Chalk or Char? The media of education.
Just recently, I’ve been involved in a course evaluation meeting, participating as a student representative among couple other fellow classmates. It is one of the most important part of each course conducted in Chalmers. Several randomly selected (or volunteered) student representatives gather with the responsible lectures, and representative of the student union and administration personnel, sit together and discuss the reflection with possible improvement of this course in coming future. Together we discuss comments from other students, either the comments from post-course anonymous evaluation forms or comments directly reflected to the representatives, hoping to help this course improve in all possible ways.
Now looking back to my curriculum, I’ve been participated for nearly a dozen courses throughout the past year and half. It is really stunning to recap all sorts of different styles and education media used in different lectures. May it be slides made with PowerPoint or LaTeX, or photographic slides being projected using transparent films, or even as simple as hand written notes on boards. With the evolution of technology, we now have lot more means to convey our ideas during the limited amount of time. The effectiveness of using different media would of course depends on the content needed to be conveyed.
It would be easier to write down a lengthy proof containing all sorts of mathematical notations, while computer produced slides provide much clean and neat typography for code display. As the content of master degree course often involving cutting edge research results, the preparation of lectures resembles the preparation of a research talk. And sometimes, the lecture itself is exactly a research talk (when there’s a guest lecture). There is a paper published in 1993 coauthored by one of our professor, professor John Hughes, in Chalmers , presenting the list of tips for giving such a research talk. It is a very useful collection of experience from the authors and definitely recommended as a casual scientific read. (Interestingly, they’ve included tips on dealing with markers and film slides, it is much easier to prepare a presentation today than their time.)
I’ve been sitting in lectures with entirely hand written notes and derivation (and it’s about programming), a marvelous lecture I would not forget. I’ve also been watching videos recorded with the lecturer’s laptop as he teaches the course. There’s even one lecture where we have to answer the questions proposed during class using our smartphones. Chalmers offers great variety of media of education, and it is this very freedom makes the value of participating in a course. You can surely get a bundle of textbook and go through all of the content and claim you’ve learned the knowledge. But the education I’ve in Chalmers is always bidirectional, the lecturer to the students and the students to the lecturer. Whether it’s the questions during lecture time or discussion on Google forum of the course, this dynamic makes the course unique and irreplaceable. We have a set of platforms and tools for the teacher and students to communicate. May it be Fire, PingPong, or even TimeEdit. Thanks to all these facilities enabling our active communications.
Chalk or char? Next time when you sit in a lecture, why not take a moment and think about the media of education. How would you utilized tools you know and learn from the experience of the senior lecturers?
 Jones, S. L. P., Hughes, J., & Launchbury, J. (1993). How to give a good research talk. SIGpLAN Notices, 28(11), 9-12.