Profile: Dr. Jeffrey Graham

Dr. Jeffrey Graham teaches the lab component to all PSY100 students.  What most students do not know, however, is that he actually designed the lab curriculum for PSY100, in the state-of-the-art psychology lab in the Davis Building.

Graham, a senior lecturer in the psychology department, arrived at UTM in 1992. Having extensive previous experience in developing software, he assisted with the development of the software called “Psychomouse” which psychology students know these days as “Sniffy the Virtual Rat”, a simulation of behavioural models in learning.

Over the years, Graham and his colleagues wrote educational software in the UTM psychology lab. In 2006, the University of Toronto picked up on the adaptive learning software inventions that had been developed and decided to help with the commercialization of the invention, resulting in DeckChair Learning Systems.

Currently, DeckChair Learning Systems is in contract with the Ontario Hockey League to train sports officials, such as referees. DeckChair hopes to be part of the delivery platform for the online research team at the Seneca College Aviation Project by providing the simulation needed to test pilots as well as train them to teach students.

So far, the technology has been used for academic purposes, sports training purposes, and most recently, corporate training purposes. The software is a “tool” or an advanced “word processor” to help others to teach online more effectively, says Graham.

With a small team of business partners and three programmers, Graham envisions many future audiences using the technology he has invented as he and his colleagues come up with new ideas.

“The applications are just huge,” says Graham. “Our challenge is to find ways to teach people that type of material in a way that isn’t just a page-turner.”

Although his software developments are the tools with which a lot of research is being conducted, Graham does not see himself as a researcher, but rather a “developer”.

“Senior lecturers typically do not have a research component in their job description,” Graham says. “My research is more building software and seeing if it works in a real setting. We’re making a tool that’s going to be useful, not just in PSY100, but will be useful from kindergarten to old folks’ homes. We’re living in the Star Wars era. When I was a kid, we dreamed of having a phone where you can see somebody talking on it, and we said, that won’t be in our lifetime…and now it’s here.”

Graham reveals that he changed his field of study every year while he was a student in university. Business, engineering, and philosophy (“I just love ideas”) were some of Graham’s potential majors. He chose psychology because he was interested in “something to do with problem-solving”.

Graham, along with professor Dax Urbszat, has performed with his band at the Psychology Association of Undergraduate Students of Erindale’s annual Variety Night. Besides acting as chief scientist for DeckChair, teaching 22 PSY100 lab sections, and further developing Sniffy, Graham’s other interests include rock-and-roll music, archaeology, and ancient civilizations.

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