AMITIAE - Wednesday 10 February 2016

Cassandra: Three Macs and an iPhone - Presentations in an English Class for Thai Engineering Students

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


When I first started teaching at the university, more than 20 years ago, I asked a class how many students had a computer: one. Five years later, there was a total switch, with only one not having a computer. These were all PCs then. Now I have some classes where several students have Macs or iOS devices.

My second year class of Mechanical Engineers is like herding cats: a lot of fun, but I need to make sure I am in control of the class all the time. They have had enough grammar and my approach is to focus on communication, so if mistakes are made - and even native speakers make mistakes - I do not make a federal case out of it. This apparently is what many high school teachers do in Thailand, so the students are inhibited: they are afraid to use the language.

Herding Cats

The class has evolved over the years I have been teaching: dumping what doesn't work so well, bringing in new ideas and all the time, trying to keep things moving. With a selection of exercises, comment from me, and input from students, I can run a class for an hour on just a few sentences: milking every word.

As it was clear that testing reading was not working, I made a switch last year to the more communicative presentation format: students need this skill anyway, so it helps to start them early, even if the results may be patchy. I make it clear to the students that there are no marks for English (but I may cut a couple if they slip in too much of their native language).

Epson projector Before the class, a group of students asked if they could borrow my adapter for the Mac so that they could connect to the VGA projector (Epson). I have no problem with that, but as I am being asked so often these days, wish that the university would buy a couple. I am not there all day, every day.

When the class started, there were three Macs in the room: a recent MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air and an older MacBook Pro (about 2010).

In the end, five groups made presentations with the Macs, but two were using the computers for the first time and may not have produced the best performance. One group suffered slightly as they tried to run the presentation from a USB drive, which I think always slows things down: better to copy the data to the computer before the class. It is also better to be familiar with the technology of course.

Towards the end one group approached and asked if they could use the Lightning-to-VGA adapter I had and ran an impressive presentation from an iPhone, with some interesting transition effects in Keynote. They knew the content and produced workmanlike slides for the presentation. I was pleased with this.

Later I asked them about their work and was surprised by two things: rather than producing the slides on a computer and synchronising, they had worked solely on the iPhone; and they had never used Keynote before.

I hope the Friday group are as productive.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. 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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

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