Sunday, February 21, 2010

A New Pedagogy?

From Richardson: “Right now, most schools are making what I think is a bad choice by not immersing their students into these online learning environments which are creating all sorts of opportunities for us to learn. In doing so, they’re implicitly saying that technology is an option. It’s not.”

I really agree with this. I think that it is a “bad choice” not to try to keep up with the rest of the world and the new ways people are using technology. When I have a student that tells me that s/he doesn’t know how to send an email, I wonder to myself what sort of preparation that student has for a professional job, and I know that it is only going to get worse out there for someone who lacks the skills to navigate an online work environment. When I have students that are coming back to school in order to prepare to reenter the job market because of the economic downtown, I think that, even though they can be resistant to using even the most basic technologies (Word Processing, emailing, basic internet searching), I would certainly not be helping them prepare for a new career if I didn’t expose them to these technologies. The kids that are coming to college straight out of high school also need to be exposed. No one can afford to be afraid of technology anymore. Richardson is right; it is not an option. The challenge is keeping up ourselves, as instructors, and doing the learning that needs to be done so we can better prepare our students.

From Richardson: “I can’t help feeling that if I’m lucky enough to be sitting here blogging 10 years from now and there haven’t been some really big changes in the way we look at living and learning, we’ll have wasted another 10 years talking instead of evolving. And I think if you ask most people who are currently in education what they see things looking like 10 years from now, most wouldn’t paint much of a radically different picture.”

I agree with this, but not necessarily from my experience teaching at Yavapai. I have taught places in the past where I felt like the faculty didn’t really value any evolution in terms of technology (with some exceptions of course). It felt like the people that were trying to incorporate new technologies into the classroom were marginalized. I also think that it is difficult to imagine the classroom being “radically different” in ten years, so I suppose I am as much a part of the critique Richardson is making than anyone else. I have been in college classrooms for the past 10 years and I hadn’t seen much change at all until I came to Yavapai. Here, I think that there are instructors in many different disciplines that are using technology in the classroom in wonderful ways. I may not see “radical” change, but I definitely see a difference in the way that teaching and learning are being accomplished, as well as in how I present and deliver the content in my own courses.

From Richardson: “Regardless, I believe that used well, these still nascent Web technologies can help us teach those larger lessons, and do so in a way that engages our students and has more relevance than “old” pen and paper, face to face ways. Not all of the time, but some of it.”

I agree with this now, but maybe would not have a year ago. I used to really believe that the old fashioned way was the best and that students didn’t like it, but –hey—they never really had. I thought that it was laziness that caused students to rebel against engaging in lecture and discussion. Now I see how addressing different learning styles through enhancing learning through technology really does enliven a classroom. Students do better when they are enjoying themselves, even though it sometimes makes me feel like I am an entertainer and not a teacher (which I do not enjoy). I do also insist that students complete “pen and paper” assignments as well, because it is a two way street and one way can lead to the devaluation of language. As a teacher of composition, I do see my students losing skills as a result of technology and I think it is important to emphasize that they need to maintain their base level skills like spelling, punctuation, and writing in complete sentences, and the only way I can really test if they have done so is by giving them written assignments on paper. Then, they can build on that base and enhance their writing on the web with links and visuals. Sometimes I feel like, especially the younger students, trust technology too much (not in terms of their safety.) For instance, they truly believe that Microsoft Word spell and grammar check is all the editing they need to do. Sorry, wrong. Certainly, web technologies can help us teach the “larger lessons” of our disciplines, but we need to focus sometimes on the smaller lessons as well.

Funny in commercials; less so in compositions:


  1. "I do see my students losing skills as a result of technology"

    I think they are losing skills because we let them. Culturally, institutionally, and from parents. We, the "adults" value those skills less and we have built the values into how we go about doing what we do.

    People will rise to what is expected of them and will aspire to the level of leadership that guides them. Be that a parent or school, principal or president, they reflect perfectly what is asked of them.

  2. I am pleased to hear that you try to incorporate technology into your classes but also require pen and paper. Also, Richardson states technologies can help teach larger a K-8 environment where is all the money coming from to equip each classroom with computers to incorporate these technologies? And in a time when tests are a defining factor in K-12, where is a teacher going to find the time to teach these technologies?

  3. I think that is true Todd. I shouldn't haphazardly blame technology (although I don't think I would be getting paper that say "u" instead of you if it weren't for text messaging). I think that students, once they realize that they are lacking in an area, do rise to improve in that area. My students seem shocked if I want them to write something by hand in class and expect them to spell words correctly, because they don't expect me to expect that of them.