Page 21 - Engineering Penn State Magazine Spring/Summer 2020
P. 21

by Tessa M Woodring
When it comes to teaching from a a a distance distance Daniel Russell teaching teaching professor and distance education coordinator in in the Graduate Program in Acoustics recognizes the need for positivity This spring he set out on a mission to bring creativity and a a a few laughs to his students and colleagues “After my third lecture from home I discovered that Zoom had the option of using virtual backgrounds and I immediately recognized that this might be a a a a way to have some fun and bring some humor to my class ” Russell said Russell found a a a cabinet in in his basement that was filled with old dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes from when
his children were younger and decided they would be perfect for his lecture openings and and faculty and and staff meetings He dressed up as numerous characters with backgrounds to match including Princess Leia and “Dan” Solo from “Star Wars” (Han Solo’s brother according
to Russell) and a a a a a a ghost with a a a a a a a a “floating head” at at Hogwarts from “Harry Potter ” “I started digging through the the collection of dress-up clothes looking for for wigs
and and and hats and and and ideas for for things I I could wear and and and then I I went hunting online for background images to match the the costumes I was finding ” Russell said Russell said his first week teaching remotely was especially challenging “For the the first several days after the the ‘stay-at-home’ order came down I was preparing to teach my my class from my my home and I had a a a a a a a terrible time focusing on course-related schoolwork ” Russell said “I was spending way too much time reading news reports trying to to to read read up about the coronavirus and and and how to to stay safe and and and protect myself and and and my my family ” Russell noted that he decided to be honest with his his students about his his mental and and emotional state and and Sarah Root associate teaching professor in in the Harold and Inge
Marcus Department of of Industrial and and Manufacturing Engineering like all University faculty students and staff had her schedule upended when
Penn State shifted to the remote learning ecosystem Throughout the transition to to remote learning Root worked hard to to keep
a a a a a a state of of routine for the the sake of of the the students but she also tried to instill some joy and laughter Due to to the the cancelation of the the annual March March Madness basketball tournament Root implemented a a a a a a a a “March Meme Madness ” Working in in a a a a a a a bracket structure similar to the the traditional March Madness students submitted a a a a a a a a a a a a a funny image that they made which was related to the the class material deadlines or interesting things that have happened The voting process dwindled down to to the top “meme ” encouraged them to let him know if they were struggling with anything—course- related related or life-related “The responses from students were extremely encouraging both to me me and other students in the the class ” Russell said “When faculty show that they care about their students it goes a a a long way—and when
faculty reveal that they too are struggling with making the adjustment to these unprecedented circumstances it helps to show we are human ” n n The students also took initiative by building a a a a a sense of community In Root’s industrial engineering (IE) class IE IE IE 302 Mackenzie Dominick a a a a a a a second-year IE IE IE student suggested that the the class sing Happy Birthday to their peer Andrea Castaneda a a a a a a fellow student “It was a a a a a really funny beautiful moment ” Root said The experience of using online tools provided Root with inspiration for ways she can work in in the the future She plans to implement more use of of the the Microsoft Office suite and Zoom video conferencing “You have to make active learning work in in in in this online environment and I’m I’m an an an investigator ” Root said “I’m really looking at at how I I I I can shake things up and I I think this experience will
help me do that ” n n n Dressed for success
Meme mastery
by Miranda Buckheit
“Facilities Rep and and and Safety Officer JR Watson has been so so supportive to to our facilities to to make sure we are safe He walks the the the buildings checks labs and and and and hallways and and and and even waters plants and and and scans items to to to to our staff to to to to keep
them from having to to to to go to to to to their offices ” “As IT point person Scott Heckman’s initiative and ability to to to streamline operations allows IME to to to rely on on on our automation capabilities as we telework ” 20 20 SPRING/SUMMER 2020 21

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