A Vision of (Our) Students Today

I saw this on YouTube some time ago…


Though this may be from the US, I feel that many of the issues presented are also relevant for us.

I’m particularly interested in the lack of engagement/empowerment by students suggested by the video – students sitting in classes Facebooking etc. To me this almost suggests that we (lecturers) need to be concerned about students sitting in lectures with laptops or mobiles etc. (Perhaps this is why LTAS bans mobile phones in teaching rooms??)

However, wireless access and the use of laptops (or even easier, tablet PCs – the laptops that you can write on) can make lectures a much richer experience for students. Imagine watching the lecture and making notes on your tablet PC. You have the lecturer’s PowerPoint so you can annotate that, and you also have immediate online access to the articles / web pages referred to by the lecturer. You can add copy and paste quotes from these articles into your notes, along with the web links, and can follow citations/links to other relevant pages should wish to. Making use of online forums (in Moodle, Facebook etc.) you can post your immediate thoughts – perhaps then getting some feedback from another student that is sitting a few rows away or another who saw the lecture yesterday.

Once could argue that this is all too much for one student to be doing at one time – they couldn’t possibly take it all in. But I know it is possible, because this is how I behave when I’m in seminars at the University – and I’m far too old to be one of the Facebook/YouTube/MySpace generation. Students are well used to handling Facebook, email, txt, Voicemail, blogging all at the same time without pausing for breath. This is how they live.

So what does this mean for us as “educators”?

We could prohibit such technology – by stopping students using their mobiles during lectures; by not allowing them to use their own laptops; by blocking Facebook etc. with the firewall – but this would then seem to imply that “education” is not part of their world.

Do we then embrace the technology? Even though some of it may actually impact negatively on learning and teaching? And even though we don’t know how to work it?

Oblinger in a recent report for BECTA (Emerging technologies for learning, Volume 3, Chapter 1, 2008) concludes:

Our assumptions about students and what is best for their education may not be matched by today’s reality. It is dangerous to assume that we understand students simply because we were once in the same shoes. Times change. Technologies change. Students change. And so does education.

Food for thought…

Teachers and Technicians

EDUCAUSE (http://www.educause.edu/) always seems an interesting read. Though based in the US, and mainly focussed on the US, it encourages contributions from around the world, including developing countries. As a non-profit org. all of its publications are available online for free but this has not stopped it gaining a good name in the e-learning field – many well-known writers (e.g. for example Laurillard; Downes) are published there.

Jugovich and Reeves (2006) is particularly interesting and seems quite relevant to us at Leeds Trinity. They provide a short case study of a university in which ITS support technology, and the pedagogy is left to someone else. This would seem similar to our situation, though once could argue that Leeds Trinity sub-divides even further – ITS looking after IT; media services looking after media and someone else (?) looking after the pedagogy.

The authors make the point that this artificial division is not helpful:

During ITSS [their ITS] workshops, however, faculty began asking us how to teach effectively using technology tools (such as PowerPoint), in addition to questions such as how to animate a slide. Faculty recognized the need to combine instruction on using the tool with using it effectively for teaching. We realized that the organizational separation between ITSS and IDS [their pedagogical support] was artificial and, as technology became woven into the fabric of teaching, made progressively less sense.

The suggestion to weave IT skills with pedagogical skills during staff development makes sense. A more situated type of session, in which lecturers attending the session can actually learn new skills that they can make use of when preparing and teaching should increase engagement and the attainment of transferable skills.

So should ITS know more about the pedagogy so that they can show staff how to make use of the software for teaching and learning, not just “click this, click that”? Such an increased awareness of the pedagogical rationale for certain technologies would certainly help break down the “silicon curtain” between academic and technician – surely anything that allows colleagues to understand each other better is a “good thing”.