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The March 22 forum "Learning in the Arts: A Renaissance" brought together those interested in adding punch to their pedagogy. The event was organized by the Committee to Enhance Arts Education, headed by economics professor Myron Frankman.
Panelists spoke for seven to ten minutes, on everything from personalizing large classes to integrating new technologies into coursework, before breaking off into discussion groups.
Political science professor Juliet Johnson talked of using simulations in the classroom to pique students' interest, a technique she picked up when taking a class on the politics of the Balkans taught by Condoleeza Rice at Stanford. At McGill, she has students gain a better grasp of Russian politics through role-playing. Believing that simulations based on model Parliaments don't quite capture the shadowy world of power and the Kremlin, Johnson arranges for students to play parts from secret service agents to Chechen warlords. And, in an acknowledgement of Russian realpolitik, she even incorporates assassination attempts into her simulation. The result, says Johnson, is that students have fun in the classroom, and put more effort into their work than under more conventional assignments.
English professor Paul Yachnin explained how new online databases are focusing attention to Old English. Thousands of texts from the Middle Ages now appear on sites like Early English Books Online.
Adam Finkelstein from McGill's Teaching and Technology Services presented on new innovations that allow professors to capture not just notes or slides, but an entire class from voice recordings to student questions. Technology's not the only answer, though. Finkelstein said, "Does technology improve teaching? It can. But think about why you're using technology before doing it."
Students had a say, too. Max Reed SSMU's VP for University Affairs talked of several shortcomings of the traditional lecture, and offered formats by which students and professors can be better engaged with one another.