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Thursday, October 13, 2005

  • Campus poised to hear Gates
  • Profs get online training today
  • Staff elect board representative
Chris Redmond

Ontario fall foliage


Campus poised to hear Gates

Bill Gates (right), chairman of Microsoft Corp., is on UW's campus this morning to meet students and and faculty members as part of a tour of North American universities. His visits are focused on meeting first-year computer science, math and engineering students and selected faculty to share his thoughts on the future of technology and speak on why he thinks careers in computer science are exciting, rewarding and vitally important.

He'll speak at 10:30 this morning in the Humanities Theatre. No tickets are available for the 75-minute event -- they were all claimed days ago through distribution by the student societies. However, the talk and question period will be carried on closed-circuit video to two big locations, the Student Life Centre great hall and the Davis Centre concourse, and everyone is welcome to watch from there. A webcast is expected to be available tomorrow or Monday.

During Gates's nationally publicized visit to UW, he will also meet with researchers in computing-related fields, and with UW officials.

The visit is aimed at encouraging students to pursue careers in computer science, a UW news release this morning explains. "He will discuss the opportunities for computing to change the world and the role of students in driving the future of innovation in the industry. In addition to first-year students, a handful of students and teachers from local area high schools have been invited by the university to attend."

Waterloo is the only Canadian university on the list of six campuses the celebrity software pioneer will visit this fall to talk about the future of computing. "If there's a field to go into, this is it," Gates told University of Michigan students yesterday during a visit to Ann Arbor. And at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he made a surprise visit to a CS class. During the trip he'll also speak at Columbia, Princeton and Howard universities.

"We're delighted by Mr.Gates's visit and thrilled with the confidence this demonstrates in our science, math and engineering students and programs to engage us in a discussion of the future of technology," UW president David Johnston says in the news release. "Mr. Gates's visit to UW confirms what we already know: our students are among the best and brightest in the world, our faculty and programs are first-class, and our innovative and entrepreneurial style and approach to education and research serve as a model worldwide."

Says dean of mathematics Tom Coleman: "This provides us with an excellent opportunity to showcase on a world scale the excellence of our students, our programs, and our faculty. It also gives us an opportunity to strengthen our ties with industry, to play an influential role in where technology is headed, and to show the world why we are tops in science and math."

Gates is expected to discuss the current state of the industry, the opportunities that lie ahead for current graduates and prospective industry employees, and the potential for innovation in the field.

Several hundred UW alumni work for Microsoft at its Redmond, Washington, headquarters and in Canada. Microsoft also hires a number of co-op students each term. UW employees at Microsoft in 2001 established a scholarship program for graduate and undergraduate students with a $1.5 million pledge to the university over five years.

Organizers of this morning's visit to UW are already extending thanks to the people who helped arrange it -- from plant operations staff to the volunteer ushers -- and to anyone who might have been inconvenienced. That would include psychology professor Geoff Fong and his 675 students in Psych 101 who usually meet on Thursday mornings in the Humanities Theatre; their class has been moved to Federation Hall for today.

Career workshops: "Introduction to Career Services Online Modules" 10:30, "Work Search Strategies" 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

James Bater, department of geography and former dean of environmental studies, retirement celebration: reception 3:00, dinner 6:30, University Club. Information and dinner tickets from Susie Castela, ext. 2433.

Computer science colloquium: Tim Bray, Sun Microsystems, "Hard Open Problems in Network Computing and Hints on How to Solve Them," 3:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Faculty of Mathematics Distinguished Lecture in Mathematical and Computer Sciences: Randy Ellis, Harvard Medical School and Queen's University, "From Scans to Sutures: Computer-Assisted Orthopedic Surgery in the 21st Century," 4:30, Math and Computer room 2065. Reception follows.

Forum for Independent Thought weekly meeting, 5:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room, with review of the Poverty in Africa initiative and brainstorming about special events.

Wind energy speaker Paul Gipe repeats yesterday's presentation, 5:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 116.

Games tournaments: "Assault on Zanzibar" and "Hard Boiled", from 6 p.m. , Student Life Centre great hall, organized by UW Gamers.

Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow speaks about her 1945 experience and her career as a peace activist, 7 p.m., great hall, Conrad Grebel University College, sponsored by WPIRG, peace and conflict studies, and others.

Arriscraft lecture: Annette LeCuyer, State University of New York at Buffalo, "Space, Time and Tailoring," 7:00, Architecture lecture hall.

Math Society movie night: "Unleashed" 7:00, "Enter the Dragon" 9:00, $2 for both, Math and Computer room 2065.

Oktoberfest evening at Bingemans, organized by Federation of Students, buses from the Davis Centre; tickets $8 from Feds office in the Student Life Centre, or student societies.

Dress Down Day in support of the United Way campaign, Friday.

Pizza lunch in support of the United Way campaign, Friday 12:00 to 1:30, PAS room 2030, sponsored by sociology department.

Warrior Weekend activities Friday and Saturday nights, including movies "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Fantastic Four" on Friday, jazz and karaoke café Saturday, details online.

TVOntario 'Big Ideas' broadcasts of the "Best Lecturer Competition" Saturday 1:00, repeated Sunday 1:00, this week including Michael Higgins, St. Jerome's University.

Waterloo-Germany exchange program information session Tuesday 11:00, Modern Languages room 245, information online.

Internship Fair for the non-profit sector, Wednesday 11:00 to 2:00, Student Life Centre.

Faculty of arts alumni event: alumni authors (including George Elliott Clarke, Melanie Cameron) read from their work, October 20, 8 p.m., Starlight Club, tickets $5, details online.

Profs get online training today

A group of faculty members "interested in supplementing their face-to-face teaching with an online course environment in order to foster an active learning experience for their students" will buckle down to work this morning in the Flex lab in the Dana Porter Library. A second group starts later this month. The occasion is the "New Classroom" workshop, subtitled "Engaging Students with Online Activities", offered by LT3, the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology.

"Recent studies have demonstrated that online learning activities can enhance student performance," says LT3's publicity, adding that the workshop "focuses not on the technology itself but rather on developing teaching strategies and learning tasks that are most effective in online environments such as UW-ACE. The workshop comprises an online component as well as a pair of two-hour, face-to-face coaching sessions. The activities completed online form the basis of discussions that take place during the face-to-face sessions."

The group who are spending this morning in the Flex lab have already started the "online component", and will be back in the lab two weeks from today to finish up. A second workshop will run October 17 and 31, and there's still time -- just -- for additional faculty members to get involved, says Peter Goldsworthy of LT3. More information is on the web site.

At last count, 196 faculty members had taken previous sessions of the "New Classroom" training. Originally operated by Diane Salter and Les Richards of LT3, and first offered in 2001, the workshops are now led by Mark Morton, LT3's Instructional Program Manager.

While redesigning the workshop, Morton says, he retained its method of "not just espousing but modelling task-based learning". He also kept the"highly intelligent, self-motivated instructors" at UW as the target audience. But he "retired some of the self-reflective features" of the earlier course, replacing them with analytical components, which he feels are more suitable to academia's mode of "skeptical inquiry."

He summarizes his objective in this passage from the introductory module: "My goal as facilitator of the New Classroom Workshop is to guide your discovery of teaching strategies that will work for you in an online course environment. I've tried to accomplish this by writing brief introductions to the topics found in each module, by locating relevant external documents and creating links to them, and by creating learning tasks in each module that are intended to get you to reflect on or apply the content found in that module.

"My two pole-stars have been coherence and efficiency: I've aimed to include all the requisite 'building blocks' but have also sought to exclude anything that seems self-evident or redundant. It's my intention that each module will build upon the ones that have come before, with the culmination occurring when you get to the 'Learning Tasks' module. If your experience of the New Classroom Workshop is one of guided self-discovery, then I'll feel that I've accomplished my essential goal."

There's no word on whether anything that happens during the New Classroom series will reveal Morton's alter ego: he's the author of Dirty Words: The Story of Sex Talk, published in Britain earlier this year.


Staff elect board representative

Mark Walker (left) of the registrar's office is back on the UW board of governors following an election by staff members. He'll serve a term that runs to April 30, 2008.

Says a memo from the university secretariat: "In this election, which closed at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 7, the other nominees were: Christine Henderson (Procurement & Contract Services), Jeff Lederer (Architecture), Bill Pudifin (Office of the Dean of Engineering), Darlene Ryan (International Student Office), Joe Szalai (Library), Jason Testart (Computer Science), Karen Trevors (Office of the Dean of Science) and Kathy Wilson (Mathematics/Development Office).

"Voter statistics: 592 (37.02%) of the 1,599 eligible full-time non-union staff members voted electronically; 21 (6.36%) of the 330 ballots distributed to full-time union staff members were returned."

Walker held one of the staff seats on the board from 2002 until last April 30. The other staff representative on the 36-member board of governors is Catherine Fry of the conflict management and human rights office, who has another year to go in her term.


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