The top community college professor of the year is Robert Chaney, a professor of mathematics at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching presented awards to four professors at different levels of higher education.
Chaney’s students use math to “study a personal hobby, program a robot or start a mock company,” reports Inside Higher Ed. “I want them to look at real-world problems and be able to see math as something that is helpful and useful,” said Chaney, who teaches algebra and trigonometry courses, as well as business statistics and math for engineering students.
Chaney uses a blend of traditional teaching, real-world examples and activities. The goal is to help students understand the math they’ll need for future courses and apply math skills to solve problems.
In one class, students use algebraic functions to program a calculator-controlled robot called SAM (which stands for “science and math”).
“They see algebra working right before them and it puts meaning and definition behind the algebra,” Chaney said.
Through his work with Math Machines, a nonprofit he started with a colleague, Chaney is helping educators at high schools and community colleges create control devices, like SAM, and build lesson plans for science, math and technology courses.
Also honored for teaching were: Gintaras Duda (for master’s universities and colleges), an associate professor of physics at Creighton University, in Omaha; Steven Pollock (for doctoral and research universities), a professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Ann Williams (for baccalaureate institutions), a professor of French at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“With Google App Inventor all you have to do is have the correct thought process,” said Dan Arena, an associate professor at the college. “It’s cool. Within a couple of weeks students were writing programs for app development.”
Two student projects are available as free downloads: “Donut Text” lets texters send automatic replies while driving and have the text read aloud; “EchoTxt” lets texters speak and send a reply text simply by shaking the phone.
“I was the group leader for EchoTxt. It was my first time being in charge,” said student Casey Meador. “It was really fun but also frustrating at times. We would get in and do something and it wouldn’t work. Then we would all get together and work out a solution. That was cool.”
“There are certain fundamental aspects of programing that App Inventor allows you to do, without knowing a lot of programming, said Henry Forson, a software engineer for Toshiba who worked with the Donut Text team. “Historically in introductory programming classes about half of the students don’t complete. We didn’t have that.”