Grant helps create new teaching methods

Supplement will help reinforce concepts in the theater textbook.

A select group of students, led by theater professor Michael O'Hara, will work next semester to create a CD-ROM supplement to the theater textbook. The CD-ROM will help professors teach theater concepts that are more easily understood visually than through lecture or reading materials alone.

A textbook may not be adequate to explain all the concepts of some subjects, so professors frequently use additional learning tools. Theater is a visual medium, so a textbook may not be enough for students to fully understand what they need to learn.

"There's lots of very powerful things in human performance that aren't easily taught by a book," O'Hara said. "We're going to call in some of the national experts at Ball State and we're calling in the authors of textbooks."

The students will learn from these experts and find out techniques to present that information through the creation of the CD-ROM.

"The students will be empowering themselves to become teachers," O'Hara said.

An example of what the students will illustrate is the mise en scn++ne, or the way a set is arranged including props and characters to create a visual atmosphere.

Such concepts are difficult to teach without some kind of visual tool, according to O'Hara.

The class, scheduled for the Fall 2002 semester, is funded by a grant from the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry. The community sponsor is the Muncie Civic Theater. O'Hara is currently interviewing about 40 student-candidates for the class, all with wide backgrounds and experience. Many majors will be considered.

O'Hara explained he's seeking a variety of qualifications in student candidates for the class, such as "curiosity, a willingness to do something they haven't done before, a tolerance of ambiguity and a willingness to step off into the void without any worries."

Publishers are already interested in including the CD-ROM supplement in both high school and college theater textbooks once it is completed, according to O'Hara.

"My main purpose for the students is (that) they learn how to be completely responsible through conception and design, to the end point of a cohesive product," O'Hara said.


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