… they’re all different.
The articles are commentary on the proliferation of slideware in post-secondary classrooms, as well as the perceived headlong rush towards amusing themselves to death that has been associated with NetGen students. Together these two rubs provide a sort of yin::yang relationship.
On the one hand it is easy to agree with students that it may be reasonable choice to focus on an engaging small screen experience when faced with a mind-numbing onslaught of 12-point type on the classroom big screen. Comments toThe Chronicle blog about “When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom,” underscore the sentiment that is it not the technology that is bad, but the way it is so often used – seems like common sense to me.
However, the proponent of the article pushed the notion of “going naked” into the classroom a little further, emphasizing a greater need for engagement through thoughtful dialogue of the sort that occurs in small classes like those in graduate school or smaller colleges. But, the rub occurs when an instructor finds herself in front of a large-scale class of 100+ undergraduate students all sporting laptops and various mobile devices. I’ve faced this situation myself occasionally as a guest speaker. I literally scoped out one of the classes, an inter-disciplinary group of engineers, computer science and business students, a week in advance of my appearance, to try to better understand the classroom dynamic and to plan how I would engage their brains and devices simultaneously. I knew it was going to be a challenge.
Teaching remains a performance sport. What I’ve learned from my limited large-scale engagements is that like a good stand-up act, I’d need a set of “routines” (instructional strategies) around which I could structure large-scale classes, the course material and my interactions both verbal and digital with the learners. And, I’d likely need to work on the routines as ongoing projects to keep them fresh to ensure that actual learning or teachable moments were to occur in those lecture-style classes. I don’t know how others are coping, but I’d love to know. It’s not surprising to me that slideware becomes a default approach in an attempt to bring both structure and focus to classroom experiences. What is sorely needed is an updated pedagogy and new models of practice that would enable engagement of both brains and devices in various teaching situations, without backtracking to the “naked” approach.
The flip side of the story, the yang to the previously discussed yin, is the notion of social fasting that was put forward in The Chronicle article, “Professor Challenges Students to Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In.” In this scenario, the professor challenged students to come to his classes without benefit of social media devices and in fact by dropping other forms of media (movies, TV, video games) while they take his course. His exchange for their “fast” is an additional 5 percent in their overall grade. Hmm. Surely, the horse is out of that barn.