Ten years ago a personal computer in the classroom was an oddity. First of all, very few students had access to a computer, let alone owning one. Even the college faculty had a difficult time getting their own computer. Next, compared to today’s standards, the computer was very big and bulky. Lynn carried his computer around in a backpack.
When Lynn used his computer in the classroom, some students thought he was showing off. Others may have thought he was a brainy nerd. Neither of these opinions was correct. Lynn just happened to be on the leading edge of information technology in the safety, health and environmental field.
The wired classroom: How far have we progressed toward using computers in the classroom? To help answer this question I contacted Michael Bisesi, Ph.D., CIH, chairman of the Department of Occupational Health at the Medical College of Ohio. Dr. Bisesi provided the following information: The department is moving into a new state-of-the-art building designed to enhance teaching and research performance. New classrooms and laboratories are cabled to facilitate use of desktop and notebook computers for information delivery, retrieval, and exchange on and off campus. Classrooms and laboratories will be equipped with stationary or mobile audiovisual technology modules permitting visual and audio information to be projected from desktop and notebook computers.
Use of traditional slide projectors is being phased out and replaced with computer-based programs such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint® and equivalent software. Slides can be developed and modified using the computer directly or by scanning images, including drawings, photos, and traditional slide images into the computer. By connecting the desktop or notebook computer to a video projector, slide images can be projected directly to a screen. Animation and video can be incorporated into computer-aided visuals.
Traditional paper handouts and lecture notes given to students will be minimized, too. Students will be able to access materials by downloading information from the college’s network computer system and/or established sites on the Internet. Alternatively, handouts and notes can be provided to students via floppy disks and/or CD-ROMs.
Presently, all students in the degree program are expected to be computer literate. Effective January, 1998, however, all students will be required to possess a notebook computer to expand direct electronic interaction between students and professors in the classroom and laboratories. Via table-top computer ports, students will connect on-line with faculty during classroom lectures and demonstrations. Information, including examples and assignments, can be exchanged directly via electronic media instead of traditional hard copy. Faculty and students also will be able to more efficiently use applicable software programs designed for occupational health and safety.
The plugged-in office: If students in the classroom are expected to be computer literate, surely business employees will need to meet these same standards. As an example, the Medical College of Ohio is not the only organization constructing a state-of-the-art building in my community this year. Owens Corning, a major manufacturer of building insulation and roofing shingles, is building a new world headquarters. More than 1,200 employees will be moving into this new high tech building on the banks of the Maumee River in downtown Toledo.
Their new home will be fully computer equipped; containing more than 300 miles of telecommunications cable, including 75 miles of fiber-optic cable. Owens-Corning has designed and mandated "paperless" offices. To accomplish this goal virtually every employee will have a computer capable of receiving and sending electronic mail. If you want a job here you’d better be computer literate.
Getting motivated: I was envious of Lynn’s computer knowledge and skills years ago. But seeing him in action inspired me to become more savvy about using new technology. I think I’ve come a long way. I’m sitting here now at home typing this article on my Pentium-based computer loaded with software and heaps of memory, fast modem and other goodies. Connected to it is a HP Deskjet 855 color printer as well as a HP IIcx flatbed scanner equipped with optical character recognition (I didn’t have to retype the information Dr. Bisesi faxed to me).
Prior to writing this article, I logged onto OSHA’s home page and linked to other Web sites just to see what was going on in the health and safety world. I also quickly checked my alma mater’s home page to actually "see" the construction of the new Allied Health building. I explored all this information in just a matter of minutes.
Some people would say I’m showing off right now. But consider what people may have thought of Lynn years ago and what the standard is today. The fact of the matter is the instructor’s chalkboard is going the way of the buggy whip. Soon students will be graduating with more than just a passing knowledge of how to use a computer and new information technology. They’re your competition.
Employers are demanding computer literate employees. Are you going to keep pace or fall behind? Here are a few simple suggestions for keeping pace with new information technology:
- Convince your employer that you need a computer;
- Buy your own computer for home use;
- Access various sites on the Internet at least once a week;
- Subscribe to a computer magazine such as PC Novice;
- Use E-mail whenever you can;
- Use your computer to create a "paperless" office;
- Explore new software.
If you’d like to learn more about information technology at the Medical College of Ohio, you can contact Dr. Bisesi by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.