Apr 10 2017
The Attention Span of 140 Characters or Less
I have noticed a trend with my students. It seems as if they are not doing the readings I assign for class. Or it seems as if they don’t understand what they’re reading and unwilling to ask questions in order to understand the material better.
How dare they not read the material I assign? I should give all of them zeros for participation. I’m not spoon-feeding the information to them. They have to learn how to think for themselves.
These are just some of the thoughts that have raced through my mind regarding this matter. Then a random conversation with one of my undergraduate students last year made me realize that I was wrong in my reading of my students. They were doing the readings. I was not engaging them properly. I was asking questions that required longer answers than they were giving me. I learned to correct the way I ask questions and made sure that I could fire off follow-up questions to get to the material that they needed to know. I also made sure that material was covered in more of a conversational style rather than a Q&A. The Nicholas Carr piece is useful in helping me formulate into words what I had experienced with my students.
“‘We are not only what we read,’ says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. ‘We are how we read.’ Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts ‘efficiency’ and ‘immediacy’ above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become ‘mere decoders of information.’ Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains.”
I understand my students capacity to digest information in small bites in order to piece together the whole picture. They are saturated with small bites of information daily. From Twitter to Snapchat to Instagram, these are the ways the current generation of traditional students receive, interpret, and export information. No wonder the shorthand notation of tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) was created. It is is an internet slang expression commonly used in discussion forums as a shorthand response to previous posts that are deemed unnecessarily long and extensive.
Earlier this semester I had decided to enact a no electronic devices policy in my classroom because I wanted my students to truly engage the material I was teaching. I didn’t want the computer screen to be a barrier between them and me. I wanted my classroom to be a place where my students could practice how to formulate ideas, present them to their peers, and get feedback in person before they get into the working world. Since then, I have changed my view on electronics in the classroom. My students can multitask. I have watched them take notes on their computers, answer my questions, and be in conversation with each other almost simultaneously. This is something I would like to improve upon as there a times I feel that I cannot walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
Apr 24 2017
One of the most interesting parts of this week’s readings happened to be the five points made by Parker J. Palmer on how to educate the new professional. These five points are:
While reflecting on these five points, I realized that not only is Palmer speaking about students gaining a sense of empathy but he is also communicating that students need the ability to deal with ethical issues in various disciplines. My discipline already promotes these ideas partly because my discipline is based in the humanities but also due to the fact that international relations theory has ethics imbedded in it already. I have taken this for granted over time and realized that I need to make sure my students are able to face ethical issues in the discipline. The best way I can do this is through the use of problem based learning in the classroom.
Dan Edelstein supports this idea in his article. “Classes in the humanities not only offer students the best opportunities to practice innovative thinking, but also provide them with models for how to do so.” Not just interdisciplinary studies but transdisciplinary studies is just one of the ways this can be accomplished at the larger university scale. Virginia Tech is attempting to model this through the creation of Destination Areas. Destination Areas provide faculty and students with new tools to identify and solve complex, 21st-century problems in which Virginia Tech already has significant strengths and can take a global leadership role. The initiative represents the next step in the evolution of the land-grant university to meet economic and societal needs of the world. The process will result in the creation of transdisciplinary teams, tools, and processes poised to tackle the world’s most pressing, critical problems.
By Brett Netto • GEDIS17 10