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What students think

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What students think

Post  rienhardtj on Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:46 pm

Here is a YouTube video by students. These are high school students, but are we much different?

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

More student opinions here: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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Is technology the answer?

Post  CarrollLa1 on Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:28 am

I am frustrated by these two videos. Frustrated and skeptical. Suspect

I am very much in favor of using technology, and making it work for us as educators. But this idea that an iPad is freedom, or that given freedom to design their own education, students will do better, is not the answer. There needs to be a foundation.

Is technology the answer? Or is it a tool? Is it a means to an ends?

I have taught both "traditional" in-class and online courses. The online courses are consistently problematic, because the students aren't using the technology, they aren't getting involved, and they just don't participate in the same way.

On the flip side, in class, my students are always interested, vocal, and participate. Sure, there are the occasional few who will sit in the back row and surf the net on their phones. But at least they are turning up, and you can get through to them at least part of the time. The disinterested ones who are taking classes online are not even logging in, so there is no way to get them involved.

Moreover, some of my more non-traditional students, such as the returnees who are in their 50's or 60's are not necessarily going to want to sit in front of an iPad. Certainly, it should be part of the equation, but it's not the only answer. And for some students, who have had no experience functioning in social situations outside of online spaces, this is not necessarily a service for them.

I value students being interested in creative learning. But I am skeptical of open letters to educators that say education isn't about learning facts. Really? Is it about learning misinformation? scratch

As I listened to the ahistorical rantings in that open letter to educators affraid I cringed at the misinformation he spewed in his attempt to convince us that facts are not necessary in an educational system.
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Techno kids

Post  rienhardtj on Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:12 pm

CarrollLa1, I don't disagree. I'm not sure what the answer is. I've tried multiple ways of instruction and what it comes down to is whether the student is going to take responsibility to learn or not. If they can actually learn from internet connection fine, but usually they will come to a point where they need a better answer or need to actually get in there and do it. I'm not a fan of "technology is the answer". However, I think that this video expresses the view of many students and we have to find a way to deal with it.

In one class this semester I put students to work in groups on a research projects. They seem to be really into it, which surprised me. Part of the project included finding dissenting or opposing view points, which I think is much easier on the web than trying to find it other ways. The good part - there is a lot of information out there; the bad part - most of it is wrong. That's a problem!

I think that what it all comes down to is that the technology is something relatively new that we have to deal with. It's there whether we like it or not and students are going to use it. So, we need to get a handle on it.

The best part of those videos as far as I'm concerned is that it got a conversation going about it and that's exactly what I wanted. In this case, the technology worked. Very Happy And by the way - welcome to the forum!

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Technology

Post  ralph21 on Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:33 am

Moderator Ralph posing a question that I request you address:

In your posts I noticed that it is clear where both of you stand on the matter. I do not think I need to re-state your stands.

Assessing the situation and responding to the video gives us a platform. I would ask if you see any "action" that BCC could take in support of where you are standing?

Ralph

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Re: What students think

Post  CarrollLa1 on Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:01 am

I think it really depends on how we interpreting what these videos are trying to convey. The one by high school students who don't want an "instructor at the front of the class" format is very different than the second video, where the student was almost offended by "fact" based education.

Is the complaint that students just want more technology in the classroom? While it might be nice to have technology at our fingertips, it's not always possible. And in a classroom setting, is the goal to have students surfing the web? I am not being sarcastic; there is a time for students to go off and explore, and I think that's a wonderful thing. And I think that the example of research projects is a good one. But how is that incorporating technology in the classroom any more than it already is?

Or is the complaint that students want more group learning? In all honesty, this proclamation that "today's students" are group learners is sophomoric. We've been sitting in classrooms around circular tables, in conference rooms, and with chairs pushed up against the wall for almost 30 years now. A good professor who is skilled at leading discussions can do more for a classroom than any technology. And a tablet or a laptop is not necessary for collaboration.

There is a difference between wanting technology in the classroom (hey, who doesn't want cool stuff?) and wanting to be engaged in the learning process. I am glad that students want to be engaged. But if students can't be engaged without a flat panel in front of them, that's a problem. If they see a classroom that isn't as comfortable as their family rooms at home as "a jail," well...

Do I have an opinion on an "action" for BCC to take? The push for online instruction is one thing, but not always with good results. I am currently teaching two laboratory science courses online. (Yes. You heard me. Online lab courses. Shocked ) This is an example of testing whether students do well with technology. In my experience, they don't. Having discussion forums, places to share ideas, and making a wide variety of resources available to them with a click isn't necessarily improving the quality of their learning. They under-utilize resources. So much for "we want change."

Is it reasonable to try to get admin to shell out a few $100K to outfit classrooms with different technologies? Even when they are bound to be obsolute in a year or two? Provide a laptop for every seat in every class? That's not realistic. And I cannot require students have things like laptops or tablets with them in class; many BCC students can't afford them. So we are left with that very same model - of teachers having the main computer, and trying to share that with the class.

Here's an example that I found myself in this semester:

I teach a lab course in Anthropology. Every lab manual in existence has students taking measurements of casts of fossilized skulls. This is standard procedure. It's as basic as having a skeleton on hand for a human anatomy course. But BCC doesn't even have those basic materials. (And for just one course, to serve 50 students a year, I am not sure if BCC should invest in such specialized samples!)

Well, I made the best out of the situation. I pulled up websites on the course computer, and had students look at 3D images of these specimens online. I projected it from the single computer in the classroom, and walked them through the process. While it's not ideal, and not the same experience as holding that specimen in your hand, at least they were able to see the materials, and go through the analytical processes. I encouraged students to call out requests, or if they had questions, we looked it up, and followed those lines of thought as a group. We went back and forth with questions and demonstrations, as they needed help.

After these exercises, I asked them what they thought. Some people were interested and liked it. Some recognized we were doing the best with what we had. But then there were a significant (50%?) number of students who were frustrated, and expressed the opinion that they would have preferred to just go to the website on their own, and walk through the exercises on their own.

This feedback is why this thread and discussion is hitting a nerve for me.

It would have taken a fraction of the time to go through the websites and simply do the exercises. They would have been out of the lab in 30 minutes, instead of being there for 2+ hours. But would they have learned the material? Probably not nearly as well as they did, because I was able to comment on what we, as a group, were observing. Instead of having 15 students looking at 15 different web pages as they progressed through the exercise at their individual pace, this was collaborative effort. And they hated it for its collective nature.

Plus, the reason it took longer to do this as a group was that I was actually instructing, and not just letting them "experience." I pointed out things they would not have seen. I pointed out facts and made observations that they would not have had the background to even notice on their own. If they had questions, I knew where to find the answers. If they had simply been doing this on their own pad, chances are, there would have been very little interaction or collaboration. Or if it came, I would have had to pulled up the site on the main computer to demonstrate. Which is exactly what I did... for $10K less than if BCC had bought computers for the lab.

So while I would love to have a computer outfitted at every seat, it's not necessarily the best use of scarce funds.

What concerns me is not whether or not we have a handle on the technology, or whether we incorporate that into our classes. I think I have a pretty decent knowledge, for an old-schooler like me. I use technology in class, as well as online. What concerns me is that the technology is a tool, not a goal in and of itself. But I am not convinced that this is what these students think.

Sorry for the long ramblings! Very Happy

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A needed discussion

Post  rienhardtj on Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:30 pm

I hope more people eventually get involved in this conversation. I think it is important.

Personally I would rather work one-on-one with students and lead them through experiences that give them some understanding (I, too, teach science). I suspect that instructors in areas outside of science would also like this. And, some would hate it.

I love going through science experiments with very basic and simple equipment and showing students that we don’t need sophisticated equipment to get a basic understanding. The big challenge is getting the students engaged and involved. The ones that are not really interested in learning are the hardest ones to engage.

I do think that we need to be aware of what the students think and how plugged in they are (or think they are). I don’t want to dismiss new technology just because it is new. But I also think that it is not always good. There is nothing better than actually doing something no matter how good the simulation is. Some people don’t learn well online no matter how tech-savvy they think they are. I’ve taken online classes and would much rather be in a classroom.

I strongly believe that this conversation needs to be more widespread and seriously considered. Education in this country has to improve and getting through to students is the first step. It is not something we can do completely on our own. Unfortunately by the time we get these students they are often in trouble already. They don’t know how to learn. You can’t teach someone who will not or cannot learn.

Being able to access information so easily is great. However, you need to know how to sort out the good from the bad and the truth from fabrication. Students generally can't do that. Being able to get lots of facts doesn't mean that you understand anything. I've never been a fan of memorizing, but a strong believer in being able to work things out. Students, at least the one in the video, seem to be opting out of both!

What action can BCC take? For one, we have to be more concerned with the quality of education and not just student retention. I realize there is a money issue driving the retention thing, but at some point the reputation of BCC will suffer. Do we want BCC to be sought after because it is "cheap and easy" or highly rated?

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Re: What students think

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