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Posted by Thomas Rochon at 9:33AM   |  1 comment
Active learning at IC

Dear Mr. Rochon,

I am in 7th grade at Sacred Heart Parish School in Coronado. California.  The reason I have sent you this PowerPoint is because my computer teacher had us do a PowerPoint on a college out of the top 200 colleges.  I was so glad to pick Ithaca as my college.  I went right to work and had a lot of fun doing it. 

I learned a lot of things while doing research on Ithaca.  I will narrow it down to five.  First, there are five schools within the college.  Second, the percent of men at Ithaca is 44% and the percent of women is 56%.  Third, the college started with $50 in a rented space.  Fourth, 48 states in the United States are represented and 78 other countries.  Fifth, the president, Thomas R. Rochon, has received a whole lot of awards and grants at a high level.  In all I learned a lot more than I had known before.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my e-mail.  I am sure that Ihaca is an awesome college to go to.  I will always consider Ithaca for my college education.  I appreciate your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Laurel H.

I have come to think of the unexpected email as one of the greatest pleasures of daily life.  The possibilities of connection created by the internet are endless, whether from an old high school friend who has just found you again or from a seventh grade student writing in fulfillment of a class assignment.

Laurel's email to me presents a vivid picture of how junior high school students are taught to use the internet to do research and to organize information.  I opened the powerpoint slides Laurel attached to her email and saw a beautifully formatted presentation of key facts about Ithaca College.

The technology is new but the pedagogy being used by Laurel's teacher is not.  I flashed back to when I was in seventh grade, assigned to write a paper on Brazil.  I put together a few facts gleaned from the nearest encyclopedia and then wrote a letter to the Brazilian embassy in Washington requesting more information.  I still remember the day when a package arrived at my house, containing pamphlets and a ten pound block of rubber, Brazil's leading export at the time.  I still had that block of rubber when I went off to college.  (Note to dad: did you throw it out?)

These are examples of active learning, a strategy we also use extensively at Ithaca College.  This approach involves learning by interacting with your environment and then observing the results.  It may mean doing an experiment in the laboratory, or applying your knowledge in an internship or in community service.  It means clinical internships for our doctor of physical therapy students, ensemble performances for music students, studio work for those majoring in TV/radio, and trading room experience for students of finance.  Active learning may also mean showing your work to a college president or to an embassy official and getting feedback.  Active learning is effective because it happens in a context -- you are able to internalize new information and at the same time understand how to use that information.

When I wrote back to Laurel, I did so with the memory of how much the response from the Brazilian embassy meant to me.  I maintained a lifelong interest in Brazil and much later as a faculty member published an article on democratization in that country.  That is the kind of result active learning tends to produce.  As I wrote back to Laurel, I found myself hoping that my letter to an embassy official had made him or her as happy as Laurel's letter made me.  

Mr. Rochon,

Thank you so much for the Ithaca t-shirt.  it is the perfect size and is very cool.  My whole class thinks it is so cool.

Laurel H.

You are welcome, Laurel.  I hope to meet you as part of the Class of 2018.


1 Comment

Thanks for sharing this wonderful email. I especially appreciate your response back to Laurel. I'm sure it meant a lot to her and will have a lasting impression. Excellent ex. of active learning.



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