Jan 23 2017
Old-Fashioned Network Learning
I agree that individuals are more connected today compared to 25 years ago. Advancements in communications technology have brought us closer together by making it easier to communicate with each other, while at the same time they have increased the number of individuals that are within our network. The current generation of college students has always known the Internet and has had access to information at their fingertips in the blink of an eye.
However, I am of a different generation. I am neither Generation X nor am I a Millennial. I am a bridge between both of them or as was proposed at one time, Generation Y. I was born in an age where there was a boom in home computer ownership. My first home computer was a T/I-99 – basically a keyboard that connected to your television. My television came in through a cable box that had a dial that you clicked to change the channel, the movies of my childhood were on VHS and rented at a local video store or Blockbuster, my music was on cassettes. The Internet wasn’t around, and by the time it was in any way that meant something, someone picking up a phone somewhere else in the house could disconnect you. I am well versed in most things digital, but only because I grew up in tandem with the Internet. I will make the claim that my generation was highly effected by the Reagan years, saw the Berlin Wall crumble, woke up during the new American heyday of the Clinton presidency, and struck out on our own under George W. Bush. We watched the OJ Simpson trial and the LA riots, Waco and Columbine, and the first truly televised war in Iraq, all live. We watched MTV when it still aired more music videos than it did scripted shows like Beavis and Butthead, Liquid Television, and Ren and Stimpy. My friends and I got our first cellphones when we were adults. We actually spoke to our friends in person or on the telephone, not through texting or messaging systems. I had social anxiety because I used to stutter when I spoke. I had to face actual consequences for the things I said and did. There was no sense of anonymity or hiding like we have on social media nowadays.
This semester I decided to enact a no electronic devices policy in my classroom. Why? Because I want my students to truly engage the material I am teaching. I want discussions that they lead and I prompt along with questions. I don’t want the computer screen to be a barrier between them and me. It would not be a barrier between each of them because they typically communicate via electronic devices. I want my classroom to be a place where my students can practice how to formulate ideas, present them to their peers, and get feedback in person before they get into the working world. I am not totally against using social media and technology in my class. I have used an online simulation to help teach the concepts of world politics in previous courses I have taught. My goal is to be a bridge in the classroom like I am a generational bridge…to bring together face-to-face interaction and technology. We shall see how it goes.
Jan 30 2017
A Mind Full
Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk proposes that there are three principles that are crucial for the human mind to flourish and how we can see the opposite of these principles in our current education system:
*I find it interesting that the current undergraduate students are products of the former No Child Left Behind policies and that I see a lot of Robinson’s comments on this policy in the classroom.
Ellen Langer echoes Robinson’s principles in her explanation of mindful and mindlessness learning. She states, “A mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics: the continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective. Mindlessness, in contrast, is characterized by an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behavior that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective. Being mindless, colloquially speaking, is like being on automatic pilot” (1997, p. 4).
So what does this mean to me as an instructor? It actually means a lot. When I started being an instructor of record, I thought back to my own experiences as an undergraduate student and my attitude towards learning. I had not been given any pedagogical instruction, only past syllabi to assist in planning my course. I needed ideas. What was it that excited me? What did professors do to engage me? I realized that they made me feel as if I was an intricate part of the learning process. They were willing to field my questions and listen to my ideas. They helped me express my creativity and go beyond my comfort zone when it came to choosing topics for class presentations or final projects. I was never told outright that I was wrong or that I just didn’t get it. I was usually given a “clue” and asked to retrace my steps to find a different outcome on my own.
“Look! A clue!”
My next thought was how to incorporate these things into my classroom. First I thought about the physical space and I would agree with Mike Wesch, “The physical structure of the classrooms in which I work simply does not inspire dialogue and critical thinking. They are physical manifestations of the pervasive narrow and naïve assumption that learning is simple information gathering, built for teachers to effectively carry out the relatively simple task of conveying information” (Wesch, 6). I wanted to convey information but not as the typical “sage on the stage.” Again, this semester I am trying the no electronic device approach to conveying information. I felt that electronic devices, while connecting students virtually, hindered their connections in the physical realm. In my experience, students seemed more apt to take notes on their laptops when I spoke, but were reluctant to see the possible learning in the questions and comments of their peers. So far, there has been success. Students are attentive. They are asking questions of each other and me. Discussion is lively and thoughtful. Is this the answer? I don’t think so. I know I have to be flexible and adaptable. Each semester has been and will be a new experience and experiment with my “teaching style.”
By Brett Netto • GEDIS17 4