Friday, July 30, 2010

EDUC 504: Makin' it real (Reflections on July 30 Class)

The MAC alumni who came as guest speakers today were awesome! It was great to get a feel for such a variety of settings, content areas, and ways the content we have covered and will cover in this class can be used in real teaching situations. I'm really grateful that we had the whole spread from West Bloomfield to Brooklyn in terms of diversity, SES, and technology provided by the school.

Things I will be looking up / keeping in mind:

General principles

  • Looking in the dusty corners for unused tech that could be put to cool uses
  • Being prepared to be the local "expert" in anything new I bring into the classroom (see this post)
  • The importance of a real, authentic audience in increasing engagement, performance, and ownership
  • "Did you know" by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod (Shift Happens)
  • Creative ways to use some of the tools below (google forms, response systems, wall-wisher) to make grading faster and easier
  • Use a beginning of the year survey to get a feel for access -- who has reliable internet access, computer, printer, etc. at home
  • May need to explicitly teach students how to use word processing software, even if they're totally at home with social networking
  • In low-access contexts, need to give kids lots of time and in-school or after-school access for any assignment requiring internet accedss
  • The importance of real experiences in addition to virtual ones -- real dissections, egg drops, bridge building, etc.
  • The usefulness of blurring the distinction between work and play, while still making the educational goals explicit at some point in the processs

Tools & applications

  • Wallwisher -- for reading journals, for room norms (and appropriate use of teacher-approval on posts)
  • for using cell phones instead of microphones to record audio
  • How I can use Skype to bring all my awesome earth scientist friends into my classroom
  • Microsoft's "mouse mischief" as a cheap student response system (seems to work only with Windows)
  • Sliderocket for online slide presentations
  • Low-tech substitutes for computers and cameras -- flip books
  • Gallery-walks to have students practice critiquing skills with each other
  • International Poetry Guild through ICS -- for my English-teaching friends

I thought there were a lot of provocative questions in the last half hour of class:

  • Where's the balance between using technology to "meet students where they are" and drawing a clear distinction between "at home" and "at school" uses of technology? (I think this one captures my discomfort with AIM office hours -- it's definitely on the blurry line between the two, with an "at-home" technology used for "at-school" purposes.)
  • What are the safety implications for being "always-on" and therefore more aware of safety bulletins issued by campus police, for instance, versus being "always-on" to the point where you're not aware of your surroundings because you're focused on your phone while walking or driving?
  • How can you have students help you develop appropriate guidelines for when and how to use technology in class?
  • If someone's playing World of Warcraft during class, is it the teacher's problem because they're either not engaging enough or not setting and enforcing the right classroom policies? Or is it the student's responsibility to bring the right mature, scholarly habits to class?

I don't have clear answers to any of those right now, but I'm looking forward to mulling them over as I prepare to actually start operating in a real classroom in September. Happy August!


  1. I loved the last half-hour, too. When I picked up my mom after class, I asked her opinion on our texting topic. In David's case, was he more important, because he was on a face-to-face date, or was it the person his date was texting? She said, "That's easy. Which was he looking at?" Ah, Mom, you wise woman.

  2. Emily, thanks for collecting/summarizing all of this so nicely. One of the takeaways for me from a recent webcast James Gee did pertained to a variation on your concluding observation. He was asked about video gaming and the fact that some HS (and even college) students get totally lost in world of warcraft (or another game) and crash and burn with their studies. Along with talking about addiction he also suggested that we might consider seriously the question of what it is about school/life that makes world of warcraft so compelling for some kids. My purpose is not to lambaste schools (nor was his), but Gee piqued my curiosity by talking about some of the experiential aspects of gaming--offering people a sense of agency and an opportunity to work with others in a satisfying way--that may not be present in the lives of our students.
    In any event, you frame a rich inclination is that it's probably some of each, but as teachers we must take the initiative regarding classroom environment, an observation with which I'd guess you concur.

  3. Jeff, the World of Warcraft question is really interesting. I've never played but several family members and friends have been obsessed by various online role-playing games over the years. I keep coming back to Stephanie's cartoon about the "quest for an acceptable paper" -- I think the agency, teamwork, social interactions, and sense of accomplishment from achieving a given quest are probably important, but I also wonder how much of the power the fantasy aspect -- being able to to project yourself as someone else, someone who isn't an awkward adolescent or otherwise subject to the limitations of mortal, complicated life.