Colorado Professor Utilizes Scanner As Integral Part of Teaching Approach
Dennis Middlemist was faced with two classic dilemmas in teaching: how to make his classes more interesting and how to better match his hundreds of students' names with their faces. For a creative and effective solution to both problems, he turned to a high-quality color scanner. Middlemist is a professor and interim chairperson of the Department of Management at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. The scanner now serves as an integral part of the professor's overall approach to teaching his popular business management classes. It also helps him maintain student records. Middlemist currently uses the scanner in three distinct ways: for presentations in a classroom setting; to scan readings for his graduate students; and to insert student photographs into a database program for tracking. Fostering Excitement By utilizing the scanner for presentations, he has been able to foster a more exciting and informative environment for learning. In the past, the professor would walk into his classroom equipped only with a page of notes. On occasion, he used a few overhead transparencies. Middlemist says he often wrote information on the blackboard as a way to consume time, filling in for the educational materials he lacked. He admits that this approach was a lazy one and required less preparation from him. Things have changed dramatically since installing the scanner over a year ago. Now, Middlemist frequently spends two days preparing for a class, and the results are well worth the effort. At home, the professor scans, in color, articles and pictures from publications such as BusinessWeek and Fortune and places them on transparencies. Although Middlemist says he's "not a computer whiz," his elaborate home system includes a Macintosh Quadra 800 with 24MB of RAM and 1.5GB of hard disk space; laser and color printers; a videodisc player and video capture board; and the HP ScanJet IIcx scanner, from Hewlett Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif. In addition, the professor sometimes places presentations on a Mac Duo 280c notebook, which he plugs into an LCD projection system. By adding video clips to his lessons (with Authorware Pro from Macromedia), he better retains students' attention. Positive Evaluations The feedback from students has been positive, based on classroom dialogue, grades and student evaluations of his courses. On a personal note, Middlemist reports that using the technology has increased both his knowledge and interest in the subjects he teaches. Besides presentations, another application of the scanner is to copy articles and place them into a consistent format. The professor uses Caere Corp.'s WordScan optical character recognition (OCR) program to scan articles, and leaves them at the university library's reserve desk. Students may read the article there or make their own copies. Middlemist has found that color and consistency in the non-textbook readings lead to better retention. Again, results are reflected in more lively and interesting classroom discussions. Finally, each year the professor faces the daunting task of memorizing nearly 250 students' names. (He typically teaches six classes, each with about 40 students.) To complicate matters, former students may call several years later for recommendations. Placing Names with Faces To successfully place names with faces, Middlemist maintains a student database he developed on Microsoft Excel. The database contains background, grades and a color photograph input with the HP ScanJet IIcx. (Ed. Note: Hewlett Packard has since replaced the ScanJet IIcx with the ScanJet 3c, which offers double the speed performance and other major enhancements.) Each 35mm color photo-scanned to include the head, neck and shoulders-requires 22K of hard disk space. Photos are saved as PICT or TIFF files and then attached to the Excel spreadsheet. Middlemist insists that maintaining a sophisticated database requires little extra work. "The easier it (a technology) is to use, the more likely I am to use it. And the HP scanner is very easy to use," he says. He adds that scanning students' photos has proved to be an effective recall mechanism. "I'm finally able to connect the name with the face-and remember it."
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.