Top Gun Scholar
Robert W. Rhodes, Ed.D.
Top Gun Scholar (TGS) is a tool for students and others doing research, using both best practices and current research in the educational process. This tool has allowed university and community college students to improve their research, their writing and their grades in classes. The current research shows grade increases on the order of five to 20 percent and scores on tests and papers from 70 percent range to the high 90 percents.
While the process is designed for college and graduate students, the application of Top Gun Scholar can be applied to students in high school and junior high school, perhaps in upper elementary schools. As research and use of the program gets into secondary and primary schools, those students will have a real advantage as they progress.
How it Works
Top Gun Scholar has three levels of involvement, one including the professor and two without.
The class professor puts notes, lectures, readings, PowerPoint presentations on TGS so that they can be searched. The class textbook is not included. (If a professor wanted to include the textbook for class use, copyright issues would be cleared through his/her school. If a school chose not to put the textbook on the site, students could purchase the textbook and use the process outlined in Level 2 to have searchable access to the textbook also.) Students have access to the class information from which to do research and derive information for their papers, tests and discussions. One professor who is using this level of participation says that “student retention is up 17% and test performance is up 9%”.
When the student is doing research for discussion, an assignment, or a test, the student can type in a search word or phrase and TGS will provide a list of hits from only those documents the professor has determined appropriate. TGS also provides other, more advanced search parameters. The student is then researching from a limited field that the professor has determined appropriate for the class. TGS also has a section containing more than 35,000 public domain books. These include the Great Books and many more, all of which can be searched for additional information the student may need or find interesting. Students doing historical research find this tool particularly useful in that they can find first or second-hand accounts of historical activities rather than having to depend only on interpretations in textbooks. Other databases are available on the site as well.
If the professor of a class does not use Top Gun Scholar, the student still can. Students can purchase their textbook(s), digitize them if they don’t get digital copies, and TGS can index them for immediate searching. The student can get their book on a USB flash drive that will enable them to search for a word or phrase in the book. The TGS search process offers broad functionality and tuning capabilities that ensure users spend less time looking for information and more time actually working with it. The TGS search process allows on-the-fly categorization and ‘search within’ queries, hit highlighting and hit-to-hit navigation that helps discover associations and connections between search terms. Again, the student is able to derive immediate search information that is pertinent and useful. You can see a video of it working on a USB flash drive at http://www.topgunscholar.com/
Some students who have used Level 2 of TGS have become top students, with grades of 3.8 to 4.0. One student who expected to get a D in an art history class started using TGS for the last 5 weeks of the class and brought her grade up to a B+. Students can expect increases in learning, retention and grades on the order of 5 to 20%.
students can use all of the professor’s material, plus the textbook and the
public domain books on TGS. In one
example of a student who was able to use TGS in this manner, his 2.4 GPA as an
His scores on the modules of the class show how his use of TGS raised his scores above the class averages for this online course. TGS has comparable data on many other classes.
His Grade Class Average
Module 1 100 80.43
Module 1 discussion 100 76.54
Module 2 100 69.31
Module 2 discussion 100 75.96
Module 3 discussion 100 72.88
Module 3 100 73.89
Module 4 discussion 100 68.65
Module 4 100 61.97
Module 5 discussion 100 65.19
Module 5 100 60.96
Module 6 discussion 100 66.54
Module 6 100 61.83
Module 7 discussion 100 47.50
Module 7 100 59.78
Module 8 100 54.62
In all situations, the students get immediate positive feedback and information that is usable and useful. TGS also provides all the reference information for APA (American Psychological Association) format, so the students can easily do citations in the correct format for most schools.
Why it Works
Students, and according to research, particularly minority students, like to be in control of their own learning. There is research that shows that internal locus of control is much more effective than external locus of control with students as it is with adults. When students can control their own learning, without being told or closely supervised by an authority figure, they tend to learn more, better and retain the information longer.
With Top Gun Scholar, students are studying when and where they choose, and following research threads to satisfy an assignment. They have internalized the goal (the assignment) and are pretty much on their own, but within a controlled universe, to find answers, using only resources the professor and/or the text supplies. The problem students have with a Google search is that it turns up way too much information and too many hits to follow. That search also is not controlled for accuracy or applicability, wasting a lot of time going through useless hits. With Top Gun Scholar, the student gets immediate useful information, pertinent to the class and his research, and thus positive reinforcement. Since the student initiated the search and is actively engaged in both the search and the results, learning and retention are increased. The improvements in the quality of papers and the increase in grades are due to an increase in learning and retention for future tests and future classes.
Learning styles research shows that Native American students learn best when they can approach a subject or concept wholistically. They are more field-dependent, as are Hispanic and Black students. TGS, by allowing the student to generate research questions and key words, provides an opportunity for students to develop a more wholistic understanding of a subject and then refine elements through their research. They are able to get beyond a sequential approach to the subject matter and use a learning process that is much more natural to them.
Examples and Research
A few professors have encouraged their students to use Top Gun Scholar to do research for their classes and as a research tool for papers. Other students who have been introduced to TGS now use the process for all their classes, even though the professor is unaware of the tool. Those professors who are using the system report that their students who use TGS have raised their grades dramatically and that the class average grade for their classes has increased by over one letter grade, using the same scoring criteria and testing formats as previously. Students who use TGS for their classes show more self-confidence and are quite satisfied with their learning and improvement of grades, on the order of 5% to 20% higher than they are used to getting.
Several students are using TGS on their own in classes at several universities. They scan their textbook or send it to TGS to be scanned and then indexed. They get a USB flash drive with the material in a searchable format. These students have shown dramatic improvements in their scores on papers submitted, on their discussion questions and on tests. Most have raised their class grades by 5% to 20% over what they used to get. Those who already were getting high grades indicate that their research is now more focused and they are able to study for papers, discussions and tests in a much shorter time.
can go to www.topgunscholar.com and
search the material for classes by Dr. Lovell in business and Dr. Bartels in humanities,
philosophy and anthropology by choosing
By going to http://student126.yavapai.topgunscholar.com you can search my book under North American Indian Education. It is anticipated that other Indian Education books will added shortly. There is also an opportunity to search all of the Indian Treaties signed by the US government and by territorial governments from before 1776 to 1883. Tribal court decisions from the Hopi Tribe, perhaps the Supai Tribe and others will become available and searchable in the future. That would enable lawyers, paralegals and students to do research for case law in those courts, which has always been at least tedious if even possible. As more Native American tribes become aware of TGS and its possibilities, it is likely that the Native American elements of the website will increase exponentially.
Presently Top Gun Scholar is accessible to everyone without charge. There is a minimal charge to index a book that a student may send to TGS electronically and a slightly higher cost if TGS gets the book from the student and scans it for them, then indexes it and returns the book with a USB flash drive containing the indexed material. Several students are currently using these two methods to get searchable textbooks for classes. For classes where the professor provides the material, students are still encouraged to purchase the textbook.
Top Gun Scholar is only a year or so old, pretty much still in its infancy. As it grows, as more students and professors use the site, it will grow and become even more useful as a research and learning tool. As TGS grows, there are plans to make the website a bit slicker and more intuitive. Nonetheless, searches will still be made from a controlled universe of references so that the results can remain pertinent, useful, accurate and immediate. Students will continue to get useful, usable information along with APA citation format so they can increase learning and reduce time.
As a tool for student learning and to improve student grades, Top Gun Scholar is a unique process. It has proven amazingly successful for all students who have tried it and has dramatically increased learning, test scores, paper scores and discussion scores for those students. Those professors who have worked with the program swear by it. They see increased student learning, participation and grades in their classes. Additional information can be obtained from Top Gun Scholar at their website, www.topgunscholar.com. I find the capabilities of TGS quite amazing and useful. Try it!
Top Gun Scholar (TGS) is dedicated to making the life of the student/scholar easier. The plight of students and scholars world-wide is that there is too much material, too many books, too many websites. It is impossible to read everything. The founders TGS says you don't have to read everything; you just have to find what you need. The way to do that is to digitize the material, index it, and then scan for what is needed.
TGS is adding books to the library daily and is planning to market the full library on a stick-drive (also called thumb drive, jump drive, flash drive, USB drive and probably some others), a "Library on a Stick" as soon as it can raise enough money to do it. Top Gun Scholar has no paid employees and offers the website and search capability at no charge. The company is also hoping to raise money to purchase a robotic scanner to be able to add more books quicker.