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Chatting in Class

posted 4/22/2011 7:27:25 PM |
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tagged: computers, cell phones, technology, school

I read an interesting article this week about classroom chatting. What I found cool about this concept is how some innovative teachers have found a way to bring our kid's attention back into the classroom.

Just about everyone by now has encountered at least one person who can't seem to keep their eyes off their cell phone because they're so busy texting. It seems that this has been a tremendous struggle for a lot of teachers at the high school and college levels. And it seems that even with strict rules in place about not using any electronic devices during classroom time...a lot of students are very clever...very determined...and always seem to find a way to use them anyway.

It seems that some educators decided to stop fighting a seemingly loosing battle and actual embrace the technology that's out there...and put it to some very good use. These cutting-edge instructors have taken their students' obsession...and used it as a way to redirect their attention back into the classroom with some very impressive results.

Platforms such as Moodle, i>clicker and Blackboard are already moving work online and engaging students in a 24-7 relationship with their classes...and have been utilized since 2006...but there seems to be another tool on the horizon called ClassCommons. ClassCommons is an interactive video-commenting system for large classrooms which is similar to Backchannels (real-time online conversations and tweet-reading during live presentations) and features a screen set up behind the instructor. As the instructor lectures...students can make comments...ask questions...and discuss ideas by texting. These messages scroll behind the instructor in real time. Then the instructor can respond verbally to the written comments...and students can converse through texting...and a teaching assistant can text answer and moderate the discussion. It's a lot to focus on...but tech-assisted multitasking is nothing new to Gen Y.

What these instructors are trying to promote is a higher cognitive learning than the standard low-cognitive technique of where an instructor tells you a fact...and then you simply write it down. And even though the promise of these applications seem heroic...many educators are still wary.

Some of the benefits to an in-class Backchannel include: 1) assisting those shy students who would never speak up in a 200-person lecture hall...but will participate in a texted discussion. 2) Students are texting Backchannel redirects their compulsive behavior back into the material...and 3) students who don't have the skills to listen to an hour-long lecture are engaged by their own texted participation.

Ultimately...instructors want students to spend more time in quiet contemplation...but getting them there is the hard part...and asking them to turn off their electronic media is not working. We are starting to hear more and more stories of how students are texting while instructors are personally talking to them...or having their laptops slammed shut by frustrated professionals desperately trying to redirect all of these distracted students.

So you think it's a good idea to use social media and other high-tech gadgets as teaching tools?

Me? I think it most definitely has a place in future classrooms. The extent of that place remains to be seen...but I don't feel we're the same society of even 10 years ago. IMHO adults seem just as distracted as students...and I don't think this is a scenario that is just a fad...but rather something that is going to be with us for the long haul. I do like a lot of the benefits of ClassCommons...and I hope our educators are able to marry the old-style learning with some of the cutting-edge technology coming down the pike. For now...I guess we have to wait and see how some of these pilot programs do in the class room setting...but I do think it's definitely worth a shot.

Your turn...

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Apr 22 @ 8:35PM  
In Texas most educational institutions, all the way up to university level, require that cell phones be turned off during class. Texting in school is like talking during class, verboten. I support this policy. Kids need to think for themselves and focus on thinking and learning without the crutches of devices.

There is an old saying about using all of "the brains that you have, all that you can borrow, then all that you can hire." Good advice, but the kid needs to develop the first step and not depend upon the second.

Now, once the school day is over, the kid has a wealth of resources to utilize beyond the encyclopedias we had in bygone days. They can find resources faster now than we could. Great!! More power to them, assuming the sources are reliable.

So you think it's a good idea to use social media and other high-tech gadgets as teaching tools?

In class, no. For homework, yes.

Apr 22 @ 8:55PM  
A lot of the schools and colleges around here have adopted the, "if you're not paying attention, it's on you" philosophy with students. They request that cell phones have their ringers turned off, and if it's a class setting, the computers are not on social sites like facebook or myspace. And from what I've seen, there is pretty decent cooperation from students.

So you think it's a good idea to use social media and other high-tech gadgets as teaching tools?

Actually, yes I do. But not to rely on it as the only teaching tool. Still lecture, still engage verbally, don't totally rely on technology. But include it. It's part of our every day world now.

I remember people used to say there would never be computers in the average household. Well, look today. Just about every household has at least a desktop or a laptop, or, both. Remember when we thought the cordless phone was revolutionary? Yeah, now we have these slimmed down versions we can carry with us anywhere...The technology is here, it's what today's kids have grown with, much like our generation, how we grew up with televisions in the home, today's kids grow up with computers, cell phones, video game systems, ipads (still would like to get one of those! ) and kindle. It's out there, kids use it, why not incorporate it into teaching?

Apr 22 @ 9:09PM  
Absofreaking in, big 'ole YES.
I've heard, 'they' allow pocket calculators in Math Classes nowadays,
this is just the next step. We are living in the information age, might
as well put it to as good a use, as possible.
Sure, with the economy and jobs they way it looks, most of these kids
will be flipping burgers or selling overpriced gas, but hey, least they
will have a heads-up on technology.
As for having them more involved in the class, does not matter the
technology, as long as they learn to think.

Apr 22 @ 10:29PM  
'they' allow pocket calculators in Math Classes nowadays
Yeah, I have also heard about this, and I'm going to have to agree with Bruce on a lot of this stuff. I think kids should use their brains today like we had to when we were in school without a lot of tech help.

Sure, it makes it more fun to have all this technology offered in the classroom, who wouldn't like it, but then would we be actually doing these kids a disservice in not teaching them how to use their brain power in solving solutions in their head without the help of technology gadgets as a crutch?

Call me old fashion and/or traditional, but I feel that using your head without the help of devices increases brain power in people. For example, doing crossword puzzles can keep one's mind sharp.

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Chatting in Class