Digital Learning – What was I doing again?

As a student in the CALS Graduate Teaching Scholar program, I have been assigned many readings about the dependency on lecturing within higher education. Us teaching scholars are taught that the attention span of adults is only somewhere between fifteen to twenty minutes. Therefore transitions must be made after this amount of time goes by. These transitions can be minor such as switching to a different topic or performing in-class questions. Even a short break can do the trick.

What I dislike about the Four Things Lecture is Good For article is that it does not provide alternative suggestions for lecturing. While I do agree that “covering material” is not an excuse for lecturing, it can be often be difficult to get students to go through material on their own. I believe it is an instructor’s job to make sure that students are set up to at least have the chance to be successful. For introductory level classes there should be plenty of materials discussed in the class itself so that students pretty much don’t have a choice but to be introduced to concepts for the first time. I was also not keen on the drastic distinction between being inspired versus being taught. In my opinion the two go hand in hand. If students are not feeling inspired then they may be less likely to be open to learning. Moral of the story – I am not much of a Robert Talbert fan.

It is refreshing to hear that former president, Barack Obama, experienced a season of life where he “went through the motions” in school. Although I’m now in the second year of a PhD program (I’m going to assume that you must like school if you have endured it for that long) I still remember a time in undergrad where I was much less interested in and dedicated to Food Science. I was filled with the excitement of being a freshman and had just recently joined a sorority. Food engineering was not my first priority to say the least. It took time for me to become passionate about my field of work. It is important that we don’t give up on students that do not seem as engaged as we would like them to be. Maybe it just hasn’t “clicked” for them yet. While I did like the concept behind getting students more involved, I also believe that school in general was not designed to be fun. For instance graduate school is rewarding and I enjoy it very much, but I would be lying if I said every aspect of it is fun. However, I think that’s ok.

The New Learners of the 21st Century video changed my perspective on a few things. I’m not much of a video game person. In fact, I sort of dislike them and find them to be a waste of time. With that being said, a wonderful point was made in regards to negative perceptions about addiction and video games. The point was that a child who stays up all night to read a book is praised, whereas a kid that stays up to play video games may not be. Similarly if a child puts in an extensive amount of work related to sports, that is seen as dedication. These conflicting ideals highlight what is deemed as valued to the population. I found these comments to be very convicting. How true!

 

Photos

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8 Replies to “Digital Learning – What was I doing again?”

  1. The concept of trying to deliberately and specifically inspire students feels odd to me as well. I think they either are or aren’t interested in the topic and that has a huge influence on their engagement and desire to learn. But their mental model is fixed probably before they walk into the classroom on the first day, and with few exceptions in the event of some eye opening revelation, unusual classroom approaches may further disengage the students who had no intention of engaging in the first place .

    1. Ethan – I am curious to hear more about why deliberately inspiring students feels odd. I think that students’ interests and their understanding of the world around them can change and evolve quite a bit while they are in college. And educators have the opportunity to present material from a new perspective, encourage students to learn and grow in their understanding of a particular subject, and excite students.

    2. Ethan – I think the point I was trying to get across was that sometimes I do think that the “fun factor” of higher education can go a bit overboard. By this I mean that at a certain point in higher education I feel that students should be intrinsically motivated to do the work (especially graduate students) and sometimes work is not always fun. That’s life. However, I do think it is the professor’s job to inspire. Sure, there are always students who do not want to participate no matter what. But, if you create an environment that fosters community and makes students feel comfortable, maybe some students that wouldn’t normally participate might do so..? I think it is also healthy to require students to participate in some situations. Merely adding participation into the syllabus for a small fraction of the final grade could do the trick.

  2. I like that you touch on the point about not giving up on students in relation to your own experience as well as that of Barack Obama. I think it’s all too easy for undergraduates to do just that. I agree that it is the job of the instructor to explore and present different ways of engaging students from a range of different perspectives, interests, and learning styles. As such, I think many of the social sciences or humanities courses – I teach in history – should be oriented toward fostering student reflection on how they learn, as well as working to shore up their individual analysis and argumentation skills. I think placing students in situations in which they are confronted with making choices, then defending those choices is absolutely essential to growth for anyone. I think it encourages a kind of recognition of the need to take ownership over different sides of their life, such as education.

    1. Right!? Nobody begins as a perfect scholar. Generally I would say scholars and other successful individuals have experienced both highs and lows. I think about how undergraduate majors often are required to take “weed-out” courses where the whole point is to make a student feel like it is a toss up as to whether they can pass the class from the start. We also have to acknowledge that first-semester freshman are coming from a variety of educational backgrounds depending on where they went to high school. They may or may not have been effectively prepared for college by their former teachers. I believe it is our responsibility (and it is very cool that you do so within the social sciences/humanities) to help freshman and other lower levels of higher education to learn how to learn. Whether it is effective note taking or reciting information aloud, these are skills they can carry with them through junior/senior year as well as in graduate school and the workplace.

  3. tive suggestions for lecturing. While I do agree that “covering material” is not an excuse for lecturing, it can be often be difficult to get students to go through material on their own. I believe it is an instructor’s job to make sure that students are set up to at least have the chance to be successful. For introductory level classes there should be plenty of materials discussed in the class itself so that students pretty much don’t have a choice but to be introduced to concepts for the first time. I was also not keen on the drastic distinction between being inspired versus being taugh

  4. uld say “the next building”.

    Would that answer change if you were disabled? Would it change if you had a small child you had to take care of? Would it change if you were trans or gender non-conforming?

    When it comes to structuring our institutions, things as seemingly small as bathrooms can have a significant affect on the way that folks structure their day-to-day activities and how successful they are able to be during their time at an institution. As a case example, take the Squires student center here at Virginia Tech. If you were a trans person and couldn’t use the public, multi-stall bathrooms without threat of violence where could you go to use the bathroom? In this instance, you would have to go over to the GLC and hope that the door to the bathroom was unlocked (though that may be now fixed) or over to the library to

  5. enty of materials discussed in the class itself so that students pretty much don’t have a choice but to be introduced to concepts for the first time. I was also not keen on the drastic distinction between being inspired versus being taught. In my opinion the two go hand in hand. If students are not feeling inspired then they may be less likely to be open to learning. Moral of the story – I am not much of a Robert Talbert fan.

    It is refreshing to hear that former president, Barack Obama, experienced a season of life whe

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