From The Northern Star (NIU student newspaper), Wednesday, January 30, 2002


Keeping it fresh

Teaching styles, new technology open education options

By Gino Betts, Staff Reporter

[Caption] Mathematics professor Richard Blecksmith would rather see his students work on problems while in class instead of just sitting and listening to him. Here, he assists students in his class during group participation.

Professors nationwide are incorporating new teaching techniques into their repertoire.

"I think teaching is always a process of change," said mathematics professor Richard Blecksmith. "If you don't do that, you'll remain stagnant."

Blecksmith said one technique that he finds effective is breaking larger classes into small groups.

"Students don't learn as much by listening to me as opposed to tackling problems on their own," he said.

But teaching techniques aren't the only changes in education today. Technological advancements also have helped revolutionize the teaching industry.

"Graphing calculators have had a big effect on calculus," Blecksmith said. "It has helped students execute problems a lot more efficiently."

Other learning tools also have proved to be beneficial in assisting students in their pursuit of knowledge.

"I've found the CDs that come with most books to be extremely helpful when I'm studying," junior theater major Lamar Barnes said. "They're a great source of information for people, like myself, who are visual learners. I can't always grasp everything by just reading the material. I need something more interactive."

Some students find new teaching styles and tools to be refreshing.

"I'm glad professors are finding new ways to teach, because new structure can help keep a class interesting," junior psychology major Keisha Cooper said. "You can tell that even professors get tired of regurgitating the same stuff semester after semester. Their unenthusiastic attitudes make the students inattentive."

Despite trends, not all professors are buying into this new teaching phenomenon.

"I don't use any new or revolutionary teaching methods," associate professor of geology C. Patrick Ervin said. "The material I teach is related to the world, and the more you relate to the world, the more interesting it is. Whether or not I'm doing a good job, you'd have to ask the students."

Sociology lab assistant Dorothy O'Neil insists that technological assistance is a great way to improve students' comprehension of class work.

"More and more professors are using computer programs to go along with their teaching," she said. "The tools that we provide compliment their class material very nicely. Not only does our lab support courses, but we also offer seminars instructing students how to use various programs."

© 2002 Northern Star. All Rights Reserved.