2: Student Collaboration
Many teachers are also experimenting with student blogging. Blogging offers a another venue for students to participate and interact with one another, often allowing conversations started in class to extend and expand on the web. Blogs, Wikis, and Google Groups can also provide venues for students who may not participate actively in class discussion to have a more active voice in the conversation. Some students are more comfortable sharing their views online than in class. By integrating online and in-class discussions, some teachers find they can enrich the whole conversation in their courses.
The addition of blogs and online participation, however, raises new questions about what skills teachers are trying to develop in students, and how student participation ought to be measured. Is the purpose of an assignment to share ideas and thoughts in an open manner? Or is it to help students develop certain forms of communication? What communication skills are worth developing? How do different venues of expression engage different students in different ways? How do teachers decide what forms of participation are best?
Some professors have even turned to Twitter as a way to engage students. Though the confinements of 140 characters might be limiting. Twitter hashtags (#) allow tweets to be added to a conversation thread, which may be a useful extension of the classroom. “I encourage students to think of Twitter as low-stakes writing, as a place to pose adventurous claims or half-baked ideas,” writes Mark Sample.
Learning through Digital Media has explored a number of different approaches to incorporating technology into the classroom and learning more generally, with a critical eye toward many of the new programs themselves.
The actual toolbox that professors use is less important than the adoption of a new ways of thinking about teaching, argues Trebor Scholz. Digital media, he writes, “isn’t solely about using this or that software package or cloud computing in the classroom.” Rather, it’s about “altering the roles of the teacher and the student” in a way that “substantially changes teaching itself.” Learning with digital media, he continues, should be thought of less as trendy or hip, and more as a way of “exploring radically new approaches to instruction. The future of learning will not be determined by tools but by the re-organization of power relationships and institutional protocols.”
By this measure, the technological demands of the new scholar and professor might seem daunting, precisely because it is less a hard skill set and more an approach. The programs we use now will almost inevitably become obsolete. Learning Through Digital Media, for example, devoted a section to using Google Wave as a pedagogical tool (among a number of other programs). Google Wave has since been abandoned by Google. “There is no question that some of the tools that we explored here will be obsolete in a few years,” writes Scholz. But “the methodologies,” he continues, “the attitudes and the social practices of experimentation will remain valuable.”
The adoption of technology, then, might be thought of less as a toolbox and more as an openness to new approaches–an attitude more than than a hard set of skills.
Photo from Alfred Hermida