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Thread: Experience vs. Classroom Learning

  1. #1
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    Question Experience vs. Classroom Learning

    I would like to begin this thread with a few observations and opinions........

    First, I would like to say that I have read probably a couple hundred posts tonight, both in the general discussion and in the ophthalmic optics forums. I am excited about learning tips / tricks/ information /insight from the numerous experienced individulas that post here

    Secondly, I would like to say that there does seem to be a slightly aggressive and/or demeaning view (by some) of optometry as it pertains to the optometrist's ability to properly understand, implement, and execute many ophthalmic optics and dispensing principles. I know that the knowledge possessed by many on this board is vastly superior to mine, however, I do wish to say on my behalf at least, that I realize where the "bread and butter" of optometry is, and that I consider my knoweledge of optics and or dispensing to be very good, and getting better by the year. That led me to the following:

    How much of this knowledge by everyone has been acquired via experience vs. on the job training vs. classwork/education, and as a followup, which method of knoweledge attainment provided the most relevant information and skills to everyday opticianry and dispensing?

    It seems to me that no matter how much I learn from all of my fancy overpriced textbooks, with their pretty illustrations and lengthy author pedigrees, I always learn something not mentioned in the books by "doing". As such, it seems that I am in for a few years of "oops"s, "awww craps"s, and "uh-oh, I don't think that's supposed to do that"s.

  2. #2
    opti-tipster harry a saake's Avatar
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    Lightbulb experience

    :idea: You are probably going to find out in the long run that it is a combination of it all. I started out in the old Bausch and lomb opthalmic labs when they had them. That was the base for this business that i still use every day.
    .....Then there was the schooling that B&L ran and numerous lessons that were given at the lab level. Then of course there were numerous lessons from the old master opticians, doctors that i worked for and with.
    .....Its an ongoing process that never stops. As i pointed out to Anna, who is up there at southern, take the business courses as you will need them.
    ....Then of course there will be your continuing education courses that will constantly be feeding you new info.
    ....I think to sum it up, you have to go in with the attitude of i am always going to be learning, because every time you think you know it all, or you have heard it all, someone ,somewhere, comes up with something new.:cheers:

  3. #3
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    You will find that most knowledge in the opthalmic industry, except that which is derived from pure math was learned origionally by experience. Even if it later became part of an instructed course.

    Chip

  4. #4
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    We need both.

    HI, and welcome to the Optiboard! We are always happy to see new optical people post here.

    I honestly believe that we need BOTH. We need the theory behind what we are doing (didactic learning) AND we need the hands on application of those theories (experiencial learning). I went to Opticianry school back in 1981, and will also say that much of my best learning was hands on learning.


    I teach opticianry full time and can see our students progress quickly in the field, and I believe their acheivements are due to both. I have also seen opticians on the job struggle, because they know "how", but not "why". This becomes most obvious when trying to troubleshoot optical problems. It is difficult to troubleshoot with efficiency when you do not know the behaviors of light when it interacts with a lens.

    We have had many debates on this board in regard to which is better, and think we have all come to the middle ground and believe that both are vital.

    Laurie

  5. #5
    sub specie aeternitas Pete Hanlin's Avatar
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    I do wish to say on my behalf at least, that I realize where the "bread and butter" of optometry is, and that I consider my knowledge of optics and/or dispensing to be very good, and getting better by the year.
    First, welcome to OptiBoard! From your post, I assume you are an Optometrist (or, does SCO2004 refer to your anticipated graduation date from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis)? If you have realized this early on that your "bread and butter" lies in frames and lenses (and not in disposable contacts, comanaging LASIK, etc), you will likely be a very profitable OD!

    Second, I agree with Laurie- education and experience go hand in hand in this business. Education is required to lend both credibility and a "standard of knowledge" to Opticianry, and nothing beats experience for learing "how things work." However, as the value of education no doubt owes somewhat to the quality of the teacher, the value of experience is completely dependant on both the environment and the quality of the people with whom you work. I've been really lucky to have some good environments and some really good people to learn from, but I have no doubt but that I would have a better knowledge of certain aspects of Opticianry if I had gone through a formal education route.

    Finally, I hope you will post often on OptiBoard and let us have your opinions from "the middle O's" perspective. If you have read as many posts as you say, you know that some unpleasantness will probably await you when you give an OD opinion, but my suggestion is to bear with it, and let your detractors make idiots of themselves (which they invariably do).

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    Bread and Butter......that's about all I can afford

    Laurie, I agree that it is essential to understand the "why" when trying to implement our knowledge. Too often in my optometry class, some seem content to memorize facts and numbers, but fail to understand the key basic concepts that lead to the numbers and facts. I swear I am not trying to stir up trouble with the following statement.......honest........It would be entirely possible to teach a monkey "how" to refract, and in most cases it would do a pretty good job most likely. However, it is those cases that don't perform as they are supposed to, that don't give the response that a "normal" patient would give that would throw the monkey. That is when we must truly implement our understanding of what is going on behind that phoropter, and come up with a reason and a solution......We must use our knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, optics, pathology, etc. etc. to figure out why the heck this patient is responding as they are. This is where some of my future colleagues struggle, why yes, they now HOW to perform BI and BO ranges on a patient, but what does it mean if they report a blur at distance with BI, should the optometrist be concerned, or just move on and ignore it.....there are hundreds of examples. All that was just a long winded way to say I agree with the need to understand the "why", or else we will be replaced by monkeys who work for produce.

    And Pete, you got it, I am anticipating graduating from SCO in 2004, if I make it pass pharmacology that is (vicious test coming up on Mon);)

    I can only speak for myself of course, but believe it or not the fact that Optometry's bread and butter is a quality refraction and the competent dispensing of corrective lenses/frames is beat into our skulls at SCO. We have been reminded of that fact ad nauseum, but unfortunately for some it is just not as sexy as ocular disease.....which makes a small portion of our actual practice when we get out.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I am procrastinating my studies!

    As far as the negative responses to my posts, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, "Whatever, dude". I am fully confident in my knoweledge of many subjects, and am more than willing to admit my shortcomings and take a backseat when need be.....briefly, I know what I know, and the rest I am not so sure of.

  7. #7
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    For all of those reasons is why apprenticeships are so valuable. Along that line is distance education. Back in the fall there was quite a discussion regarding the future of distance education.

    As an apprenticeship, you get the best of both worlds. You get hands on experience, as well as the core and critical theoretical knowledge that is required.

    FYI, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology offers one of the original and most comprehensive distance education programs in the world for opticianry. In place since 1986, the NAIT Ophthalmic Dispensing Program has educated thousands of opticians and contact lens fitters. The NAIT Optical Programs now offer Sight Testing, and Ophthalmic Assistant as well. Additionally, the NAIT program is the only recognized program by the Opticians Association of Canada.

    You may visit our web pages at:

    www.nait.ab.ca/optical

    Respectfully,

    Ian MacIvor
    Program Head
    Optical Programs
    NAIT

  8. #8
    Bad address email on file Darris Chambless's Avatar
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    Shwing ole buddy!

    How the heck are you dude. Sorry SCO but I haven't seen Ian around for a little while so please forgive the intrusion.

    Anyway Shwing, hows being an instructor going thus far? Anything intresting to report? I don't see you around as much these days but I'm sure you're pretty busy. So fill us in on the life and times of Ian MacIvor lately?

    Take care and it's good to see you're still around. Could have used you a few times in the not so distant past. I had to go it alone, but I managed because I'm just that good ;)

    Take care

    Darris C. of the Clan McClelland

    SCO,

    The best rule of thumb is this, no matter what you learn today there is something different tomorrow. Which has more value when it comes to classroom vs. hands on? They are both indespensible but neither outweighs it's counterpart.

    I have found that having hands on always makes it easier to understand the text book and not vise-versa. I've always liked doing more than learning because there are many out there like myself that can take concepts and make them work even better for our own applications. You will do the same. Text gives you the basic tools, but what you do with those tools is your own business.

    If I give you a lesson that gives you a piece of steel and I say "Go cut something with it." you can approach it two different ways 1) You can walk out the door and try to find that one thing that can be cut with this piece of steel (basic tools) or 2) You can refine it in a manner which suits you that will cut whatever you wish to cut with it (Imagination and ingenuity)

    Text is the starting point but ingenuity is what makes the difference.

    Take care and welcome once again,

    Darris C.
    Last edited by Darris Chambless; 01-21-2002 at 06:33 PM.

  9. #9
    Master OptiBoarder Shwing's Avatar
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    Heynow! How are ya, Sparky? Yeah, long time no hear. I took several months off the 'Board last summer/fall for an Optiboard sabatical.

    Life is great! New career is what is new. As noted, am now Program Head, Optical Programs, NAIT, and loving every minute of it. Sorry, buddy, no teaching for me. Am just the administrator.

    Sorry you had to go to battle on your own, but now that I am back in my tights and cape, am ready to do-in dastardly do-gooders, er, bad-guys.

    For now,

    Ian MacIvor

    a.k.a. the optician formerly known as
    Shwing

  10. #10
    Bad address email on file Darris Chambless's Avatar
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    Administrator???

    You know the old saying "Those who can, teach. Those who can't administrate." :) Surely you're teaching something? And what's this "formerly known as Swhing" stuff. Ian may be your name but it ain't gonna cut it big 'un.

    Hey, I look forward to tackling the bad guys with you once again.

    Take care,

    Darris C.

  11. #11
    Master OptiBoarder Alan W's Avatar
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    SCO2004

    Hey . . . good to have you aboard.
    My perception of the learning process for adults leads me in the direction of the method of delivery.

    Adult learning calls for an experiential element to satisfy the desire to learn and also to iilustrate by demonstration what was learned.

    So, I separete teaching, training, and experience.

    In the classroom, the opportunity to exeperience is limited. In the lab, training results in performance. But, one needs the classroom to indentify the elements needed for performance. So, its OK to learn something as the information base leading to experience. But, training must be done to convert theory into experience.

    The mosaic of the learning landscape is a wonderful thing to experience when a solid foundation of theory is provided and learning has been verified. Because when the student experiences the application of the theory, it becomes experiential. And the combination leads to technique (the individuals creative application and hopefully, resultant expertise).

    Gotta have it all!

    That, and 25 cents, gets you a cup of coffee!

    Off to work I go . . .

  12. #12
    Master OptiBoarder Jeff Trail's Avatar
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    I think you really need both area's covered.. if you learn "hands on" chances are you will not go further in understanding than the one who sponsored you, and as someone who dealt with both sides of the field, retail and wholesale, in the last five or ten years I see the curve of knowing more technical things going up as we get into more complicated designs, materials and options (ar,toric,atoric,spheric,aspheric etc.) and the people I deal with in knowledge the curve is on a downward trend..
    I look at it as a house of cards.. you really should know the basic theories to build upon when dealing with optics. If you do not have that basics than it's really hard to build a cause and effect when dealing in materials and designs.. I know on here we tend to be "overly" knowledgeable but in my day to day experiences I run into far greater numbers of "undereducated" than over educated...
    I am self trained, more or less, and I still am going back to school to see if I can fill in any blanks where I might be lacking.. and from some of the posts I see here a lot of us have the general grasp of optics but when it comes to the theoretical side it's kind of lacking..(guys don't be touchy, you know if you are lacking or not so don't post how insulted you are) :-)
    As a whole "hands on" is mostly done in one hour opticals and such more so than optometric practices where more involved optics are being done (that's supported by the numbers)... lets face it fitting SV and FT's and PAL's in a one hour store is not really that complicated and where you are limited in a one hour optical by the "chain" choice in lens it's really limiting..
    You have over 90 PAL designs out there but I know tons of opticians who have never used more than a hand full of designs..you have a bunch of selections in SV even..aspheric,atoric,spherical, semi-aspherical and on and on, not including about 12 index choices and some opticians I know that were chained trained think the only answer is poly, or whatever the chain has pounded into their heads as the correct choice..
    You take that optician out of the chain into a low vision practice and they are lost (majority of the time).. I for one think you really need to understand it from the basics and build from there.. once you understand that than it all falls into place.. and for getting that theoretical as well as hands on the "web" has made that a snap (as Laurie talked about) You'll always have the "I learned it myself and further education is a waste of time" on one side and the "I learned everything in school and know it all" on the other but to really get it you need both sides of the track to do it correctly.
    You have 3 or so semesters of refracting, geometric optics, lens theory (lab) physiology of the eye, contact lens, dispensing and on and on and I think it covers a lot, atleast Hillsborough program does.. and I can see some of the people who have taken the classes their sales trend in $$ go upward as they learned the material both in design and product and being able to explain it in a way that was understandable to the patient, as well as understanding it themselves, limitations and choices and add ons..and sure made my life easier when they asked me a question and when I went off on one of my tangents they actually stayed up with me :-)
    Lets face it we "optical junkies" on here (opti-board) are probably far out numbered by the ones who do not know the theoretical side and sponsorship is just not making it..not enough knowledgeable people out their to really be in the position to teach the basics and theoretical side.. I for one would love to see it required to have that extended level of education .. if you want to be a sales tech fine if you want to be a true lic. optician than higher education should be required, with that hands on..it's a complicated world of optics now a days and it will just keep getting more complicated...
    I'm saying this as a self trained person (who is taking some of those classes now) and can see on a daily basis dealing with accounts where we as a whole are lagging behind the technical side and theoretical in our field. Lets face it there is more to optics if you want to be an optician than popping out SV's and spherical bifocals and simple PAL fittings..I for one think BOTH are needed and are important...ask the sponsored person to explain slabs (how and why), spectacle magnification, chromatic aberration (both types), polarization, Fresnel's equation, prism (compound and axis)exphoria,esophoria, image displacement, fusion, vertex compensation, ray tracing, lens design, basic lensometry, and on and on and more will not know than do know..sadly.

    Jeff "bash away, remembering I'm just a lowly lab rat" Trail

  13. #13
    Master OptiBoarder EyeManFla's Avatar
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    Well, I was goint to put my two cents in ( that, 1.1 cents Canadian)......but the Lowly Lab Rat pretty much hit it on the head!....Ok, back to sleep now..............................

  14. #14
    Master OptiBoarder Shwing's Avatar
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    Atucally, your two cents U.S. is worth about $4.97 Canadian...

    Now I know what it is like to be living in Argentina....
    Shwing

  15. #15
    Optical Educator
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    Why Thank You, Jeff,

    Now I will send you that "A" and 20. bucks...

    JUST KIDDING!

    Of all people, your testimony to college courses for opticianry makes the point...

    Laurie : )

  16. #16
    Master OptiBoarder stephanie's Avatar
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    Big Smile

    Hi SCO! Welcome to the optiboard. My friend graduated from SCO also. If you need any help I can ask her to help you out. She is a great optometrist and speaks highly of the school. Are you staying in Memphis when you are through? I am moving to the Memphis area as soon as my house sells. If you hear of any jobs let me know please!!! As far as my education is concerned I learned everything I know from here on the optiboard!! Actually the people here helped me a lot. I learned mostly from OJT. It makes test taking a little harder but it helps to already know how to apply what you have already learned. I do think if given the choice I would have definately gone to school. I have said a million times on here that questions people you work with may not know how to answer or can be bothered to answer for that point can be answered much better in a class room setting. I did pass the ABO and NCLE on the first try but I studied like crazy. Now I am studying to take the Certified ophthalmic assistant test. Here I go again Jo!!! LOL!!! My point is this teachers are being paid to teach you and answer questions and help you in areas you may be weak in. Your "mentor" may not really care or be willing to help you as much as you like. I so well know. It is wonderful to learn on the job just make sure whomever is teaching you is willing to take the time to help in any way possible.

    Steph

  17. #17
    Moderator - Joann Raytar Jo's Avatar
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    Now I am studying to take the Certified ophthalmic assistant test.
    Steph,

    Has there ever been a time since you have been on OptiBoard when you weren't studying to sit for an exam???

    I can't wait to read the questions you may post when you get to studying. We always learn something new from your study sessions. :)

  18. #18
    Master OptiBoarder stephanie's Avatar
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    Jo, yea I don't think I have ever been on here when I wasn't studying. What in the world could you have learned from my posts???? LOL!! Actually I have taken about 8 months off from studying. It is getting close though to my years time with the MD and I want my COA!! He keeps asking for my paper test to send in, but I just can't get up the energy to fill the thing out. It is amazingly easy. All the answers are in the book and go in order from chapter to chapter. I am sure the actual test won't be that easy. Unlike the ABO or NCLE the Coa test seems to concentrate on things we actually do and hear everyday which will make it a little easier. The hard part of this job is dealing with people we can't make any better. I find myself saying often "what happened to the good ole days when the worst thing that happened in a day was possibly conjunctivitis??? or a kid that got upset because he needed gls???" I think tomorrow I will just get on that test and just fill in the little circles! Afterall it is taking an open book test. Oh well...back to the books! What can I take next? I hope eventually this will all benefit me in some way!!!

    Steph

  19. #19
    Moderator - Joann Raytar Jo's Avatar
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    The hard part of this job is dealing with people we can't make any better. I find myself saying often "what happened to the good ole days when the worst thing that happened in a day was possibly conjunctivitis???
    Steph,

    Whenever you find yourself in this mood just remember the good ole days when you had less folks you could help see better. When I first started we still saw alot of folks who would come in post cataract without IOL's. You knew that the only result would be a very thick pair of glasses no matter what lens you used and if they didn't have their glasses on they couldn't see their own hand in front of their faces.

    You wait and see. The next thing to come out will be a better way to deal with macular degeneration.

    We've come along way and we still have a bit more to go. :)

  20. #20
    Master OptiBoarder stephanie's Avatar
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    Big Smile

    Jo, I pray all the time they hurry and find something for SMD so I can at least hear the docs finally say "yes Mrs. Jones this is what we can do to help that we have a new tx..." That and RP really bothers the hell out of me. Of course I LOVE post op cat sx pts...they are almost always very happy people. Aphakics are horrible I have seen a few of them (not too many anymore) but it is very sad to see and know there isn't much you can do to make their lives better. Sure you could fit them with CLs but many 70 or 80 year olds don't have the manual dexterity needed and many have no desire to wear them. Some days I would just really love to go back to just trying to find the right screw to fix that frame!! LOL!! Life was much easier then!

    Steph

  21. #21
    Master OptiBoarder MVEYES's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Experience

    Don't you all think we have to have a foundation in education before we go out and let experience fine tune our skills?


    Jerry

  22. #22
    Moderator - Joann Raytar Jo's Avatar
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    Jerry,

    Yes, we do have to have a foundation in education. I understand what you mean by "before" we go out and fine tune our skills. This works for many other tradesmen and craftsmen but with our current mindset would it work for us?

  23. #23
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    Jo:

    There was a better way to deal with the aphakes without IOL's than thick glasses, there still is: Hard Well Fitted PMMA contact lenses. (If you want to know why this is better than soft or HGP, let me know.) I fit thousands of them and still have some for patients.

    There are better ways to deal with macular degeneration coming out. In fact if you believe Paul Harvey (I don't) simple vitamins from High Health will reverse it.

    Chip

  24. #24
    Master OptiBoarder MVEYES's Avatar
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    Question Jo

    The barriers to improving our profession not only are in our hands but in the mindset of the other O's. Recently our association testified in front of our state legislators on the need for formal 2 year education. The president of the optometric board said that it was not necessary that she learned dispensing in one year. As I said, it's not only our own profession who puts a roadblock in front of education.

    Jerry

  25. #25
    Moderator - Joann Raytar Jo's Avatar
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    Re: Jo

    Originally posted by MVEYES
    The president of the optometric board said that it was not necessary that she learned dispensing in one year.
    That's interesting. My boss, an OD, rented space next to local independent opticians since he got out of school and has been partners with an optician and has recently become the sole owner of his own office with a dispensary for the last ten years. He openly admits he is still learning about opticianry from us all of the time. According to him. we have more knowledge of lens/frame materials, neutralizing certain Rx's and trouble shooting.

    My question to the president of your state optometric board would be what exactly did you learn in one year? If an optician were to take one year of Optimetric courses, does that mean they would be educated enough to refract? Also, if that OD had some type of special vision care need would she rather go to another OD for her fitting or a qualified LO? We have OD's and MD's who own their own dispensaries and their families come to us for their glasses. I would think this means that, when it comes down to it, there is something to say for the field or Opticianry.

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