Professor of Philosophy Receives Award from College: An Interview with Dr. Green

Salem Eames, Editor

   On Friday, Dr. Michael Green, Professor of Philosophy, was announced as the recipient of SUNY Oneonta’s 2012 Academic Excellence Award for the Use of Instructional Technology. Dr. Green received his Ph.D from the University of Chicago and he joined the SUNY Oneonta faculty in 1981. In 2009, he was awarded the college’s Susan Sutton Smith Prize for Faculty Excellence. The State Times conducted an interview with him via email.

ST:How did you come to Oneonta? Any interesting stories or funny anecdotes?

MG:When I was invited for a job interview so many years ago, one of the biggest problems was, how is the name of this place pronounced? I came here from the midwest, and I had no conception of a New York winter. I think it snowed every day for the first few winters my wife and I moved here. I had to learn a new language since the idioms and accents, especially of individuals from the City and Long Island, were so different. Apparently, no one says a “bottle of pop” or “carrying groceries in a paper sack.”

ST:I read your bio on the college news website and I see that you joined the faculty in 1981. That’s quite a long time.

MG:SUNY Oneonta has provided an environment very supportive of innovation in education and research. I have benefited tremendously from this support over the years.

ST:What is the relationship between the College’s philosophy toward academics and your own ideals and goals in teaching? Do you feel it’s a good fit?

MG:Both the College and myself desire to prepare students for the future. However, I hope to prepare students not just for a career, because many of these careers may not themselves exist for long in the future. I hope to prepare students for life so that they can orientate themselves in the fractured world they will inherit.

ST:What exactly do you want your students to “take with them” into life after attending one of your classes?

MG:After taking one of my classes, students should appreciate the fact that the United States is going through a long period of transition on four different timeframes. The world in which they live will be entirely different than the world in which their parent’s lived. To survive this uncertainty and disorder, they will need to learn to live through their SCAR’s caused by the fact that life will be much more challenging. They will need to develop Self-Reliance, Critical Awareness, Adaptability, and Resilience. Many of my courses investigate that nature of the transitions through which our society is moving and the particular components of each SCAR component.

ST:How does technology fit in to your philosophy of education? Is it an essential component that must be embraced, or do you think that it is possible to effectively teach “the old way” without utilizing the latest and greatest tools, so to speak?

MG:Split-brain experiments show that the verbal side of the brain needs to make up stories to explain why the nonverbal side does what it does. This provides a clue to the nature of thought, which is to create simulations or stories. Technology can help in this process in two ways. In Critical Thinking classes students learn to think by simulating various thought processes. Ethics students learn to think ethically and critically through case study simulations that the computer makes easier to construct and manage.

ST:How do you integrate technology into your classroom? Which sorts of tools do you think are important, and which are not important–or what works and what doesn’t? Pretty much, what specific applications of technology do you use in your classes?

MG:I attempt to construct learning simulations so that students can learn problem-solving skills as well as particular logical or ethical patterns of thinking. I first designed tutorials and exercises in FORTRan, W.W.Norton took these tutorials and exercises and converted them to a web-format. These were insufficiently interactive, so I design other exercises in Javascript and Java to provide more practice. I then discovered a web-based system, Quia, for constructing various learning activities. I was using this before the College decided to use Angel, and the costs of converting to Angel in terms of labor was too great, so I have not moved them over to Angel.

   From the College news release: Now in its 11th year, the Academic Excellence Award for the Use of Instructional Technology is made possible in part by the gifts of SUNY Oneonta alumni to the Alumni Annual Fund. In recognition of the award, Dr. Green will receive $1,000 from the college’s Fund for Academic Excellence.

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