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E-learning: The future is here

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by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

As Whatcom continues to grow, so do the needs of its students. To suit the ever-transforming demographic, new ways of teaching that use developing electronic technologies are being implemented to improve the way students learn both on and off campus.

Sherri Winans, who is a teacher and director of Whatcom’s writing center, along with Signee Lynch, Lori Martindale, and Danielle Gray, recently won the “Leadership and Innovation in E-Learning Award” for their work in using eLearning technologies, including  the introduction of the “Jing” technology into the writing center response process.

Jing is a program that anyone can download for free, and is available to the public. At Whatcom, it allows teachers to record themselves speaking about a document such as a student’s paper, for five minutes. Winans uses this to respond to most of the papers she receives electronically.

Winans has also used it in class, and posts course documents on her Moodle site, her online classroom environment, for students to go back and read later. Jing allows students more time to process the discussion, she said.

There’s also something that happens when you can see and hear a discussion, Winans said. “People have time to stop and process the information.”

For the most part, students respond positively to the new technology, although Winans has had a few students who didn’t like the Jing method. The process of downloading the technology can sometimes take too long for some student’s tastes.

Jing is a versatile product because of its accessibility. Anyone with a recording device on their computer can put it to use. If you have pictures you want to send your mother in Texas, you can send her a Jing message and go through them verbally for her, explaining the meaning or moment behind each photograph.

“It saved me time in student feedback and I was able to provide a higher level of feedback that they appreciated,” said Michael Shepard, Whatcom’s Electronic Learning Coordinator.

Moodle is another form of electronic learning at Whatcom students are becoming familiar with. Teachers use Moodle as a private online community for their classes to post information about assignments and for online discussions among students and their teachers.

New technology you might have seen in the classroom are the “clickers.” They are currently being utilized in the medical assistant, nursing, early child education, physics and adult basic education programs. Their function is to input polls from class homework or opinion questions, with answers then displayed for the entire group.

“It’s nice for students who don’t like raising their hands,” said Shepard. “It creates a different kind of dialogue in the classroom.” It’s also good for professors to gauge student comprehension of a subject.

By polling the class on the covered material, teachers can see in class what they should cover.

Leo Hopcroft has done some online pod-casting. He first creates a recording of a lecture and then makes it available for students to download onto iTunes to put on their iPods or Mp3 players. He holds on-campus training sessions for teachers to learn about pod-casting once a year.

Signee Lynch, who teaches English at Whatcom, uses a program called Elluminate Live, which is now available statewide. It consists of video and voice recordings to speak over the Internet with students. If a student has a web-camera they can have office hours together even if they are not in the same room. It allows for online collaboration for responses when writing a paper or an online lecture or project.

Online courses at Whatcom are created on a platform called “Angel.” One option Shepard is excited about is the option of receiving a full degree online in physical therapy assisting. Whatcom is one of a handful of schools across the U.S. using the program. All of the class is online, except an intensive weekend-long lab held once a month. Students travel from as far as Alaska and Idaho to attend the class.

“Whenever we’re able to utilize multimedia and resources we are really providing students with a better learning environment,” said Shepard.

In the past year, 20 new online courses have been made available at Whatcom, in math, English, and economics. Shepard said the next big project is the nursing program. They want to model it to reflect the physical therapy assisting program and hope it will be as greatly successful.

“I’m excited about reaching different students and discovering how to teach in different ways,” said Winans.

“More students with full-time jobs who can’t get here can still learn,” she said. “We can reach more people.”

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Prelude to the Nazis:

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by Kelly Sullivan

Horizon Reporter

This winter, Ben Kohn is teaching a class on the Weimer Republic, an attempt at German democracy that collapsed and led to the rise of Nazi Germany.

The class is not about Hitler’s Third Reich, but the period between 1918 and 1933 called the Weimer Republic, named for the city its constitution was drafted in. Kohn’s class focuses on the political, artistic, and cultural atmosphere of the republic, and the problems with the German government that contributed to the rise of the Nazi regime.

“It’s an investigation of the inter-war period, particularly what happened during that period that eventually led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party,” Kohn explained. It was a very dynamic time in the country’s history when many changes, both politically and culturally, were taking place.

Kohn, who teaches first-year German, came up with the idea for the class after his German course last spring, where he introduced a brief lecture on Nazi Germany to his students.

“A cultural education is as important as a linguistic one,” said Kohn. He explained that understanding the cultural context of a language brings more color and excitement to the learning experience. Kohn found the students extremely interested in the topic and it took two class periods to answer all of the questions posed.

“They were asking really intelligent questions,” said Kohn, noting students were very curious how such a fascist system “could take over an entire European nation and lead the world to the cataclysm of World War once again,” Kohn said.

Most students said they had not received the education in school that explained how such a facist government could gain a position of power.

“How and why this happened are never really investigated,” said Kohn.

The Weimer Republic was Germany’s first attempt at a democratic republic, Kohn explained. It was a political experiment, as up until 1918 Germany had been an imperial power. After World War I, Germany’s citizens, especially artists, intellectuals, and the working class, were in crisis. They wanted to completely overthrow the previous culture, society, economic and political system that existed in Germany, for it was this that had led to the deaths of 250,000 people in the battle of the Somme.

After World War I, German society experienced a “collapse in traditional morality and values as well,” Kohn said. Germany’s economy was in a complete state of disarray with hyperinflation, and the unemployment rate was around 25 percent in 1933. Many segments of society were completely poverty-stricken.

Kohn’s class has already covered the element of communism apparent in this period. The students read Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” published in 1848, as this was the foundation of many political movements and parties in Germany during the Weimer Republic.

Communism and socialism were alternatives offered to previous political and social models. The class will also be reading excerpts from “Mein Kampf,” the book Hitler wrote while imprisoned in the 1920s. It offers a very different alternative, and outlines the program of the forthcoming Nationalist Party, which eventually became known as the Nazi Party.

“There are some sensitive topics,” said Nathan Lindquist, 23. He is one of nine students in the class.

“Everyone in here has a certain level of maturity,” added Ryan Haynes, 28. “If someone’s uncomfortable we know we can change subjects.” The small size of the class and Kohn’s teaching style result in a discussion-based class. Kohn said many of his students feel very comfortable adding to the conversations, and he tries to facilitate this as much as possible.

In the second week of February, the class studied the cultural side of what was happening in Germany during the Weimer Republic. One example Kohn brought to the discussion was that of the Dada movement. Dadaism originated in Switzerland in World War I, and by the 1920s had moved to centers of intellectual and artistic activity in Germany.

Dada “completely messed with people’s sense of reality,” said Kohn. “It was supposed to explode actual reality. Totally subvert it.”

Another movement that attempted to do things in a new way was German Expressionism. Poets and artists experimented with language and images. Poet Georg Trakl’s poem, “Grodek,” captures the horrors of a battle he witnessed in the town of Galicia, Poland. He captures the beauty of the setting and horror of the situation with contrasting images such as “the night embraces dying warriors, the wild lament of their broken mouths.”

The class spent time breaking apart and analyzing the verses. Kohn then reads it to the class in impeccable German.

There is a “musicality to the language,” said Kohn. “The sound of the words themselves contain a different level of meaning.” Listening to Kohn read the poem, one instantly understands what he means by this. When Kohn recited the lines in German, “Softly the dark flutes of autumn sound in the reeds,” one could hear the mournful hum of winds blowing through tall grasses.

Kohn compared some of the Dadaist performances to Monty Python skits in their use of humor to subvert power and authority, and another student added similarities from popular media, such as South Park. The point was to get a subversive message across through art. One effective way to do so is to use humor.

Kohn said the Dadaists disagreed with the more extreme contemporary ideological forces of the left and right that said, “There’s only one way to subvert things: violently overthrow them; let there be blood!”

The Dada poet and artist Kurt Schwitters completely overturned the traditional manner of communicating through language in his works. His poetry sounds like complete gibberish, “non-sense composed of syllables” Kohn said, but is meant to make people think about what it could mean to them. It is about the nonsense or meaninglessness of conventional language, especially traditional and sentimental poetic language, and the empty and deceitful language of political rhetoric.

“Everyone here has been really receptive to what we’ve been talking about,” said Haynes.

“What we are finding through the discussions in the class are that there are similar problems [as during the Weimer Republic period] in the way our society and especially our political system is being run today, especially in the way these things are discussed,” said Kohn.

Watching the students come to their own conclusions through discussion, and hearing their critiques of the material Kohn presents to them, has been very gratifying, he said. “It’s a great group of students.”

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Meet the players:

Photos and interviews by Matt Benoit and Henry Wesson

Horizon Editor & Horizon Reporter

Matt Peterson, 20, Center

What originally got you interested in basketball?

“My dad encouraged me to play when I was in the third grade.”

How do you feel about the season so far?

“I think it’s going really well so far.”

What would you like to see happen with the rest of the season?

“I’d like to see us get first in the league so we can place in the tournament.”

What is your favorite thing to eat before a game?


Any pre-game rituals you have?

“I always have music with me. And gum.”

What do you like to do to celebrate a win?

“Be with my team afterwards. We usually go out to eat afterwards.”

Do you have any nicknames?

“The Dragon,” or “Phat Matt.”

Any plans to further your career in the sport?

“I definitely want to play at a four-year school, hopefully on scholarship.”

Paul Jones, 20, Guard

What originally got you interested in basketball?

“I have been playing since I was a little kid. I just picked up a basketball and started to play.”

How do you feel about the season so far?

“I feel the season’s going good so far…we’re on the right track.”

What would you like to see happen with the rest of the season?

“I’d like to see us stay confident and focus for the games ahead.”

What is your favorite thing to eat before a game?

“I usually like a McDonald’s McChicken.”

Any pre-game rituals you have?

“I’m always listening to music; have a quick snack.”

What do you do to celebrate a win?

“Go home and chill.”

Do you have any nicknames?


Any plans to further your career in the sport?

“I look forward to playing at the next level…Collegiate level. That’s…my goal.”

Elon Langston, 22, Point Guard

What originally got you interested in basketball?

“I started playing in the third grade. My dad was the coach.”

How do you feel about the season so far?

“I thought we would be undefeated, but we’re making our way back up to our potential.”

What would you like to see happen with the rest of the season?

“I’d like to see us keep our foot on the pedal for the rest of the season. We can’t stop ‘till we get first place.”

What is your favorite thing to eat before a game?

“A Subway five-dollar foot-long.”

Any pre-game rituals you have?

“Take a long shower, think about the game, listen to music.”

What do you do to celebrate a win?

“Go chill with my teammates [or] roommates. Depends on the day.”

Do you have any nicknames?

“No nicknames. People just call me ‘E’.”

Any plans to further your career in the sport?

“Hoping to go to university after this year. I’m just trying to focus on the season right now.”

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The Giver (Upper)

by Matt Benoit

Today, we’re going to talk about Lent.

Now, you might be asking yourself: Lent? Isn’t that the blue-colored stuff I often pull out of my belly button? No, that is lint.

So, you might again ask, what about lentils? No, those are those pea-like things that people often confuse with legumes. In Pullman, Washington, they actually have a gigantic lentil festival where people get waaaaay too excited about lentils, mostly because there is very little else to do there except watch the Cougars lose football games.

But, you might still argue (because you are too persistent in not wanting to be wrong), isn’t that a word that would come up in a conversation between my dad and my Uncle Rick, as in:

DAD: Rick, what’d you do with them pliers?

RICK: I lent ‘em to my neighbor, so’s I’m afraid I ain’t got ‘em right now.

But I digress.

Lent, and not lint or lentils, is the six-week period leading up to Easter in which many Catholics and Christians commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the woods (He just couldn’t bring Himself to eat those cute little squirrels) by giving up something in a righteous act of self-denial.

In other words, Lent is kind of like a New Year’s resolution, only a hell of a lot shorter. Still, most people usually keep their vows just as long, usually about 24-72 hours after making them.

Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday (this year, Feb. 17), directly following the holiday of partying and excess better known as President’s Day (“Whooo, yeah! Washington and Lincoln! Gimme another shot!”).

Wait, that’s wrong. Actually, the holiday of partying and excess I should be referring to is, of course, Mardi Gras, which is French for “Marty’s Grass.” It is also known as Fat Tuesday, which is just one of a series of holidays whose titles include the day of the week they’re held on, including Blue Monday (a.k.a. Prozac Monday), Good Friday, Satisfactory Saturday, Palm Sunday, and, in following Ash Wednesday, Volcanic Pumice Thursday.

Many people sin as much as possible on Fat Tuesday before repenting and giving something up the next day when Lent begins. Besides considering what to give up for Lent, many struggle with what not to give up for Lent. Here’s an example:

Q: What is not good to give up for Lent?

A: Your children.

Q: Well, they really drive me crazy sometimes.

A: Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should put them up for adoption.

Q: Who said anything about adoption? I was going to sell them on eBay!

So what do you give up, then? Well, several leading bishops in Britain are calling for a “carbon fast” for Lent, and suggest giving up your iPod or mobile phone. Good luck with that one.

Our production editor, Emily Huntington, told me she’s giving up meat, alcohol, and caffeine, which means, essentially, that she’ll be draining almost all the fun out of her life.

Obviously, quitting things can be a great challenge, as Jake Gyllenhaal sums up so well in “Brokeback Mountain,” a Lent-inspired classic where he utters the famous line, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Or maybe that was actually about gay cowboys.

Anyway, we at the Horizon had seriously considered doing a Whatcom Voices question for this issue involving Lent, but I was too afraid our responses would go like this:

ME: So, what are you giving up for lent?

A: Your mom.

ME: That was wildly inappropriate and wholly uncalled for. Put up your dukes!

We (me and this imaginary douchebag who insulted me) would then fight it out, throwing punches like Mike Tyson after being stuck with a horse tranquilizer, which is to say, not very well.

Then, exhausted from the sheer desperation involved in trying to hit each other hard and not really succeeding, we’d call it a draw, throw an arm around each other, and go drink some beer, which, coincidentally, I may give up for Lent this year.

And who knows? Lent could become as popular as ever, as I’ve actually been working on a Broadway show having to do with Lent:

ANNOUNCER: From the people who brought you the Broadway hit, Rent, comes something completely fresh and innovative—Lent: the Musical, featuring that hit musical number, “I’m Gonna Give It Up (at Least until Easter)”:

I’m gonna give it up

And I don’t care who knows it

I’m gonna give it up

I just hope I won’t blow it

On second thought, maybe I should just stick to giving up beer.

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Cheech and Chong: Still Performin’

by Lexi Foldenauer

February 11, 7:30 pm., the doors opened at the Mt. Baker Theatre for the lucky ticket-holders of the sold out performance of an epic duo. Richard “Cheech” Marin, 63 and Tommy Chong, 71 are back together again, following a 30-year hiatus from performing. “Get it Legal” is the follow-up to their hugely successful reunion tour, “Light Up America.” The show not only promoted the overly anticipated return of the dynamic duo, but focused heavily on the current marijuana laws in the United States.

The curtain opened with the lovely Shelby Chong, Chong’s petite blonde Canadian-born wife, talking about their 30-year matrimony.

“I deserve a gold medal or something!” she joked.

After an animated and entertaining introduction by Shelby, followed by a thunderous applause and standing ovation by the audience, Cheech and Chong came out on stage. The show began with a question-and-answer sequence, a contribution by KISM radio, as sort of an appetizer. One fan asked Cheech why he got rid of his trademark beard. Chong quickly chimed in, “Yeah, and he got rid of his hair too!” pointing out Cheech’s noticeable balding. After a few questions from fans, it was time for the good stuff—the skits.

The stage went dark momentarily, then the lights came on and Cheech appeared, dressed in a familiar fedora and trench coat, with a pink flowered backpack on his shoulder.

“It’s me Dave, open up, man, I got the stuff,” said Cheech.

“Dave’s not here man,” echoed the dazed-sounding voice of Tommy Chong in the background.

The audience roared in laughter, as the two performed the famous “Dave’s not here” bit, nearly word for word. I found it amazing how, even after all of these years and countless performances, the pair still feed off each other’s comedic strengths and energy to deliver a memorable act for their audience. The show was nothing short of nostalgic, and the skits ranged everywhere from Cheech’s giggly and somewhat spastic red-neck character, which is my personal favorite, to “World Jerk-off Championships,” in which they added a reference to Bellingham!

“I found him wandering down the main street here in Bellingham today,” Cheech said as he stood next to Chong, dressed up like a demented elderly bum, with his hand creepily hidden under a tattered coat. 

After performing a couple of sketches together, Chong came out on stage to do a stand-up routine on his own. He went into a humorous trip down memory lane, recalling times of smoking joints with famous rock stars, and his involvement with Motown. It took me a minute to understand that he was serious, as this followed his impression of a crazy senile hobo, and a performance with Cheech of “Basketball Jones.” Chong’s ability to connect with the audience made it feel like you were sitting in his living room having a chat, rather than being in a crowded theater. This guy would make a really cool grandpa.

A pivotal moment of the performance was when Cheech came out in his pink tutu with Mickey Mouse ears and faux body tattoos, with an electric guitar in hand, screaming some sort of metal/punk sounding jumble in a skit called “Earache my Eye.” The character is named “Alice Bowie”—a combination of Alice Cooper and David Bowie. I started crying I was laughing so hard.

 The two closed the performance on a more serious note, putting out their message to loosen the drug laws in our country. They performed a song titled after the tour called “Get it Legal,” which included lyrics about pot’s medicinal purposes for illnesses like M.S. and cancer.  That really got the audience fired up, in a good way. Aside from their wacky, out-there humor, the two are actually very talented musicians, and the song had some powerful lyrics.

The show lasted two hours, which seemed like the perfect amount of time—I don’t know if my jaw could handle much more uncontrollable giggling. After the show was finished, I felt satisfied, and knew that I would remember this performance forever— that time I saw Cheech and Chong live. I feel honored to have witnessed, in the flesh, the living legends that will forever remain the faces of stoner culture. It was a night of epic proportions that will surely be hard to top.

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