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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Prof. Virginia Brown
January 2006

Jameela sits down in her Health Care Ethics classroom alongside more than 200 other Howard University students.  As Professor Virginia Brown enters the room, Jameela searches her purse for her “clicker”—an electronic keypad that resembles a tiny TV remote control.  With her clicker in hand, she listens to Brown discuss a critical concept in medical ethics.    Then suddenly Brown displays a multiple-choice question about the concept on a PowerPoint slide and asks the class to respond.  Like dozens of other students, Jameela glances at her lecture notes and reflects on what Brown had been saying during the last ten minutes.  Then Jameela presses the button for Choice #2 on her keypad while a graphic on the slide counts down to zero.  When the countdown is over, a bar chart instantaneously appears on the screen, summarizing the students’ responses.  Seeing the chart, Brown realizes that she will have to review the concept before she moves on, so she proceeds to do some “just-in-time teaching” to ensure that the class understands.  Now she has Jameela’s full attention:  After all, Jameela had assumed that she understood the concept, but, clearly, she didn’t, so this time she’d better listen closely.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinWhat just transpired in Brown’s Health Care Ethics course occurs in dozens of classrooms at universities such as Vanderbilt, Cornell, and Duke, where faculty have adopted classroom response systems (CRS) to improve teaching, learning, and assessment.  At Howard, Brown has pioneered the use of the TurningPoint CRS, a system that integrates seamlessly with PowerPoint and relies upon radio frequency technology.  As the Coordinator for the team-taught bioethics course, Brown was determined to cure her students of “lecturalgia”—the painful state of sitting passively throughout a lecture.  So when CETLA began training faculty to use its TurningPoint system, Brown jumped at the chance to learn and persuaded other Health Care Ethics instructors to follow suit.  Seeing the faculty’s commitment and knowing that the course served hundreds of students from five HU schools and colleges, CETLA helped Brown obtain a license that could be used by the Health Care Ethics team and other faculty who taught the same cohorts of students.  Although Brown tested the CRS with a limited number of students in October and November 2005, this semester she is conducting a full-scale pilot test in the Health Care Ethics course.

Pilot-testing new technology is challenging, but Brown is well prepared to meet such challenges.  With a background in philosophy and sales, she was the ideal person to introduce TurningPoint to the Heath Care Ethics team.  She also integrated into Health Care Ethics strategies learned during CETLA’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) seminar and Blackboard workshops.    In short, she is always eager to learn new ways to improve her students’ learning.


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