Monday, March 31, 2008

“Clicking in the Classroom” Delivers

In a March 28 commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled How to Find What Clicks in the Classroom , Judith Tabron writes, “I'm surprised at how low the adoption rates of technology really are. Colleges and universities have ended programs that rewarded early adopters for trying the latest gee-whiz thing. At the same time, many of my IT colleagues still give presentations on gee-whiz technologies that they built in the hope that someone would come.
Tabron, director of faculty computing services at Hofstra University, finds that not much has changed since the mid 90’s when universities spent a lot of money adopting class management systems such a Blackboard. Their bit for Instructional Technology was done. But as Tabron points out, these systems do not facilitate true academic interaction. Basically, they deliver the course content on a computer screen with the same old instructions – read it, absorb it and review it.
In order for this to change, she says, “IT-staff members with teaching experience and an understanding of the mission of liberal-arts education need a place in which to demonstrate the latest technologies. And they need both space and time to help professors develop new types of lessons, assignments, and grading methods that can fundamentally change how teaching and learning happen.” Unfortunately, they often end up fixing printers.
It would be tempting to quote her entire commentary – it’s that good. Here, for example, is her final thought in this short but inspiring article:“Our students live online. They fall in love, they shop, they order pizza on the Web. Their iPods, TV's, and Xboxes are sophisticated technologies. They instant-message their blogs from their cellphones, and they can't picture college having a place in any of this, because we haven't shown them that it can. It will be a dismal future if the only thing our graduates cannot do online is learn.
Read How to Find What Clicks in the Classroom – and you will be ready to listen, talk, challenge, answer, try, fail, try again.


Totally Vavoom said...

In the article, the author says: Communicating via blogs, or aggregating and sharing information with tools like or Digg, are all the rage among our students, and even if they don't want us interjecting instant messages about their homework into their networks, we need to investigate such tools just the same.

I beg to differ. Having taught three semester of the SmartMobs class, a year of the web design class, and from conversations with other faculty conversant with the above mentioned technologies, I can safely say that only a small percentage of our student do the above. Sure they maintain a blog, but they don't have a clue what RSS is, or, or Twitter. Yes , they Facebook and MySpace, but that doesn't mean they are thinking about it critically.

So I don't believe our students take a class expecting their learning resources to be available via Digg or, or to backchannel in class using Twitter, or use NetVibes or Pageflakes to accumulate further reading resources on the subject or on topics of interest to them... at least not yet.

However, I believe that day is not far away, and in the interim, it is incumbent upon us educators, support staff, and admin folks to play with, learn more about, and eventually, find ways to integrate it into the teaching and learning experiences.

Dr. Semmes said...

Students are crawling all over the visible Web but their expertise is limited to Facebook, MySpace, ITunes, and other sites which provide entertainment and social interaction. My experience with students regarding RSS, del.i.cious, Wiki pages, etc. is similar to totally varoom's.

Yes, support staff need to be ready to assist faculty with ways to integrate the tools into teaching and learning, the faculty need to be receptive and willing to take the time to learn and use the tools themselves.

Faculty who use technology in creative ways should be rewarded. Often this comes at the expense of time spent on research and can be detrimental in terms of promotion and tenure.