AMITIAE - Friday 30 August 2013
Engineers' Writing Classes with iMac and iPhone Input
By Graham K. Rogers
Most of my students use PCs with different versions of Windows installed. A few have Macs. Many use iPhones or Android devices. This week there were a couple of surprises.
As my MacBook Pro was away (my fault) I had the spare iMac carried into the classroom because the students needed to give me files for a movie project. This is a Mid-2007, 20" model, so is not exactly cutting edge, although it still looks good. There was some interest expressed in the Mac, particularly when they saw the speeds that files were being transferred at.
They asked about the cost of current models. I was able to give the figure for the basic iMac as a friend was asking about this a couple of days ago and we checked the online store together.
I reminded the students too that they would probably be eligible for an education discount. As there is a uStore on campus, they could try there. Online purchases would need a credit card.
EvolutionThe writing process in my classes has an emphasis on evolution and consultation. I start with the need for a plan, then we move on to writing drafts. For my students, the hardest part is Draft 1 as I impose a number of rules: maxiumum length of a sentence is 10 words; no conjunctions; no contractions; and no outside information.
ConsultationThe second string to my bow is consultation. A classroom and lecture format may not be the best environment in which writing can be taught in a practical way. Instead, the students writing the proposals (in small groups) prepare work and come to my office (usually) for guidance. As we go through the drafts - sometimes several for each group - I advise and make suggestions, sometimes verbally, sometimes with written comments on the pages.
The main problems that Thai engineering students (and others) have are in a few basic areas:
On some occasions, the comments I make may be difficult for students to grasp all in one go, so a repeat session will almost certainly be needed, however this week I was pleased to see a novel approach used by a class of Civil Engineering students.
While I was commenting on the work, a student recorded my words using an iPhone. After their session had finished, I heard my voice and saw them going through the paper again, linking my ideas to the marks on the paper.
A couple of days later, a group of Electrical Engineers tried the same. As I was aware of what they were doing, for the first minute or so I was almost silent - teasing them - with the occasional, "mmmm," or "aha"; then I made comments in the normal way.
At least they are taking notice (if not taking notes).
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
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