Add your comments and discuss the material in this chapter here!
A good question was raised today about whether or not taking participation online works to the benefit of shyer students, or could handicap them in the long run by “enabling” shyness. Some research has been done on whether online second lives and online gaming working as “workshops” for developing social skills (rather than as mere escapism). I’m curious (1) if teachers have considered using these more immersive forms of participation and (2) how many teachers present online participation as a stepping stone, and how concretely they can explicitly develop it into other communication skills.
I am an undergraduate sophomore who is reluctant to speak in lecture, section, or one-on-one office meetings. For many students, I believe it is more of a fear than just shyness, although they may prefer to think of themselves as laconic not cowardly. It does make section less fun, but putting conversations online as an alternative is not going to move students past a debilitating fear that cripples academic potential, careers, and personal lives. One comment was made that forcing students to make impromptu contributions may not be the best strategy. I agree. If these students think they might be called on at any second, many will dread showing up for class. Concerning solutions then, I think professors and TA’s should encourage these students to speak while telling them in private that if they choke up in the middle of talking, he or she will save them from the embarrasment by interrupting and moving the conversation to someone else. Ultimately, the initiative has to come from the individual person, who knows there is the Oral Communication program to assist individual effort.
I am opposed to using Facebook or Twitter in courses. I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account, and while I would set one up if required, I don’t think it should be mandatory. There are legitimate reasons to stay away from both. I believe laptops should be banned from lecture because of the irrestible urge for many students to visit Facebook, news websites, or play online games which distracts those seated around them and diminishes their own learning. Already students consume media almost uninterrupted throughout the entire day–using a computer for homework or fun; listening to an iPod between classes, while working out, or riding in the car; texting and calling friends during any downtime; watching TV in the dining hall etc. I understand there is debate whether all this technology is beneficial or detrimental to learning, whether it enhances the mind or rots it. Considering all the different ways these devices can be used, it must be some of both. Surely, though, consuming media all the time and detaching yourself from it none of it is a proportion out of whack.
I think the idea of online classroom is only a plus, not a must.It is not reasonable if we just set it up to give a chance to shy students (I am a shy students in class, but I don’t feel repressed not to speak and don’t need a compensation in any form). Whether and when it should be employed is a case-by-case issue. For seminars, I think in most cases I am just having enough conversation and extra online obligation would be very tiring. But for lectures, online classroom is a good idea. I enjoy the system we are using now for this course for it allows me to know what others think, especially those who I never had a chance to say hello.
I completely agree with both Nile and Keren’s comments. I think online classroom is more a distraction. Best classes are still the classes with the most eloquent lecturer, or the best encouraging discussion leader. I don’t see the digital development is going to change this golden rule of classroom. Teachers, instead of spending time on inventing new tricks, should be more focused on producing better quality lectures and learning to improve discussions. It is the people that matter, not digital tricks. As we see in the meeting today, well-designed PPT has not made significant impacts on the audience, given the un-impressiveness of the last talk.
Wow! I’m really disheartened by the comments in this section. They display ignorance about pedagogy and use of digital tools in the classroom. (There’s an inherent ignorance about pedagogy in general here too)
It’s also interesting that the discussion here turned toward a disregard for online learning — but pedagogy and digital tools is not about distance learning or learning management systems. One of the main movements in Digital Humanities is to begin to incorporate undergraduates into research projects, have them produce scholarship that is valuable to the community at large. Other faculty-scholars have worked towards changing in-class pedagogy to embrace some of the major tenets of Digital Humanities: innovation and collaboration. See any of Cathy Davidson’s work at HASTAC. I would strongly urge you to read through some of the more prevalent blog posts by Cathy and/or the HASTAC scholars about digital pedagogy. You might also think about reading through some of the pedagogy-focused articles in Digital Humanities Quarterly or Digital Studies.
I think the condemnation here comes from not having a clear picture of the field at large. But, I urge you to investigate these ideas and very large Digital Humanities community — all of its constituents, not just those performing research. (I believe some faculty in your English Department [David Palumbo-Liu and Jennifer Summit] are engaged in pedagogy at its very core; you might begin there.)
And, I’m happy to have a conversation with some of you about incorporating Digital Humanities research into the undergraduate classroom. My students are doing much more than using PowerPoints to enhance their presentations.
Katherine D. Harris
Assistant Professor of English & Comparative Literature
San Jose State University
I’m with Dr. Harris on this one. Not only do digital tools supply instructors and students with new means for engaging students and new models for academic production en toto, trying to “dig in our heels” against digital tools and platforms like Facebook or laptops in the classroom seems to me actually dangerous. Recent research on the effect of digital “distractions” on concentration have shown that, if people are forced to resist ever-present temptation, they actually perform _worse_ in cognitive activities and are less able to concentrate. I think that there should be transparency & honesty on the part of the instructor on the allure of digital distractions for _all_ of us, and how to integrate digital tools purposefully and mindfully into our lives. Surely this component–the personal ethics of digitization?– should be a major component of education today in addition to just using digital tools to encourage student participation and enhancing or improving our research?
I’d like to think there are happy middle grounds between moving entire class discussions online and shunning technology altogether. Zhijian, above, is right that as long as we’re meeting in person in formats like lectures and discussion sections, teachers can’t rely solely on technology to engage their students. Good teaching is far more difficult and artful than that.
On the student side, I tend to agree with earlier commenters who are wary about online forums being a crutch for students who prefer not to speak in class. We live in a world – academic, civic and otherwise – where both written and oral communication are important, and I would hate for that spirit to be lost as we forge a path forward in digital pedagogy.
P.S. I appreciate this chapter a lot, particularly its aggregation of examples of how teachers are using online tools. Gets at part of my question in the last chapter. Thanks!
I generally agree with Elizabeth. I think that there is a place for online components to the classroom, while not forsaking the quality of a traditional lecture and in-person discussion components. In order to find this medium I think it is going to take some amount of trial and error within the academic community, but as technology becomes more integrated into education, it is my hope that an equilibrium can be reached.
From my own experience as a shy student who is generally reluctant to jump into conversations, I certainly enjoy being able have an online participation component that allows me to consider carefully what I am going to say and look over my words before posting, I realize that developing speaking skills is still an important aspect of anyone in the academic world. I agree with Nile that the ultimate motivation for this must come from the student.
Haven taken online courses before, I cannot honestly say that they are not to the benefit of any student. I actually did the Stanford EPGY math courses in 8th grade because my new middle school did not have an advanced enough math level, and my parents did not wish for me to repeat a level I had already completed. This being said, it was nice in that online/computer courses did provide an alternative route. However, it was not one in which I necessarily succeeded. While I may have been able to enter the correct answers, I wasn’t actually LEARNING anything. Moreover, research has shown that there is a connection between physically writing down something and learning…and when you are taking the courses online, you do not have to write down anything. You can type it. So while computers do provide convenient alternatives, in addition to the reasons Nile mentioned, they may actually be hindering our classroom education.
I wanted to start out by saying that I thought Julie Russo’s lecture on these topics was great. Rather than shunning digital tools in classroom, it seems like the way forward is to figure out ways in which interactive platforms can be truly useful within the structure and composition of different courses. Like other undergraduates, I’ve definitely had experience where digital forums were created only for for the sake of saying we were using them, or the requirements for participation weren’t recognized or graded as “real” work. However, I’m excited to see what happens when as professors and students work continue to work together to improve “innovation and collaboration,” as Professor Harris’s comment mentions.
Hoping late is better than never . . .
I’m really disappointed by the comments I’ve read in this session. I think online tools of many different varieties, when well employed, can really add to classroom discussions. That doesn’t mean that there is any one ideal way of doing so, just as there is no one way to run a successful discussion; as Julie Russo pointed out in her lecture, this is a largely uncharted field still, and there is therefore some experimentation required. I think making a blanket statement such as “online courses are not to the benefit of any student” displays both enormous privilege and pedagogical ignorance; there are many students in rural settings who would strongly beg to differ. In fact, that was one aspect of digital pedagogy that was not addressed today, probably because it isn’t applicable in the Stanford context: giving educational access to those who would not otherwise have it.
I’m very disheartened by how willing people seem to slam the door on this. Things change, and it’s in our best interest to figure out how to deal those changes.
I do think that a lot of the tools we got to know in this section can be very helpful and I would be willing to use them. Some of those tools are especially great in creating opportunities for students to engage with topics in an unusual way. They can really open up the ordinary classroom set-up. Unfortunately I heard that the Stanford policy concerning the usage of online resources other than coursework can be quite restricting. Privacy issues are of course most important, but it can be a pity to be restricted to coursework when there are so many helpful resources out there.