7 Ways Our Professors Bring Learning to Life
If you’re picturing college classrooms as places where you slump in a chair at the back of the room and mindlessly jot down every word that some unapproachable professor says while lecturing, uninterrupted, for an hour, well, let us give you a happy jolt of Carthage reality.
Here are a few techniques our faculty use to connect with students and make their lessons come to life.
1. Replay history, then revise it
Games? Simulations? Whatever you call these role-playing exercises, they’ve grown into a popular staple in several Carthage history classes.
The setting might be the Continental Congress in 1774, Mexico’s push for independence in 1910, or India’s in 1945. Portraying historical figures with differing goals and motives, students often wear costumes to slip deeper into character.
Drawing from primary sources, they can plot assassinations and overthrow governments. The game’s outcome inevitably strays from what really happened — and that’s OK. In fact, that’s where the real learning begins.
2. Pitch your business to the sharks
In the capstone Business to Business Marketing course, Professor J.J. Shields sets teams of students free to brainstorm an original product or service, study its feasibility, and carry out a marketing plan for it.
Similarly to the TV show “Shark Tank,” the teams wrap up the course by pitching their ideas to a panel of experts led by Prof. Shields. Bring your ‘A’ game, because this shark cut his teeth at major corporations like Miller Brewing, ABB Robotics, and Snap-On.
3. Si, oui, and .mp3
Modern languages professor Pascal Rollet has written dozens of songs in French and Spanish that boost Carthage students’ fluency by highlighting verb tenses, possessive adjectives or other grammar points.
Counterparts at some other schools do it, too, but theirs are childlike tunes you’d rather not have lingering in your head. Prof. Rollet uses Garage Band software to merge synthesized instruments, guitar, and, of course, vocals into songs a college audience can tolerate.
4. Why we’re fooled by magic
Winner of four national magic competitions, Professor Tony Barnhart performs rope tricks, coin tricks, card tricks — just about anything short of a rabbit and top hat — in both lecture and lab courses.
He focuses mainly on “inattentional blindness,” a psychological principle that good magicians exploit.
“You know exactly what’s happening, and you still fall for it every time,” said psychology graduate Alison Mackey ’17. “That’s amazing to me.”
5. Get off campus … like, way off
Reading about South African apartheid? That’s important. Seeing the remnants in person? Now there’s a lesson you won’t forget.
Each J-Term, our faculty lead roughly a dozen study tours to destinations from Germany to Namibia. Carthage is a national leader in short-term study abroad.
6. Flip the classroom
Professor Mark Mahoney’s computer science students are welcome to watch his lectures in their PJs, and we’re not talking about a really lax dress code. He uses a flipped classroom, meaning students watch his recorded lectures in their free time and do the “homework” in class.
“I know that my computer science students will not learn how to develop software simply by watching me do it. They have to struggle through the process in order for it to stick,” Prof. Mahoney said. “I want to be in the room as much as possible when they do their ‘real’ learning.”
He has company. Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube.
7. Virtual explorations
Because it’s not feasible to commute overseas every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, our geospatial science faculty often use virtual reality to give students a vivid, 360-degree sense of a location they’re studying.
Attaching Google VR viewers to their smartphones, the students in Geography of East Asia course spend a day following Professor Wenjie Sun from the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square in China before moving on to Japan’s Mount Fuji and destinations in South Korea.