An Interview with Pamela Vaughn
Elizabeth Sommers: Please explain your project to your colleagues and students in Humanities. What's the philosophy underlying your project? How did you go about turning the philosophy into the project?
Pamela Vaughn: This one was very simple--I figured the Collaboratory would be an ideal setting to get students involved in the translation process and at the same time enjoy anonymity, more or less. Some people are very reluctant to participate in class, and really panic when called on--even though they are very well prepared (I have seen their written work, remember!). So the relative comfort of the atmosphere (no one will call on me DIRECTLY) leaves them free to put on the computer what they think is correct--and frequently is--and see what others are doing at the same time.
Elizabeth Sommers: How is technology enhancing your ability to carry out your project?
Pamela Vaughn: This particular project was designed for the Collaboratory alone, though we can and do use other things, like interactive video, computer tutorials and so on for other parts of the class.
Elizabeth Sommers: How did you go about implementing it?
Pamela Vaughn: I worked with Jennifer Jelavich, Collaboratory Coordinator, to make sure I set up the exercises correctly, and then we just did it!
Elizabeth Sommers: What do you like most about your project? How did the students like it?
Pamela Vaughn: I like the activity and the liveliness--they are usually a pretty lively group, but their level of involvement increases when the pressure of "performing" is removed. The students like the reduced pressure involved in oral translation, and they say they feel their confidence growing when they see that others have the same problems are even worse than they! I think they pay closer attention to the computer screen than the oral translations--because I can see the same results, but they don't.
I had students fill out an informal questionnaire on the Collaboratory experiences at the end of the semester. The response was positive overall, as the examples show:
Of course, some responses were mixed:
- " It was very helpful to see a whole slew of translations up on the screen; this gave me an even clearer understanding of why my various word choices were or were not correct. The anonymity was nice, too!"
- "It's nice to see that others got the sentences wrong also."
- "Comfortable environment (chairs, temperature, lighting, ambience. Excellent integration of techology and learning--anonymous input takes pressure off students, encouraging everyone to particpate. The new "toy" inspires commitment to attendance."
- "The technology doesn't overpower the room, and it is straightforward enough that everyone can understand, so the focus is on the lesson, not the equipment. The set-up of the room is perfect for both participation and anonymous individual work, since you can see everyone else but only your own screen and the larger main screen at the front."
Elizabeth Sommers: What do you find most troublesome about it? Do you know what others find troublesome?
- "The seats are so comfortable that you don't want to leave!"
- "With the computer right in front of you there isn't a flat surface to take notes."
- "I didn't like not having a list of accurate translations to study later. The teacher was very far away, harder to hear and to see expressions."
Pamela Vaughn: The students have no problems at all--or they didn't report any on the questionnaire I gave them, except that they wish everyone would take it seriously. But that goes for our regular work as well. I need to have more time experimenting with the possibilites of the software, so that we can move rapidly from one segment to the another, and maybe get some group work going.
Elizabeth Sommers: Would you or would you not like colleagues contacting you about CMI projects?
Pamela Vaughn: Sure! I would love to have some informal chats with others about what they are doing. I can be reached at 338-7444 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Sommers: What do you wish you knew when you started? What will you do differently next time?
Pamela Vaughn: I was glad that I had been able to attend a preview of the Collaboratory as part of my committee work a year or so ago. Vicki Casella was both surprised and excited when I mentioned that I thought it would be great to try out for language classes, and extended translations and discussions of text. I think next time I will spend more time with Jennifer Jelavich talking about the potential--pushing the envelope, so to speak--and seeing what new and exciting things we can do--maybe connecting this work with some Internet or interactive CD-ROM work, too.
Elizabeth Sommers: What surprised you the most?
Pamela Vaughn: That all of the students--even those who aren't particularly crazy about computers or really adept at using them--loved the process!
Elizabeth Sommers: Please add anything you want! And thanks again.
Pamela Vaughn: I think it was important for the students to see that there are numerous ways of engaging the language and the text (ancient or modern); we were really doing some literary analysis and close readings of the text, which was pretty advanced for this stage of Latin instruction. I was very happy with their work and their comments, and I'm glad you could see us on such a successful day!