I am currently prepping for the new term. I am teaching Technology and Society 400: Technologies of the Future. I’m doing something different this term, and working closely with colleagues at two local public institutions. I’ll be more specific in another post. Essentially, the students in the class will get opportunities to assist with efforts to digitize artifacts.
The students will also work in groups. Now, this is likely the most difficult thing, as some students work well with others. I find that schedules and priorities will influence the students’ abilities to work together. I am prepared with a second option for their work. I usually have two choices for research papers or major projects. And, this course is no different. If students are unwilling to choose the experiential learning opportunity, they can opt to write a research paper.
This syllabus is taking me more time. I’ve changed the course enough and added two new books. It feels like a new course. I’ll blog more about this course.
I am revisiting this idea. While I am not teaching a large first year course anymore, this post is relevant. I started this post a few years ago and saved it as a draft. Now, I am finishing it and mindful that it is a good reminder for my teaching and learning. I am an advocate of review sessions and workshops for students. We want students to think about how their professor is helpful. I include a screen grab from a search for “my professor is.”
I am co-teaching a first year level course with three other faculty and one of the things that I take on as the professor of record is offering review sessions for the exams and other major assignments. I have taught first year courses for most of my academic career and the review sessions are important to helping my students with their learning. Review sessions or re-visiting “how to be successful” is not pandering to our students. It is an important part of active teaching.
Now that I have started my 19th year of teaching, I have come to realize several things. My students want more guidance about assignments. For an array of reasons, when I first started teaching the typical student would come to office hours or ask a question about an assignment in class. Now a majority of them want me to give them more information about the major assignments during class time. They likely feel that the stakes are higher for them and they want to fully understand my expectations.
I have also found that when we are blogging, uploading to Wikipedia or using any educational technology platforms in the classroom they need more than one workshop session to learn the technology. Some colleagues are surprised to hear this, “but they are the digital generation.” Yes, we can refer to our students as such, but when marks are involved it is a different story. This is not an exhaustive list of what I have learned over the years. I will certainly add to this post, as I ruminate why I am fine with clarifying, review sessions or otherwise digging deeper.
The acceptance letters are going out to all the Grade 12 students. I am reading lots of books about teaching and technology, and reflecting on the ways in which we talk about first year students and technology. I felt it was worth continuing this conversation.
The New York Times article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” made the rounds, but since there have been other similar articles. It is to easy to blame technology on the disconnect that educators find with the current cohort of students in our first year courses. I am going to speak to this notion that the Net Gen are artful multi-taskers and think differently. Instead, what we really have is a cohort of young people who are used to using technology all of the time for gaming, fun, communicating, research, school work, and for making connections with others. Of course, some are using technology merely for gaming or social networking, but you get my point.
Part of my job is to acculturate students to the environment of higher education. This is why my course syllabus states that students should be taking notes or checking the course Moodle site, but not gaming during lecture. It’s distracting to those around them and frankly, if you want to game, download music–do that outside of the classroom. This notion of the Net Gen being better at multi-tasking has been disputed on several occasions this year with new research that states that the Net Gen are no better at multi-tasking than previous generations.
I am not a tech Luddite. I have an iPhone and have often been an early adopter of different technology or applications. However, I tire at the sheer number of articles that extol only the virtues of technology in reference to youth. This New York Times article doesn’t do this, but it opens up the door to excuse making for rude behavior in the classroom and in communication. If the Net Gen wasn’t spending hours online gaming or connected to Facebook, they most likely would be on the phone for hours with friends. Technology has replaced other great time vacuums that previous generations used. Here, all of this conversation is directed toward youth who have access to technology. These are really first world concerns and conversations.
We need to remember that ultimately lots of business and human interaction takes place face to face. This is where we need to remind the Net Gen about classroom etiquette and communication etiquette online and offline. In much the same way, though, educators need to be realistic about their teaching and make sure that the material and means of presentation of the information is engaging. And, we need to equip are students with skills to use the technology well. We are all in this together.
First of all, author danah boyd does not capitalize her name, so this is not a typographical error. I have read her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014) a few times and I’m now teaching it in my Technology and Society 400: Technologies of the Future seminar. She does a great job of offering a thoughtful and respectful examination of teens use of social media. The big takeaway is that today teens use social media to socialize with one another. It is their social space.
She is not offering a wagging finger at youth about narcissism or technology addiction. Sure, she covers cyber-bullying and cyber predators, but overall she treats teens with socio-political agency and not as mindless victims to technology. She also speaks to the digital divide and the ways that youth use technology for important personal connection, and establishing their identities.
My students talked about technology use and addiction and one student noted that addiction is serious term and that we should be mindful of the use of the term. The student was correct, and we chatted about technology addiction. When I queried the class about how many sleep with their phones near their pillow, I saw many sheepish smiles.
This book provides a good opener to the seminar. I find it better to start off on a good foot and not jump right into doom and gloom about data mining, terms of service, and surveillance. That is for next week! Seriously, we are going to cover lots of material about technology and culture and very little condemns it. The class has a major project developing a mock up for an app that is needed on campus or in the greater community. Right now some students want to add to the current mobile app and others want to enhance Fitbits or other wearables for students. From my point–the future is bright.
boyd, danah. 2014. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Have: Yale U P.