Recitation and Resolution 14Jan09

Tanberg view
Tanberg view

Take a look at the equations on the board and you’ll get a sense of the difficulty Wendy is having reading the board.  While Dr. Brown is doing a great job being verbally clear and is generally keeping writing within the field of vision, the lecture experience is a bit like putting on “drunk – goggles” and trying to function.

To make matters worse, Wendy is a bit shy,  soft spoken, and very courteous, feeling uncomfortable, either interrupting class or imposing on others.

This combination of technical issues [poor resolution, lousy lens – no optical zoom – no camera control from our end] and a very polite  student, made for a terribly unproductive recitation session today.  Wendy was in a group which included two students in Durham…the session began with one of the Durham students [I have not gotten permission to use their names yet] trying to interact with Wendy while the other student was talking to the TA in Durham.  Communication seemed difficult as the Durham student was distracted by the TA communication and lost some enthusiasm, in part perhaps, due to the lack of responsiveness from Wendy.  Once the TA had finished guiding the other group member, that group member tried to explain the problem on a white board.  This was once again challenging to read, at best.   The problem was never completed so that Wendy could compare results, and the two Durham students then began working together or individually on paper, so all Wendy and I could see was the top of their heads.  Dr. Brown did stop by to check on the groups progress and also worked at the white board for a short time, still with little reaction from Wendy.  At one point Wendy helped explain a question from the female student in her recitation group in Durham, but otherwise there was no further interaction until, Dr. Brown gave the quiz, which he copied onto the white board for Wendy.

Tanberg Resolution
Tanberg Resolution

Can you read this?

Have you ever experienced being visually handicapped?

I think Dr. Dan and Dr. Brown were hoping this would be easy to do in a “down and dirty” fashion, but we are all finding that is just not the case.  For distance learning with intense, math oriented courses, the technology issues really need to be carefully addressed.  I am trying to get a hold of equipment which will allow Wendy and I to control the view and zoom remotely and which will also allow us to use it like a document camera, so we can look down at the recitation groups table and read what they are writing.

Yes, as you may gather from this post, I was a bit frustrated today.  I am now over the initial novelty of the Tanberg, which works great as a video phone booth,  and did provide that initial, “this is fun and possible” feeling, but simply gave me a headache today.  This is still a work in progress as they say.

At least our lab on Monday went along relatively smoothly…here is a picture of Wendy “floating” a charged piece of tape over our electrophorus.

Charged Tape Floating Over Electrophorus
Charged Tape Floating Over Electrophorus

One thought on “Recitation and Resolution 14Jan09

  1. Ed, this is something I’m trying to address. I’m in contact with Tandberg and am awaiting a call from their sales reps so that I can get a quote on a set-top model with remote control pan and zoom. I think that our experience shows that this is just plain necessary for this to work.

    I’m assuming I have a de facto “budget” of somewhere in the $1000-2000 range — I’m teaching this for “free”, so somewhere there is the money that was reserved to pay an instructor, and I’m hoping Dan and Cindy will pony up this money to buy a better interface if I can get Tandberg to offer us a good deal on it. I could also contribute some from my own PDA, and I might be able to get the department to kick in some for it if it will “belong” to them afterwards, with the understanding that any future remote-taught Marine Lab sections of 54 have “first dibs” on the hardware in years to come if it becomes a popular way to do this sort of thing.

    This is a good idea, but I agree that the technical side of things simply isn’t working with the small fixed focus fixed field Tandbergs. They are designed to facilitate transmission of faces, not text.

    At the moment I’m hoping that the online notes suffice to supplement the lecture to where Wendy is keeping up and not too confused (with your help!). But I’m really looking hard for a better solution.

    You might bring this to Dan’s attention (if he isn’t following this blog already) so he and I can talk about the funding issue, or alternative ways of getting a better piece of hardware.


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