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Old October 22nd 07, 03:59 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

In a week I will begin teaching an entry-level class that the local
radio club is offering. I would love any words of wisdom from
experienced instructors of this material. I suspect that it has been at
least a couple of decades since I last taught such a class, and things
have changed a bit in that time grin.

The basic issue I'm wrestling with is walking the tightrope between
teaching the actual questions from the pool and teaching concepts. It's
not fair to the students to ignore the existence of the pool; after all,
one of the goals of the class is to prepare them to take the written
exam. But another goal is to get them ready to actually be an active
member of the ham radio community, and memorizing pool questions doesn't
contribute to that objective. So I'll try to do both -- cover concepts
and review the actual questions.

Another issue is the scheduling of the class. There are proponents of
the weekend method -- cover the material in a day or so. While there
are advantages to that, I favor multiple shorter sessions. I think that
learning is much better in that environment, but in today's hectic
world, getting people to commit to multiple sessions is problematic.
We've decided on six session spread over three weeks. Maybe that was a
fatal error; time will tell.

I wish we still had something like the Novice license. I'd like to be
able to get past the pressure of the written exam and get prospective
hams some real experience so they understand what I'm babbling about in
class. For example, you can lecture about repeaters, but if the
students have actually *used* a repeater, they have a whole different
understanding of what you're saying.

73, Steve KB9X


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Old October 23rd 07, 12:58 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

Steve Bonine wrote:
[...]
The basic issue I'm wrestling with is walking the tightrope between
teaching the actual questions from the pool and teaching concepts. It's
not fair to the students to ignore the existence of the pool; after all,
one of the goals of the class is to prepare them to take the written
exam. But another goal is to get them ready to actually be an active
member of the ham radio community, and memorizing pool questions doesn't
contribute to that objective. So I'll try to do both -- cover concepts
and review the actual questions.
[...]



A standard technique in college-level courses is to assign some
readings that will not be discussed in class. Then, you give a test that
covers the outside readings as well as the lecture content. You could
use the question pool as outside reading material and then lecture about
actual practice. Difficult questions from the pool could be covered at
the end of class as an "extra help" session.


I wish we still had something like the Novice license. I'd like to be
able to get past the pressure of the written exam and get prospective
hams some real experience so they understand what I'm babbling about in
class. For example, you can lecture about repeaters, but if the
students have actually *used* a repeater, they have a whole different
understanding of what you're saying.



Keep in mind that the Element 2 written test used to be the written
part of the Novice test. Arguably, it is easier to get a no-code
Technician license than it was to get a Novice license. Please
understand: I am not complaining. I think that is a good situation,
especially if the intent is to draw newcomers into real-world
communications, like disaster relief and not the self-limited exchange
of beeps that the old Novice class was offered.

--
Klystron

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Old October 23rd 07, 03:32 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 618
Default Entry-level class


"Steve Bonine" wrote in message
...
In a week I will begin teaching an entry-level class that the local radio
club is offering. I would love any words of wisdom from experienced
instructors of this material. I suspect that it has been at least a
couple of decades since I last taught such a class, and things have
changed a bit in that time grin.

The basic issue I'm wrestling with is walking the tightrope between
teaching the actual questions from the pool and teaching concepts. It's
not fair to the students to ignore the existence of the pool; after all,
one of the goals of the class is to prepare them to take the written exam.
But another goal is to get them ready to actually be an active member of
the ham radio community, and memorizing pool questions doesn't contribute
to that objective. So I'll try to do both -- cover concepts and review
the actual questions.

Another issue is the scheduling of the class. There are proponents of the
weekend method -- cover the material in a day or so. While there are
advantages to that, I favor multiple shorter sessions. I think that
learning is much better in that environment, but in today's hectic world,
getting people to commit to multiple sessions is problematic. We've
decided on six session spread over three weeks. Maybe that was a fatal
error; time will tell.

I wish we still had something like the Novice license. I'd like to be
able to get past the pressure of the written exam and get prospective hams
some real experience so they understand what I'm babbling about in class.
For example, you can lecture about repeaters, but if the students have
actually *used* a repeater, they have a whole different understanding of
what you're saying.

73, Steve KB9X


The ARRL license manuals do a pretty good job of explaining the material
that goes into the questions. Also try to squeeze in some demos such as
using the repeater. A few, but not too many, anecdotal experiences of your
own can be productive too. Perhaps the first time you "let the smoke out"
of a radio or tuner or whatever.

Dee, N8UZE


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Old October 23rd 07, 03:35 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 618
Default Entry-level class


"Steve Bonine" wrote in message
...
In a week I will begin teaching an entry-level class that the local radio
club is offering. I would love any words of wisdom from experienced
instructors of this material. I suspect that it has been at least a
couple of decades since I last taught such a class, and things have
changed a bit in that time grin.

The basic issue I'm wrestling with is walking the tightrope between
teaching the actual questions from the pool and teaching concepts. It's
not fair to the students to ignore the existence of the pool; after all,
one of the goals of the class is to prepare them to take the written exam.
But another goal is to get them ready to actually be an active member of
the ham radio community, and memorizing pool questions doesn't contribute
to that objective. So I'll try to do both -- cover concepts and review
the actual questions.

Another issue is the scheduling of the class. There are proponents of the
weekend method -- cover the material in a day or so. While there are
advantages to that, I favor multiple shorter sessions. I think that
learning is much better in that environment, but in today's hectic world,
getting people to commit to multiple sessions is problematic. We've
decided on six session spread over three weeks. Maybe that was a fatal
error; time will tell.

I wish we still had something like the Novice license. I'd like to be
able to get past the pressure of the written exam and get prospective hams
some real experience so they understand what I'm babbling about in class.
For example, you can lecture about repeaters, but if the students have
actually *used* a repeater, they have a whole different understanding of
what you're saying.

73, Steve KB9X


Also keep in mind the new privileges that Technicians have regarding HF
since the changes in Dec. 2006 and February 2007. Possibly print out the
NEW band charts from the ARRL site and hand them out. You could give an HF
operating demo for example.

Dee, N8UZE


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Old October 23rd 07, 04:16 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Posts: 877
Default Entry-level class

On Oct 22, 7:58?pm, Klystron wrote:
Steve Bonine wrote:
A standard technique in college-level courses is to assign some
readings that will not be discussed in class.
Then, you give a test that
covers the outside readings as well as the lecture content.


This is an excellent idea *if* the info is readily available. Handouts
are a good idea too, as are links to specific web pages.

Another thing I suggest is demos. Talking about repeaters is one
thing, working somebody many miles away using a handheld is
another.

But don't limit the demos to VHF or FM - just showing things
like PSK31, CW, etc., are a good idea.

For example, you can lecture about repeaters, but if the
students have actually *used* a repeater,
they have a whole different
understanding of what you're saying.


Hence the demos.

Keep in mind that the Element 2 written test used to
be the written part of the Novice test.


I don't think that's true. Not anymore.

Before the 2000 restructuring, the written exams were these:

Element 2 - Novice
Element 3A - Technician
Element 3B - General
Element 4A - Advanced
Element 4B - Extra

Each element required its own element plus all lower elements.

As part of the 2000 restructuring, the elements were combined:

Old Elements 2 and 3A were combined and renamed new Element 2, used
for Technician

Old Element 3B was renamed new Element 3 and used for General

Old Elements 4A and 4B were combined and renamed new Element 4.

Arguably, it is easier to get a no-code
Technician license than it was to get a Novice license.


Agreed - which sealed the fate of the Novice, by making Technician the
de-facto entry license.

Please
understand: I am not complaining. I think that is a good situation,
especially if the intent is to draw newcomers into real-world
communications, like disaster relief and not the self-limited
exchange of beeps that the old Novice class was offered.


I disagree!

The old Novice offered a lot more than "the self-limited exchange of
beeps".

The old Novice wasn't meant as a permanent license class, but rather
as a training ground towards the higher class licenses.

Yes, the privileges were limited, as was the license term. But what
that did was to focus newcomers on a few bands and radio basics.
It also reduced the cost of getting started.

Many Novices built their first stations, or part of them. This was
practical because the limited priviliges meant that even a simple, low
cost station was competitive with what other hams in the Novice
subbands were using.

But those days were ended by the Tech becoming the entry point. Not
many new hams can build an HT as a first project!

IMHO, the ideal 2007 entry-level license would offer a variety of
bands and modes.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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Old October 23rd 07, 05:03 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

Klystron wrote:

A standard technique in college-level courses is to assign some
readings that will not be discussed in class.


With all due respect, this is far from a college-level course. I have
limited expectations that the attendees will spend vast amounts of time
studying outside of class, and frankly I rather hope that that time will
be spent taking practice exams. I think it's unrealistic to expect that
if I "assign readings" anyone will actually read them.

Then, you give a test that
covers the outside readings as well as the lecture content. You could
use the question pool as outside reading material and then lecture about
actual practice. Difficult questions from the pool could be covered at
the end of class as an "extra help" session.


This would be a fine strategy if my primary goal were to teach concepts,
but my primary goal is to get these students a passing grade on the
test. Sorry, but that's just the way that it is. I don't think it's
appropriate for me to teach actual practice to people when they first
need to pass their written exam.

What I would *like* to do is teach a followup class on what people need
to know to get on the air -- how to select equipment, what actual
antennas are like, operating procedures, and so on. But I simply cannot
do that *and* teach them enough to pass the written test in the amount
of time available. I consider my first priority getting them past the
written test, then we can work from there.

I have to add, and I don't want to sound condescending, but I know that
some of the people who will attend this class are barely literate, much
less capable of reading and understanding the question pool . . . even
though it's written at a junior-high level. This may be another
challenge that I have -- how can I keep the intelligent people in the
class interested when the dumber-than-a-rock crowd doesn't even
understand the concept of what a frequency is?


Keep in mind that the Element 2 written test used to be the written
part of the Novice test.


Uh, no.

Arguably, it is easier to get a no-code
Technician license than it was to get a Novice license.


Different. Maybe easier, maybe not. Depends on how you learn and your
educational background.

The written test for Novice was trivial. I had no problem with it when
I was 13 years old. I also had no particular problem learning code when
I was 13 years old, but the theory test for General class was quite
intimidating. The Tech written is at least somewhat similar to the
General back then.

Please
understand: I am not complaining. I think that is a good situation,
especially if the intent is to draw newcomers into real-world
communications, like disaster relief and not the self-limited exchange
of beeps that the old Novice class was offered.


Sorry, but the the Novice class offered a lot more than "the
self-limited exchange of beeps". It was a true entry-level license with
incentive to upgrade. (You can't get much better incentive than the
license going away in a year.) You got a real taste for ham radio and a
real understanding of what the additional privileges you would earn
really meant.

The Tech license is not an ideal entry-level license. It requires quite
a bit of intimidating work to learn material that is pretty foreign to
people who have no experience in radio. Once you've got the license you
need someone to demonstrate the wonders of HF, else there is no
incentive to upgrade.

What I'm looking for is a real entry-level license, similar to the
Novice ticket, with an incentive to upgrade. I want to be able to
actually teach concepts and the real skills that people need to get
involved in ham radio, without feeling that I cannot do so because my
limited time must be spent getting them the knowledge to correctly pick
answers to pool questions.

But that's not likely to happen, so I'll do the best I can with what I have.

73, Steve KB9X

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Old October 23rd 07, 05:15 AM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

Dee Flint wrote:

Also keep in mind the new privileges that Technicians have regarding HF
since the changes in Dec. 2006 and February 2007. Possibly print out the
NEW band charts from the ARRL site and hand them out. You could give an HF
operating demo for example.


I actually have a bit of a problem explaining to potential Technician
Class licensees that they have CW privileges on HF bands. It just seems
either ironic or silly.

An HF demo is an excellent idea, but probably not possible as part of
the actual class. Setting up an HF station at the classroom location
would be an interesting challenge. (Might be fun, though.) Perhaps I
will invite the class to visit me at home so I can do some HF work, or
even schedule an extra session that's billed as a review session plus demo.

I prefer to explain things from the point of view that Technician is the
entry-level license, then demonstrate HF and explain that it's available
by passing additional written exams that are similar to what they're
studying for now. My experience is that "CW" is a four-letter word. YMMV.

I do plan to do some demos as you suggested in your other article,
including using a repeater, and maybe something related to EchoLink.
This will depend a little on the background of the students, something I
won't know until the first class.

Thanks for the suggestions.

73, Steve KB9X

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Old October 23rd 07, 02:03 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

On Oct 23, 12:03?am, Steve Bonine wrote:

With all due respect, this is far from a college-level course.
I have
limited expectations that the attendees will spend vast
amounts of time
studying outside of class, and frankly I rather hope
that that time will
be spent taking practice exams. I think it's unrealistic
to expect that
if I "assign readings" anyone will actually read them.


I disagree!

The readings can be handouts of a few pages. Introductory stuff
with links to more advanced things.

This would be a fine strategy if my primary goal were
to teach concepts,
but my primary goal is to get these students a
passing grade on the
test. Sorry, but that's just the way that it is. I don't think it's
appropriate for me to teach actual practice to people when
they first
need to pass their written exam.


Then you're essentially "teaching the test". And with all due respect,
that's a mistake IMHO. Here's why:

I think that we hams have sometimes placed too much emphasis
on getting lots of people licensed rather than educated and licensed.
The result is folks who are licensed amateurs but don't really know
how to get on the air. They're then left without the structure of a
class, to learn what's needed to actually use the license.

A recent statistic from ARRL said that 22% of new hams had *never*
gotten on the air with their new license. To me, that's a direct
indication of putting the license ahead of the knowledge needed to
use it.

What I would *like* to do is teach a followup class on what people need
to know to get on the air -- how to select equipment, what actual
antennas are like, operating procedures, and so on. But I simply
cannot
do that *and* teach them enough to pass the written test in the
amount
of time available. I consider my first priority getting them past the
written test, then we can work from there.


Perhaps the handouts could cover the practical stuff.

If time is that limited, then IMHO its purpose is to guide rather
than to be comprehensive.

I have to add, and I don't want to sound condescending, but I
know that
some of the people who will attend this class are barely
literate, much
less capable of reading and understanding the question
pool . . . even
though it's written at a junior-high level.


Who *are* these folks? I mean, the current written exams
have been passed by elementary school children years
away from middle school.

I suggest that if you have low expectations, the class will
live down to them, and if you have high expectations, they
will live up to them.

This may be another
challenge that I have -- how can I keep the intelligent people in the
class interested when the dumber-than-a-rock crowd doesn't even
understand the concept of what a frequency is?


With all due respect, if someone cannot grasp the concept of what
a frequency is, they should not be a licensed radio amateur, IMHO.
Such a lack of basic radio knowledge means the person just isn't
qualified yet, and endangers both the person and those around them.

The whole point of license testing is to insure that licensees know
the basics.


The Tech license is not an ideal entry-level license.


Agreed. But it's what we've got.

It requires quite
a bit of intimidating work to learn material that is pretty foreign to
people who have no experience in radio.


I disagree. It all depends on how the material is presented. To
use the frequency example, while most people might not know a
kilocycle from a bicycle, they will probably know that a piano
produces different tones. A simple electronic keyboard can demo
that principle easily. Then it's a short step to different radio
frequencies.

Of course it must also be learned that there's a difference between
sound as vibrating air and radio as a vibrating electromagnetic field,
but that's part of the game.

Once you've got the license you
need someone to demonstrate the wonders of HF, else there is no
incentive to upgrade.


Why not as part of the frequency demo? How about a long roll of paper
with various frequencies on it - 60 Hz for power, the AM BC band, the
49 MHz baby-monitor band, VHF and UHF TV, FM BC band, cell phones,
microwaves, and oh yes, the ham bands. Color code it for the various
services.

What I'm looking for is a real entry-level license, similar to the
Novice ticket, with an incentive to upgrade. I want to be able to
actually teach concepts and the real skills that people need to get
involved in ham radio, without feeling that I cannot do so because my
limited time must be spent getting them the knowledge to correctly pick
answers to pool questions.


Then you need more time. It's that simple. The time can be
class time, or it can be time the students spend reading and
learning on their own. But it takes time to learn this stuff.

"If it were easy, everybody would do it."

73 de Jim, N2EY

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Old October 23rd 07, 02:04 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

On Oct 23, 12:15?am, Steve Bonine wrote:

I actually have a bit of a problem explaining to potential Technician
Class licensees that they have CW privileges on HF bands. It just
seems
either ironic or silly.


I think it's neither.

The way I would present it is that the limited HF privileges of the
Technician are there if people want to use them. Amateur radio
is not all voice, particularly on HF, and the students need to know
that fact.

An HF demo is an excellent idea, but probably not possible as
part of
the actual class. Setting up an HF station at the classroom
location
would be an interesting challenge. (Might be fun,
though.) Perhaps I
will invite the class to visit me at home so I can do some HF work, or
even schedule an extra session that's billed as a review session
plus demo.


Or put together a video of HF stations in action. That way you
can cover a lot of ground in a short time, and present a wide
variety of modes and equipment types. Ask around - there
are probably hams in your area who would demo everything
from CW to AM to satellites to PSK31 for a video.

I prefer to explain things from the point of view that
Technician is the
entry-level license, then demonstrate HF and explain that it's
available
by passing additional written exams that are similar to what they're
studying for now.


But that's not entirely accurate - and you shouldn't present
inaccuracies.

The HF privileges of Techs today are far more than what I got as a
Novice, yet I was more than willing to pass the tests just to get
those old Novice bands.

My experience is that "CW" is a four-letter word. YMMV.


It's all about attitude. CW is a big part of amateur radio, and
should be presented. There's no test for it, but it's something
Techs are allowed to do.

The key (pun intended) is to present it as something positive
that can be learned if the person is interested.

If you act like it's hard, they'll think it's hard. If you act like
it's fun, they'll get that message too.

I do plan to do some demos as you suggested in your other
article,
including using a repeater, and maybe something related to
EchoLink.
This will depend a little on the background of the students,
something I
won't know until the first class.


I suggest that you present a wide variety and let them pick
and choose. Do not assume too much.

For example, I see many hams assuming that young people
will be interested in modes that use computers (like WinLink)
but not in modes like CW and AM using older technologies.

Yet in my experience the reverse is often true. The uniqueness
of those older modes and methods is often what they find most
interesting. They're surrounded by computers, networks, etc. -
those things are everyday, "Radio" is special to them.

You have to give them the big picture and let them pick the pieces
they like.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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Old October 23rd 07, 04:24 PM posted to rec.radio.amateur.moderated
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Default Entry-level class

On Tue, 23 Oct 2007 00:15:10 -0400, Steve Bonine wrote:
studying for now. My experience is that "CW" is a four-letter word. YMMV.


Y'know, what I've found around here is that most new licensees (who didn't
*have* to learn Morse) are interested in learning Morse.

(whether they'll actually take the time to do it is another question)

As long as one emphasizes it is not *required*, I think it would do more
good than harm to at least mention CW as an option.



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