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Guest Column

October 14, 2012

Teaching not so easy: Part 2

Guess what the French word for “paperclip” is? Give up? It’s “trombone” or, to be more grammatically correct, “un trombone.” What a much more imaginative word to capture the shape of what we Anglo speakers mundanely call the paperclip.

The Associated Press recently published a story about the “SpeechJammer,” which was among the 2012 Ig Nobel winners. It’s a device that repeats an individual’s speech a few hundred milliseconds after they’ve said it, and it purportedly completely discombobulates the speaker. It’s proposed use is to warn conference speakers that they have exceeded their time limits. I know this works because when I was a typical bratty teenager, I had the ability to do the same thing — repeat almost immediately one’s speech, which really annoyed the speaker. I quit this practice after my seventh-grade English teacher stopped lecturing, glared at me and slowly said, “Stop that!” I may have been a wisenheimer, but I was also wise enough to know when enough was enough.

Why am I writing about trombones and the SpeechJammer? Because they are both educational experiences that I never would have remembered if I had not agreed to teach the computer ethics and writing course at SUNY Plattsburgh, as mentioned in my previous column. Associative memory is a strange and amazing thing.

I also promised a second part to complete my thoughts regarding this process and so, here they come:

I began preparing for this course several months ago by perusing my last syllabus, which lays out the goals of the course and the scheduled assignments. Fortunately, the textbook is the same one I chose five years ago. Although it is now in it’s fifth edition, the content is pretty much the same, and the ethical theory covered has not yet changed. The supplementary readings were a bit out of date, so I thought I could replace that with readings from the Web. This required reading ethical articles found online.

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