Friday, June 22, 2012

Amelito Enriquez: Its the teaching, not the tools

English: This is a photo of the state-of-the-a...
This is a photo of the state-of-the-art library at Cañada College in Redwood City, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had the great pleasure of attending and presenting at the Online Teaching Conference 2012 last week and hearing Amelito Enriquez deliver one of the keynote addresses.The conference website describes him as: ..."a longtime engineering and mathematics professor at Canada College which is located in Redwood City, CA. Cañada College has received a $10 million grant that will help rebuild the pipeline of engineering students from California’s community colleges to the UC and CSU systems while simultaneously increasing the number of minority students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Amelito, the principal investigator for the grant, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on community college engineering education. He co-authored a paper, “The Dismantling of the Engineering Education Pipeline” that details the decline of community college engineering programs brought about by decreasing enrollment due to increasing divergence in lower-division course requirements and recent budget cuts to education. It received a Best Paper Award at the 2011 American Society of Engineering Education National Conference in June."

His story is certainly inspiring on many levels. He grew up in a poverty in Manila and went on to study at U.C. Irvine where he earned a Phd. in Mechanical Engineering. In December of last year, he was received the Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Among his accomplishments cited in the Asian Journal article include:
  • establishing an intensive summer math program aimed at helping students improve their math test scores;
  • starting a Summer Engineering Institute for underrepresented students; 
  • partnering with the NASA to establish an internship program for students; 
  • and partnering with San Mateo County to help veterans transition from the military into engineering careers.
So if all that weren't enough, the instructional designer part of me was really excited about his discussion of the tools he uses.  He started teaching online by turning his courses into hybrid courses. He got a grant from Hewlett Packard for tablet computers and began to use CCC Confer - the California Community College's implementation of Elluminate Live (now Blackboard Connect) which is webinar software. Delivering content synchronously, students can attend class online or face-to-face. Faculty have the ability to archive the recordings and link to them. His methods are simple, he:
  • Shares his desktop
  • Uses MS OneNote (or Word, Windows Journal, etc.) as a "white board"
  • Uses Powerpoint for lectures (he makes all of these available as annotated PDFs)
  • Designates a student tech monitor
  • Records all class sessions
  • Makes the recordings easy to access from a single link to a webpage
All of this makes it easy for his students to engage with the material when ever they want. He is doing something right because his enrollments have increased by 8%. All of the technology he uses has been around for over ten years. It is a simple implementation of the technology. That is probably what makes his work so successful. He is living proof that there is no substitute for good teaching no matter what tools you use.

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