Pathfinder Profile
E. Barry Rice: Up the Down Staircase

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E. Barry Rice
—Say Goodbye to Mr. Chips and Hello to the 21st Century Classroom. 

The sophomores pile into the lecture hall, eager to participate in the next accounting lecture from Barry Rice. Participation, indeed is the key. From the moment you step into his classroom at Loyola College in Maryland, you know something’s very different.

There is a blackboard, but he hasn’t written on it in five years. Instead, there are hand-held keypads at each desk. The overhead projector has been replaced with a multimedia console with computer, laser disc player and projection system. At any given moment, a student’s picture could be flashed on the screen, an indication that the question Barry has just asked must be answered by the selected student.

The traditional classroom is a dinosaur and ought to die, says Barry. Paper books will not be replaced by CD-ROM; the World Wide Web and the Information Highway will replace them!

Discoveries of the Future
True, Barry doesn’t fit the typical mold. While his counterparts might only be starting to consider multimedia, he has been using it for the past five and one-half years by lecturing through Asymetrix, Toolbook and PowerPoint presentations. And, one goal for 1998 is to start virtual classes over the Internet, as he says, I will cease to be a sage on the stage and become a guide on the side.” 

Barry professes that he hasn’t always been as progressive as he seems to be today. In fact, he didn’t know much about technology before the mid-80s when he stumbled on to CompuServe and Loyola’s VAX mainframe, and knew something big was about to take off in mixing technology with paper-based learning.

Although he required his students to submit homework via electronic means in spreadsheets and term papers as early as 1984, a chance meeting in 1991 with a former University of Maryland mentor solidified his vision of integrating technology into the classroom. They discussed how Maryland’s ancient mechanical keypads embedded in the desks in 1965 had become recessed ashtrays by 1970.

Barry got the idea, then, to take the once-popular, antiquated Q&A system milleniums further by using handheld keypads as polling devices. After presenting his case to Loyola’s Information Services Department, the school was awarded a grant from IBM in the summer of 1992 to install keypads. As a result, he became the college’s first faculty member to experiment with the use of technology in the classroom.

I force my students to take a position in little more than a minute on any question, he says. Most students have been able to fake their way from kindergarten to 12th grade by memorizing and not thinking. After the freshman year, I insist that they do analytical thinking on problems. Many are taken aback at first, but it forces them to use their minds.”

Barry’s approach to learning, he believes, will help tremendously to prepare students for the real world by using critical thinking skills in analyzing and synthesizing information, attributes he says CPA firms and businesses are searching for in tomorrow’s CPA.

Beyond the Boundaries
But the classroom is not his exclusive home to technology. Barry serves as creator and coordinator of a bulletin board system designed just for accounting educators called AECM, short for Accounting Education using Computers and Multimedia. Introduced in early 1993 [sic-1994], this interest group provides a forum for discussion that contributes to accounting education at the university/college level. [http://www.aecm.org]

We have about 25 messages a week and it is not moderated, says Barry. I perceive moderation as a form of censorship and don’t have the time to even review all messages even if the system were moderated. If someone wants to flame somebody, they can do that, although we encourage messages to remain purely accounting-related rather than using the system as a social forum.”

Using his experience with AECM, Barry also has developed a similar forum for practicing CPAs called CPAS-L, located at http://pacioli.loyola.edu/cpas-l/. Established in August 1997, it already has nearly 200 members from public accounting, business and industry, and government.

I believe CPAs should be like Indiana Jones creative, innovative and open-minded! I think one of the most important things in life is learning how to break the rules. We force the student into little boxes, but they have to learn not only how to use the tools at hand to survive, but to experiment with the unknown to discover what lies ahead.”

Educators and others who want to learn more about his discoveries can visit Barry’s Web site at http://pacioli.loyola.edu/rice, or send an e-mail to rice@loyola.edu. The Web site includes links to the home pages for each of his courses.

  

[In 1998, I was the first educator selected as a "Pathfinder" by the American Institute of CPAs.
The above was copied from their Web site and is apparently no longer available there.]