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.