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Professor encourages breeding ‘language animals’
Timothy Dansdill believes that new teaching tools need to be instituted to better instruct today’s students.
Dansdill, an assistant professor of English, believes that in order to help students write more carefully, professors need to ensure students understand that good, coherent, elegant writing begins with defining one’s terms on Thursday.
He said students have been taught to write a five-paragraph essay in high school, which lack substantial content. In contrast, he said he is trying to teach his students how to become “full-blooded essayists.”
According to Dansdill new definition engines, including Visualthesaurus.com, students can produce richer writing that can be defined.
If the approximately 20 or so faculty who attended his presentation on definition engines across the curriculum brought his ideas into the classroom, Dansdill believes that students will write better and become more interesting writers.
After students begin to probe words, Dansdill said they become free-roaming “language animals.”
He also said that English majors are not the exclusive users of the definition engines. These engines can help all students since words are how they open themselves up to the world.
“Regardless of the discipline entered, we all have one language we use to discuss meaning,” Dansdill said.
Dansdill has been a self-proclaimed “natural risk-taker and experimenter” in many different careers before becoming a professor at Quinnipiac.
He started to experiment with VirtualThesauraus.com last semester and has liked what he has seen, along with his classes. He said the university must also be willing to experiment with it to grasp its full potential.
Dansdill has received overwhelming support for the site from his classes. His students tell him that they enjoy the rich cellular-like effect of the words on the Internet. “It works like our minds,” Dansdill said.
With proper tools, Dansdill believes that the sky is the limit for students’ possibilities in writing.