All teachers, instructors, professors are talking about IT….that “it” being technology in the classroom; learning via social media; incorporating student-generated content into our syllabi; utilizing technology to further discussions into the online sphere; being technology literate and savvy and, of course, innovative.
There are so many ways we feel pressure to teach to this new generation of learners. In the college classroom, we know students can barely keep their cell phones out of sight. From teaching media and society and often discussing media habits, rituals, and routines, it is increasingly clear to me that students use Facebook for everything–news feeds, chatting, creating identity, viewing ads, etc. Students don’t like to readily “admit” how connected they are through online spheres, but class discussions reveal a different story. One that illustrates checking cell phones for updates the last thing they do before they fall asleep and the first thing they do when they wake up. Just like brushing teeth. Or drinking some water. Almost mindless. The cell phone often tucked under their pillow or beside them on the nightstand. In place of the alarm clock. In fact, it is also their alarm clock.
So, we take up the challenge to “talk their talk” and incorporate opportunities to participate in class material via social media as well as bring many interactive types of technology into the classroom both for pedagogical reasons as well as to keep up with how people are increasingly communicating. Check out this photo I took a few weeks ago as I worked on research at Grand Central Bakery one morning. This couple sat like this the entire time I worked. I couldn’t stop staring at them. Some breakfast date.
Of equal importance to pushing the traditional pedagogical boundaries and incorporating innovative strategies that appeal to different learning styles and potentially engage students in new, different ways is taking time to reflect on IF these techniques are working and/or how they are actually affecting individual learning, course objectives, topical learning outcomes, critical thinking, etc.
One of the leaders of incorporating technology and social media into the classroom, Michael Wesch of Kansas State University, was recently written about in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an article titled “A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working.” This questioning aspect is integral to the successful integration of technology into the classroom. I was glad to see Wesch have this type of self-reflection during a time when it simply isn’t popular to not believe in the technology/social media-in-the-classroom movement.
Of course, I’m still going to have my class Facebook pages and use my iPad to capture student feedback in class and post on our Facebook page. And, I’ll keep posting messages on Twitter (most students in my classes follow me) and utilize Wikis for students to work together to build resources for class. I’m continually thinking of ways to use technology in order to reach a diversity of students as well as those students who rarely contribute or speak up in class.
But, last week, I simply sat down in the back of class and quietly asked students to give me feedback on why the same students always spoke up and what I could do to encourage class participation from a greater array of students. After a silent sit out (I had to count in my head to allow us all to feel the silence), I received some very insightful feedback: Students felt judged by their peers for what they would share; students felt like others could say it better or already said it first; students disagreed with fellow students but lacked confidence to say something different in front of me and their peers.
I listened, validating this valuable feedback, and talked candidly to the class about some ways of thinking to overcome those points. I realized after class that the same in-class insecurities also potentially happen online, and often.