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Faculty Experiences - Arch Getty

Arch Getty - photoARCH GETTY


Interview Topics
What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?

Critical thinking

Information literacy

Show what you're talking about


Class web site

Discussion board

Multimedia presentations

PowerPoint (software)



Reaching Students is Most Important

The most important thing about teaching is reaching your students. This generation of students is very visually oriented. Back in my era, we were reading a lot more books. Students today are more visual and are used to television and video. Therefore, we have to figure out ways to reach these students with an educational message. The mode of delivery becomes very important. The easiest way to lose kids is to stand up and read a monotone lecture to them. I try to present my materials to hold their interest and try to strike a responsive chord with them.

All of my technology teaching takes place in the classroom. In all of the classes I teach, I use  PowerPoint with video clips, music, as well as text.  I lecture along with the PowerPoint so that it gives students something to look at while I talk. I work really hard on finding out how to better deliver one-on-one students and technology.

I teach several courses. My stable classes are History of the Soviet Union and History of the World in the Twentieth Century. My class size depends on the type of classroom I am able to get. This is one of my sore points every single quarter. There is no provision in the registrar's office that allocates classrooms in accordance with technological needs. Professors like me need a data projector to teach my class. This means that I need a class classroom that has a built in data projector to avoid a huge expense of checking one out every time. I get these good classrooms only by chance. The size of my classes is directly limited to my access to a technology equipped class. Most of my classes can have 150 and I have to turn down students. So my class can be anywhere from 100 to 200 students depending on the classroom I am in. I do not really change my basic teaching from, say, a small class to a big class. It's difficult to have an ongoing discussion in large classrooms; however, I do stop for questions and digressions when I have a chance.
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I have found that PowerPoint pretty much does the trick when it comes to putting together lectures utilizing multimedia and text. It took me a short time to learn PowerPoint. The program was written for stupid salesmen who had to put together flashy presentations really fast. It has a lot of functions built into it. There are lots of templates. I mastered it in about two afternoons of playing around with it. It's very simple to use. It's good for teachers because one doesn't have to spend a lot of time fooling with it. One can learn how to do very fancy things very quickly. Before I used data projectors and laptops, I did  multimedia presentations using a tape recorder, four slide projectors (timed and synched), one slide would fade into another one. At that time, I could never see foresee something like PowerPoint that essentially does all of this stuff for me, without me frantically pushing buttons and making sure the slides were timed right.
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We have a class web site where we put the course syllabus, links to some archival documents--sometimes we use a  discussion board. I'm probably the odd man out when it comes to using web sites. I am not a big believer in web sites as a teaching tool for professors. Sometimes web sites can be a way to avoid teaching. Sometimes web sites can turn the class into a correspondence course where you lose the one-on-one, face-to-face interaction with the professor. The web site can be good in the way of a bibliographical catch-all to making available materials that one would ordinarily give in print. It's a convenience. I was involved a few years ago in an experiment with the history department and the chancellor's office about students learning with technology. I started to become very suspicious that web sites, intercampus conferencing, and the like were more a means to save the school money at the expense of providing quality teaching. Web sites are cheap. Administrators love them. They look flashy. You can show them to legislators and parents. Unless you can use the web site to do things that you cannot do any other way, I believe they become more of a crutch. The things we are mostly doing on the web are not a technological leap; it's more accurate to say that we are going paperless. I think you can count on one hand the professors who are doing things really technologically creative with web sites in the classroom; for the others, we are just doing things that we normally did on or with paper.
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The students are pretty enthusiastic about my use of PowerPoint because it holds their attention. I always get a lot of positive feedback in the student critiques about the lectures.
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In the future, I don't see myself changing dramatically the way I'll teach a big class. However, in smaller classes--like seminar type settings--I see technology opening bigger doors for how we will teach in that environment--for example, using  whiteboard tablets where groups can edit documents simultaneously. I can see in a graduate seminar class using a whiteboard and making annotations from different sources similar to what business people have been doing. I think the software that is already out there and being further developed where collaborative editing can take place can be incorporated in small class settings.
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I think we have to be aware that with the web there is a lot of garbage out there. I think we need to spend more time teaching students how to filter and critique the content that is out there to understand what they're looking at. As it is now, students who watch TV, watch videos, and surf the web take all the material in without scrutinizing it and will digest what they perceive as facts as the real thing. The more visual students get, the more we have to teach  critical thinking. To teach students how to critically think about visuals and text would take 2-3 weeks. I think this should be a course in and of itself. I don't know any professor who could afford to take this amount of time out of their class to do this, especially in the quarter system. I have been an advocate of requiring 1-2 unit  information literacy course for freshman students--how to use library databases, web sites, how to critique things, how to process the mass democratically produced information that is out there. Until we do something like this, this technological web boom can do more harm than good.
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Oral Interview, May 15, 2003
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