I shared this entry as a new post on the TechLearning blog, but am cross-posting here because of problems we’ve had with the commenting features over there. Feel free to comment on that post (if you can) or here.
I had a conversation this evening with a professor from Oklahoma Christian University (OC) that broke my heart.
As you may know, OC along with Abilene Christian University down in Texas are among the first colleges in the United States to implement initiatives which involve ALL students in entering classes purchasing and using either Apple iPhones or iPod Touches. When I learned this professor taught at OC, I enthusiastically said, “Wow, you’re going to have all your students bring iPhones to class this year!” His response was:
Boy I sure hope not. I have a tough enough time having them keep their laptops closed all the time during class.
I almost passed out on the spot, but I was torn by a simultaneous urge to weep.
This attitude, perhaps more than any other, may explain why we have so few laptop initiatives at both K-12 as well as higher education levels here in the great state of Oklahoma.
Let’s deconstruct this professor’s statement a bit. What exactly was he saying with these two sentences? Here are some possibilities.
- I don’t know how to use digital technologies to engage my students in meaningful learning tasks, so I prefer to just lecture to them as I was lectured to for years in the 20th century.
- I believe the student’s only viable role in the classroom is that of passive receiver.
- I reject all conceptions and theories of active learning being good.
- I choose to be the only person in my classroom doing any real thinking and providing any real evidence of both hard work and cognitive exertion, therefore I choose to exclusively lecture.
- As the only person in my classroom with the initials “PhD” after my name, clearly I have the most knowledge and therefore should be the only person speaking once class begins.
- Students have nothing to offer me as a learner and nothing to offer each other during my classes that could be of value, relative to the infinite value of my ideas and perspectives about our topic of study.
- I am not interested in the literacies or the skills of the 21st century, my job role is to strictly impart the content from the textbook which I learned in the 20th century to my students.
- Digital technologies can only be used to distract and entertain, they can never be used to inform, challenge constructively and engage.
- My favorite metaphor for students in my class is that of a THRALL, or slave.
- When I speak, I not only expect but DEMAND that all students sit with rapt attention, hanging on with bated breath for my next ideological vocalization.
Need I go on further?
I asked this professor if he had heard of the website PollEverywhere, which permits students to immediately respond to multiple choice or open answer questions using their laptop or cell phone during class. He responded that he had not, but the IT department at UC was working on writing a program that would permit students to respond immediately like that during class. He had asked repeatedly for a set of classroom electronic response systems, but the university had not purchased a set for him. He also stated he was not at all interested in any type of open answer questions during class, he wanted only multiple choice questions and answers to determine if students understood the material he was presenting.
I assured him that PollEverywhere offers this functionality NOW and could be used both with the laptops students have and the iPhones many of them will also likely have in class. I wrote down the website for him, and I hope he’ll check it out.
When it comes to embracing the constructive uses of digital technologies to improve learning, I do not believe that anyone is a “lost cause.” At any time, a teacher or professor can “see the light” and come to understand that digital technologies CAN be used in constructive ways to extend and expand opportunities for learning. I’m afraid, however, based on this brief conversation with this OC professor, that he has a long way to go on the blended learning journey.
How many professors and teachers at the VERY limited number of schools implementing 1:1 laptop learning initiatives today are like this one I talked with tonight? How many educators will insist, despite the fact that EVERY student in their classroom has a laptop computer ready at hand, to continue lecturing with overhead projector slides or a pedagogically equivalent PowerPoint slideshow, and completely miss the opportunities available to ENGAGE rather than merely ENTHRALL students?
My heart goes out to OC students in this professor’s classes this fall. Hopefully his attitude is not representative more generally of faculty attitudes at OC towards student laptops and mobile computing devices.
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On this day..
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- Using Social Media to Improve Classroom and School Communications - 2012
- Adventure Based Learning by Brian Dufresne #wildtech - 2011
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- Trends, Tools & Tactics for 21st Century Learning #wildtech - 2011
- Smart Networks #wildtech - 2011
- iPhone Videography from Glacier National Park - 2011
- Storychasing the 2008 XIT Rodeo and Ranch - 2008
- Behold the power of photo tagging - 2008