icefield.

"There is a lot of snow there from the zamboni," says team member Kelly Skinner (below), "and we have even built some hills into the course."

Sounds like a typical make-the-best-of-things response to a problem for the nordic ski team, described in the sports column of today's Gazette as "one of the most oft-overlooked and underrated teams to wear the black and gold" -- and a team that's off to a terrific start in OUA league skiing, currently standing second in men's competition and fourth in women's.

[Skate style] It's just the latest, most extreme example of how the team lacks practice facilities. "Both the lack of snow and our lack of a spot to ski on campus forces us to go to places like Bechtel Park and when all else fails Chicopee, which by no means is easily accessible from campus," says women's captain Andrea Dupont.

They're managing, and winning too. "I believe we can win the OU's this year," says Dupont, "but if not, we'll at least put up a good fight. Our women's team is fitter and faster than it has been in years. Every one has been battling with one or two other girls at all our races so far this season and we just need things to fall into place so we can come out on top."

Today's competition was open to all comers -- entries closed yesterday, with an individual fee of $15. There are qualifying sprints for both men and women, followed by dual head-to-head heats. The distance is 800 metres (about half a mile). There are prizes for winners in various categories.

Bib pickup starts at 4:30 in the PAC, and racing will begin at 6 p.m. Spectators are very welcome -- on the north campus, remember.

It's my virus, and I'll cry

There are no party pictures, really. Those e-mails headed "new photos from my party" are carrying the latest computer virus, says a warning from Marj Kohli in the information systems and technology department.

Says Kohli: "We are trying to block it at the 'gateway', which means that many of you will never see it. However, just in case you are on a system that is not having this done, please, please, tell your people not to open this email.

"The virus is on campus and we are trying to clean up those systems but this one spreads very quickly. Do not open any file with the subject line 'new photos from my party'. Also, make sure that your LiveUpdate is dated January 28, 2002 so that you have the definitions for this virus on your machine."

And a little of this and that

"Sell your old Ricky Martin CD and buy a Groove Armada," says Noemia Fernandes of the retail services department. It's a come-on for a "CD buy and sell" sponsored by Techworx, and being held in the South Campus Hall concourse today through Friday.

Or if live music is your preference (and Groove Armada isn't), another option today is the noon-hour concert at Conrad Grebel University College. Jeremy Moyer will perform "traditional Chinese music with erhu, gaohu and coconut shell fiddle", starting at 12:30 in the Grebel chapel. Admission is free.

[Poet's portrait] Also at noon hour: a "free lunch and great technology" session sponsored by the computer store, today featuring Corel products (12:00, Davis Centre room 1302).

There's a reading this afternoon at St. Jerome's University (4:00 in the common room, room 327). A note from our sponsor: "Helen Tsiriotakis (right) is a very fine young poet from Toronto. In A House of White Rooms she explores family and cultural memory. Robert Kroetsch says, 'The poet is Emily Dickinson on the island of Crete in the high heat of summer. To read Helen Tsiriotakis is to know the scalding appetites of morning without recourse to shade. . . . Dear Reader, take the exquisite risk.' Helen Tsiriotakis has also lived in Crete, where she worked as an E.S.L. teacher and a translator. A House of White Rooms (Coach House, 2001) is her first book. She is currently at work on a novel. Don't miss this opportunity to hear the very exciting voice of a young writer at the beginning of her career!"

The third event in the "civic dialogue" series, sponsored by the civics research group, is scheduled for today from 4:30 to 6:00 at its home in downtown Kitchener, 70 King Street East.

The weekly Gays and Lesbians of Waterloo coming-out discussion group meets tonight at 7:00 in Humanities room 373. Topic for the week is "Coming Out to Parents", and there will be "special guests from the local chapter of PFLAG", Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

[Planet Baroque logo] The K-W Symphony plays tonight in the Theatre of the Arts, as its Planet Baroque series continues. The music will start at 8:00, and the general theme is "A Big Bundle of British Baroque"; pieces include Händel's Concerto for Harp with soloist Lori Gemmell.

Nominations are due this week for this year's Distinguished Teacher Awards. The nomination deadline is, as always, the first Friday in February, and that would be just two days from now. Further information is available by calling the Teaching Resource Office at ext. 3857. Also to be presented are the Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student Awards. Says a memo from TRACE: "Do you know of a registered student whose teaching could be recognized? Nominations for this award are being accepted until Friday, February 8, at 4:00 p.m."



January 30, 1970: Biologist George Wald of Harvard University gives the first Hagey Lecture.

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