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The Weekly Blab

The Weekly Blab

Volume 6, Issue 12—November 7, 2011


SPSU’s Winning Streak Continues…

We all know that our SPSU students are capable of great things, but this most recent streak is fantastic, even for us. 

First, congratulations to our Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PSLSAMP) students, who competed in the 6th Annual PSLSAMP National Symposium and Research Conference, held at Savannah State University October 14-15.  SPSU winners included Joshua Gober (chemistry), winning second place for his oral presentation in the Chemistry Section; Nekeshia Griffin (biology), winning first place for her oral presentation in the Environmental Biology/Microbiology/Mathematics/Physics Section; Sonia Vanegas (MET) and Davis Hsu (ME) winning second place in the Technology and Engineering oral presentations; and Ukaku Kalu (ECET) and Eddie Pulliam (Mechatronics Engineering), winning third place in the Technology and Engineering oral presentations.  The students’ research mentors were Peter Sakaris (Biology), Mir Atiquallah (MET), Kai Qian (CS), and Vincent P. Conticello (Emory University). Thanks go to Phil Patterson, our PSLSAMP Director, for this information.

Not to be outdone by a bunch of scientists and engineers, the SPSU Speech Team competed at a major Southeastern US speech tournament Oct. 15-16, at the University of Alabama.  There, freshman Tyler Maran took first place in the novice poetry interpretation competition.  SPSU’s team was coached by Misty York (ETCMA), and competed against such teams as Florida State and the University of Alabama.  Thanks go to Mark Stevens for this information.

And if that wasn’t good enough, Chelsea won this weekend as well, beating Blackburn 1-0, though they’ve now fallen to 4th place. 


Interesting Talk at RACAA

Last Wednesday, I drove down to Macon for the Fall Regents Advisory Council on Academic Affairs (RACAA) meeting, held at Macon State.  There were a large number of updates on various and sundry things, but the highlight of the meeting was a talk by Richard DeMillo, who is the Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech.  Dr. DeMillo talked about various initiatives that are being taken up by the Center, and several of them sounded like good ideas for SPSU to think about. 

First, Georgia Tech and a university in Canada are developing a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course—I’d never heard the term before either) similar to the one offered at Stanford University on Artificial Intelligence that has attracted more than 100,000 registrants.  There have been about a dozen MOOC’s offered at one place or another.  Here’s the definition, as spoken by David Cormier, the leader of the MOOC movement: “…a MOOC integrates the connectivity of social networking, the facilitation of an acknowledged expert in a field of study, and a collection of freely accessible online resources.”  So, it’s a course taught online by an expert, with a huge enrollment and free resources (readings, discussions, etc.) that are shared by all.  Some universities have developed more traditional courses (with traditional tuitions and grading!) that “feed” off of a MOOC.  A good summary of the MOOC experience, pro and con, may be found here.  The good things about MOOCs include the ability to interact with a much broader range of people than in a normal course and thereby hear a much wider range of views (Stanford’s MOOC has participants all over the world), lots of people to help understand the instructor’s materials, and various synchronous chats and Q&A sessions with experts. 

It occurs to me that there are several ways that we might want to have an internal MOOC, in this case meaning a course available large groups of students at SPSU.   One example might be a MOOC associated with SPSU 1001, in which we might have a campus-wide conversation with our new students about what it means to be in an academic community and the issues that new students face as they join it.  Another MOOC might be formed around the idea of developing entrepreneurship and innovation among our students.  I’ve run into several examples of students who had good ideas regarding innovations, but didn’t know how to bring these ideas to fruition.  An entrepreneurship MOOC might help us address this issue in a way that fits well with our applied mission. 

Another idea that Dr. DeMillo is organizing is called TechBursts—Share What You Know.  This is a competition among Tech students to prepare a youtube type video (no more than 10 minutes) that explains a difficult concept that they have mastered in a compelling and entertaining way.  A library of these videos will be collected, and will help future students. 

This is a version of an idea that a faculty member at my previous college had, where he had students in his freshman biology lab prepare an online lab manual for the next year’s students.  By making the manual as well as doing the experiments, they developed a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught.  I’ve also heard of similar videos being prepared in medical schools, to give the basics on basic medical procedures. 

Dr. DeMillo notes that a library of some 2,600 TechBurst-like videos already exists, called the Khan Academy, most of which are in Mathematics and Art History, though a healthy helping of other subjects are also there.  Some of the videos are good, and as is inevitable, some are bad—the first one I looked at in chemistry, on oxidation-reduction, is crammed with errors in the explanation.  Most are “lecture snippets”, but I’m sure that Tech’s and our own students could come up with a more interesting way of presenting things than that. 

Preparing a TechBurst sort of video will make for a fine competition, and is also an idea that could easily lend itself to being used as an assignment in just about any course.  Collections of these videos would be helpful to future students, thereby helping retention.

The general purpose of the Center for 21st Century Universities is to envision what the future of instruction and university research might look like, and I submit that that’s a critical thing to think about in these challenging times.  If we were to develop such a Center at SPSU, what issues do you think would be the most important ones for us to take up?


Trivia Contest!

Last Week’s Contest

Last week’s contest was all about bears—Yogi bear, that is!   Susan Bentzen-Gordet proved that no one was going to filch a pic-a-nic basket from her by getting all five right within 16 minutes of the BLAB being posted.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. What is the name of Yogi’s young partner?   Boo Boo
  2. What phrase answers the question “How intelligent is Yogi”? “He’s smarter than the average bear.”
  3. What is the name of his home location, and the ranger there?  Jellystone Park, Ranger Smith
  4. What is Yogi’s girlfriend’s name? Cindy
  5. What was the original show on which Yogi appeared?  Huckleberry Hound


This Week’s Contest

This week’s challenge is on best-selling books.  First with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!

  1. Best selling book of all time.
  2. Not only did he have the #1 TV show, but he also authored the top selling non-fiction books in 1986 (“Fatherhood”) and 1987 (“Time Flies”).  He also likes pudding.
  3. John Gray’s 1995 best seller, with two planets in the title.
  4. Stephen King wrote the top book with the shortest title that topped the list in 1986.  What was it?
  5. First president to write a book that topped the US non-fiction best sellers.  Hint—it wasn’t John F. Kennedy.