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…

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