Week 3 – Engaging the Imaginations of Digital Learners

In thinking about how the field of communication can participate in the conversation about digital learners, I feel that the discipline is positioned to be a pioneer in education for the digital age.

I am a media scholar. In laymen terms, I research how media (from videos, to photos, to writings) impact the lives and identities of individuals and their overarching societal culture. Take for instance what classrooms look like- thirty years ago, people were taking notes by hand and attendance to lectures was necessary to succeed. Nowadays, as discussed in class, we are living in an age where information is instantly available and readily shared. The very culture of higher education is changing, shifting, trying to reflect the lives of the students they serve.

I feel the need, at this point, to point out that sentence again. The very culture of higher education is changing, shifting, trying to reflect the lives of the students they serve. I personally struggle with the “research first, students second” approach I have noticed at various universities. Of course, research is an integral part of education and vital to the growth of academic disciplines. However, if we are ignoring our students’ needs, their specific path to success, just in order for academics to pump out research, I think we are failing as educators in higher education.

We mentioned that there is no blanket statement, so clear one-size-fits-all way of teaching students today. However, I would argue that the same applied to students thirty years ago, and will continue to be true thirty years in the future. Students are ever-evolving, adapting to technological advances in society that inevitable impact the way they learn. I think it is vital for educators to take these advancements and changes into consideration and try to apply them in the classroom.

Take communication research, for example. Performative studies can be applied to the way people perform their identities online, so we should be integrating those points into our lectures. We should encourage students to apply concepts to their own lives- their actual, complex, messy lives!

The Talbert article (“Four Things Lecture is Good For“) really stood out to me, particularly how “information transfer” was not on the list. Rather, there is an emphasis on teachers performing their research, engaging students and connecting. I specifically loved the section about telling stories- in communication studies, we are very aware of how narratives shape our sense of reality and help us to connect with one another. Therefore, I think other disciplines can apply their own stories to lectures, offering students an opportunity to connect to their professors deeper. After all, a student who is thriving in their imagination and passions is more likely to be engaged and thrive in your class.

6 Replies to “Week 3 – Engaging the Imaginations of Digital Learners”

  1. Hello,
    I like how you are making the observation that often times we are focusing too much on research. In another class, we discussed how tenure track faculty are expected to provide research, teaching and service. However, there is a slight shift being seen that some Universities are leaning towards hiring research faculty focused on research and teaching faculty focused on teaching. I think this approach is beneficial. Having too many things too handle all at once often means something falls through. However, if one faculty can provide extra effort in teaching then that is a win /win/win in my opinion.

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I agree- it’s hard to juggle multiple responsibilities as a grad student, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be fore faculty!

  2. I appreciate your perspective so much. That idea of lecture as performance is so important, and I can’t help but wonder how many faculty think about that on a conscious level. If they were actors in a play and their lines were essentially everything they said in a lecture, would they deliver them differently? Perhaps some would not, but I imagine that the driest ones would make more of an effort. There is a very strong storytelling tradition in the American South, and one of the strongest, most compelling things about it is the performative aspect, the use of repetition and taking full advantage of the regional accent to drive home the narrative. Southern Pastors are also famous for doing this (with a few more theatrics thrown in to make it extra entertaining), and they are fully aware that their sermons are performative, but if they were delivered as lectures, they’d be these really dry pieces of Biblical exegesis, but because they get up there and really put on a show, it doesn’t feel that way *at all*. This is certainly not an argument for faculty to behave more like pastors because that would be absurd, but lectures as perforative acts are worth consideration by faculty.

  3. Thank you so much! I appreciate your feedback and perspective- I think it’s so valid to think of it as a performative experience, and it helps to engage listeners with this style, especially when material can be so dry!

  4. The point you make about about research priorities of big universities is resonating with me. R1 universities are adapt at training researchers and experts with high academic throughput but the fruits of their work end up in journals that the same researchers have to work unpaid to review, and the institution has to pay again, to get access to. For young academics ( grad students, early career researchers) taking up tasks like perfecting their teaching methods or assessing social impact of their research is considered un-rewarding endeavors that they only may pursue out of passion.

  5. Great blog post! I think they are too many factors that led to certain professors focus a lot on research but I do not think that students are being ignored. To me, it is just a matter of time and a level of understanding or caring which differs from on educator to another that maybe leads to certain failures. In Jean Lacoste’s teaching innovation statement for example, the teacher said she “I wanted each option to support a specific learning style”. She did go for multiple option including video and ant lectures because she cares and maybe they many other educators who would like to do the same but do not have time to do so or even the skill because honestly they many educators who still cannot embrace new technology as the younger generation. I like the sentence “The very culture of higher education is changing, shifting, trying to reflect the lives of the students they serve” because I have realized that students are getting more attention and accommodation than ever before.

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